University entry reforms

As of next year, no high school graduates will get into university unless they secure at least a passing mark on the annual entry exams, the Education Ministry announced yesterday, while pledging to increase university seats. Under the current system, to a great extent due to overwhelming social pressure for school leavers to enter tertiary education – at no matter what university or state technical college (TEI) – some 80 percent of each year’s candidates secure a university or TEI seat. Yet in last year’s university entry exams, 41.81 percent of the 89,039 candidates failed to get a passing mark – 10 out of 20. The problem is worse at TEIs, which were formally upgraded to university status a couple of years ago. Last year, 100 of the country’s 193 TEI departments allowed in students whose average marks were under 10. This was also the case in eight university departments – including Athens University’s Department of Italian Literature, where one applicant got in last year with an average mark of 2.97 out of 20. Following an Inner Cabinet meeting on education yesterday, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou told journalists that the reforms would not apply to this June’s university entry exams. «But as of next year, no candidate will enter university with an average below the passing mark,» she said, adding however that «more candidates will get into university.» Giannakou also said ministry plans to assess university performance would go ahead, despite fierce opposition from many universities. In reassurance, however, she said that «no government will be involved with the assessment process.» University officials appeared happy with the entry exam reforms, with the dean of the Piraeus TEI, Lazaros Vryzidis, bluntly admitting that the new system would leave many TEIs with insufficient numbers of students. «Most of the new departments are moribund anyway,» he said. «They serve no educational purpose, just the local economies.» The dean of the Athens University of Economics and Business, Georgios Venieris, argued that the measure was necessary «as low passing marks do not only reflect candidates’ abilities, but also their interest in their studies.»