Greece’s Education Ministry on Thursday ordered the immediate suspension of plans to open 37 new university and technical college departments that had been announced by the previous leftist administration prior to the summer’s election period, speaking of an ill-designed and opportunistic reform.
On Friday, the ministry retracted a correction that the decision concerned 38 new faculties since one, at the Ionian University, is already in operation and will not be closed down.
The ministry said it wanted time to examine whether the new departments, which were scheduled to go into operation over the next two academic years, are necessary and meet the required academic standards. In the meantime legislation is to be submitted in Parliament in due course to freeze the plans.
According to the ministry, the previous SYRIZA administration was serving clientelist interests and vote-mongering ahead of the European, local and general elections when it announced a slew of new academic programs and departments without setting specific standards, studying their purpose and viability or consulting with the independent Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency, which should be involved in such decisions by law.
“Our education system, and by extension all those involved in it, have suffered in the past due to clientelist tactics and opportunistic arrangements,” the ministry said in a statement, accusing the previous government of “petty political expediencies.”
The decision pertains to new departments planned at the universities of Athens, Western Macedonia, Western Attica, the Ionian, Patra, Ioannina, the Peloponnese and Thessaly, as well as the Athens University of Agriculture, the International Hellenic University in northern Greece and the Hellenic Mediterranean University.
According to the ministry, some of the planned departments lack adequate infrastructure and staffing and their smooth operation cannot be guaranteed. It did not rule out the operation of all departments, however, noting that any found to be potentially viable and useful could proceed.
Responding to the criticism, leftist SYRIZA remarked that the only achievement of the new government’s Education Ministry has been “slashing state education.”