NEWS

Rectors mainly to blame for mismanagement

Changes are in store with regard to the way university rectors are elected. According to Kathimerini sources, the Education Ministry has agreed to move ahead with the plan, if the universities themselves propose it. Apparently, the changes include the election of a rector for one term only. As the law stands now, a rector may stand for re-election. The term of office is to be increased from the current three, to four or five years. Students will vote directly and not, as now, via representatives. The current percentage of votes remains at 40 percent for students and 60 percent for teaching staff. This system is similar to that practiced in the USA, and is designed to be a first step toward reorganizing Greek universities which, 20 years after the passing of Law 1268/82, have become trapped in quicksand. One reason for the poor management of tertiary institutions is the way in which rectors carry out their duties. According to a university official with many years of administrative experience, a rector’s job is to see that the teaching process is carried out; he or she should administer the university and deal with the dozens of everyday issues that arise. The official told Kathimerini, however, that rectors these days have a tendency to rest on their laurels, promoting their own image and leaving the hard work to general secretaries and office managers. During their first term, rectors usually try and secure re-election by succumbing to the desires of the factions holding the majority vote and generally try not to rock the boat. If re-elected, they know that they will leave before long, so the inaction continues. It is hoped that changing the the way rectors are elected will reduce candidates’ dependence on students’ party representatives. It is also hoped that electing them for one term only will lead to conditions that may promote better management. No one is evaluated on work accomplished, but promotions are based on length of service. «The way things are at present in the universities, the State could acquire the critical mass necessary to take action, as long as the action is accompanied by a sufficiently large bait in the form of funding or power,» says Professor Lazaros Apekis in his book «University, the Policy of Deregulation,» published by the press of the Nikos Poulantzas Political Association. Funds and fiefdoms Apekis told Kathimerini that in 1987 about 300 million drachmas (900,000 euros) was provided for funded research in which 450 people participated; in 1997, the amount had leapt to 10.5 billion drachmas (31 million euros) for 2,830 people. However, the lack of any real monitoring of the way these programs are managed has allowed professors to set up little «fiefdoms» within the universities. «Although the student-teacher relationship has always been about power, it has become more so with involvement of financial activity,» wrote Apekis. Although the law requires that fund management is monitored by a committee answerable to the university senate, this rule is easily bypassed. «Everything is up to researchers’ patriotism,» said Apekis. European Union programs are the main source of funds for Greek universities’ research programs. In other EU countries, universities run applied research programs chosen on the basis of a development policy and also fund basic research from their own resources. This does not happen in Greece. «There are very few national resources for research in Greece and the Education Ministry does not have a policy for supporting research,» said Getimis. This means that the emphasis is on applied and not basic research. The only thing for certain is that the universities are in crisis.Before long, warns Getimis, «we will not be able to replace university teaching staff.»