The seven deadly ills of higher learning

Are degrees worth the paper they’re printed on? That’s the question that haunts today’s Greek university undergraduate, after – thanks to financial sacrifices by his or her family – he or she finally entered the august premises of the country’s 20 or so tertiary education institutes. It’s like coming down to earth with a bump. The buildings are repellent, it’s standing room only in lecture halls and the lecturers themselves are nowhere to be seen. The result? Substandard education. Libraries are in short supply; the one textbook per subject is often handed out 15 days before the exams and there is none of that substantial research work that would turn the institutes into a powerhouse of intellectual and educational activity. And as if all that were not enough, over the last few years, regional institutes have acquired a whole slew of new departments whose only purpose is to serve local needs or petty political aims, thus creating new armies of the unemployed. Combined with chronic underfunding, this state of affairs increases the problems and leaves higher education institutes powerless in the face of international developments and unable to compete in the integrated area of European education. «It simply undermines the dream of university education,» said 23-year-old Dimitris Tanakopoulos, student at Athens Law School. Providing solutions to the problems of tertiary education will be the aim of the national dialogue between all interested parties that began two weeks ago. To the question of whether Greek education will break out of its national straitjacket or remain a European laggard in the integrated European higher education system, answers will have to be given in practice.

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