Plan to streamline universities would reduce entrants by a third

A plan to streamline the country’s higher education system, leaving fewer departments offering courses on the most popular subjects and abolishing those with scant demand, was unveiled on Thursday by Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos.

The scheme, dubbed Athina, foresees four universities shutting down – the University of Central Greece, the University of Western Greece, the International Hellenic University and the University of Western Macedonia – and the closure of dozens of departments at universities and technical colleges which have little demand.

According to Arvanitopoulos, the overhaul will allow a larger number of students to enter popular faculties such as those focusing on economics and business but the abolition of a large number of underperforming departments will still bring down the number of entrants to higher education institutions by about a third.

The number of successful applicants this academic year is estimated at between 50,000 and 55,000 – down from 77,000 in the previous academic year.

According to the minister, the overhaul will not result in any job losses for staff at the universities or departments that are being abolished or merged. He added that the plan was not set in stone and that there would be dialogue with professors about its implementation.

Arvanitopoulos said the aim was to “bolster” the state education system and to link it more effectively to potential growth areas in the economy with the aim of curbing high unemployment.

Commenting on the initiative on Thursday, the head of the main leftist opposition SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, dismissed it as “not thorough enough.”

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