Regional institutes suffer from obscure subjects and transient population

After the local authorities leaned on centers of power in Athens for many a long year, the decision is finally made to set up a university department in town. Then, while everyone is scratching their heads to come up with a newfangled and specialized subject, the mayor – a member of the party in government – in the end settles on Business as the new department’s subject. He has checked it with Athens, since there was no corresponding department at a central university. The reason for the choice is self-evident: University entrants will not be able to seek a transfer and leave town in a hurry. This is only one example, of many, of how the much-touted expansion of tertiary education was carried out over the past few years. University and technical college departments sprang up in every town and village to serve local development rather than academic aims. «There are departments with such specialized subjects that they should be postgraduate studies,» Veremis told Kathimerini. Graduates of such departments thus simply swell the ranks of the unemployed. Moreover, except in a few cases, these departments fall far behind the institutes in the major cities, with «flying» lecturers who divide their time between the cities and provinces; students who have strayed into the specific departments by accident (due to a perverse university entrance system) and a lack of essential buildings and libraries. 20 new applications Today there are universities in 36 cities and, at the same time, applications have been submitted for yet more departments and schools in another 20 towns around the country, despite the problems at existing regional departments. «Regional universities, with the exception of those that have taken root in local society, face a number of problems, from students to lecturers to equipment and material shortages,» Lambrianidis of the University of Macedonia told Kathimerini. «A great number of students who enroll at regional universities attempt to leave either by sitting for university entrance exams again or by transferring to a central university. Judging from those who finally manage to get a transfer, the problem is a serious one. In addition, a large proportion of students don’t actually live in the area, but essentially appear during the examination period. Twenty-four percent of students go back and forth 15 times a year,» he explained. Students at regional universities tend to have entered with lower grades in relation to the equivalent departments at central universities. This results in a low level of studies, with lecturers forced to start with basic concepts. In addition, Lambrianidis added, many lecturers also leave regional universities after managing to gain a post at a central university. They tend to see their position at a regional university as transitional or as a jumping-off point for a place in the bigger schools. In addition, most do not live in the area but commute there from Athens and Thessaloniki. «Flying» lecturers are not confined to Greece; other countries have them too. But what distinguishes Greece is the huge extent of the phenomenon. Characteristically, 54 percent of lecturers go to and from university 20 times a year, while another 9 percent do so up to 15 times a year. In addition, lecture halls are unsuitable, building infrastructure substandard, and the university may be spread among two to three different towns, none of which do anything to help the educational process.

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