NEWS

Universities to sit exams

In the face of strong opposition from academic staff unions, the government yesterday presented a new draft law that would subject Greek universities to an annual assessment process, starting next year. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou said the new system was meant to address the weaknesses of the state tertiary education system, and dismissed as «irrational» the objections raised by unions – who fear that the checks the bill envisages could lead to funding slashes. From today, all Greek universities are scheduled to close down for three days, due to a union strike against the evaluation system. Giannakou said the bill would call for both external and internal evaluation of university and state technical college (TEI) performance in teaching, research, administration and services provided to students, such as housing and catering. The external evaluation will be in the hands of a new independent state authority named the Tertiary Education Quality Assurance Authority (TEQUAA). This 15-member body will have a chairman appointed by the Ministry of Education and will act on proposals by Parliament’s educational affairs committee. The other members will include university and TEI teachers, as well as student representatives. Meanwhile, each university and TEI will have to set up its own internal assessment committee, made up of four academic staff representatives and three people selected by students and non-academic staff. These committees will work on the basis of questionnaires, to be completed by students and academic staff. The evaluation process will last for a year, at the end of which the committee will draw up a report that will be scrutinized by independent assessors from a list drawn up by the TEQUAA. These assessors will then visit the universities and TEIs, interview staff and students and then compile their own report. Unionists were highly skeptical. «We are not against assessment,» the national academic staff union’s general secretary, Ioannis Maistros, told Kathimerini. «But we don’t know what use the reports will be put to… European authorities treat the external assessment process’s findings as a basis for university funding, and even as grounds for allowing universities to grant degrees.»