Greek universities will likely face a significant overhaul next year which could see private sponsors become a main source of income for the institutions, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou revealed yesterday. «We will have a new legal framework for the operation of universities by next June,» Giannakou said. An evaluation of the problems facing higher education in Greece is also likely to take place during the next academic year, the minister added. The ministry also plans to conduct inspections on franchises of foreign universities based in Greece to ensure they are meeting the same standards as the «mother» institution This new framework is set to allow the appointment of accountants and business managers at state universities, which have struggled with dipping finances and a lack of resources. Introducing financial experts into universities is also likely to signal the start of a four-year transition period, during which the institutions will have to become self-sufficient and tailor their budgets according to the money they bring in from private sponsorship. Apart from ensuring the transparent management of finances, hired professionals would liberate deans from supervising university funds and allow them to spend more time on their core administrative role. As of next year, the government intends to allow universities to obtain funding from sponsors – a practice that is illegal under current legislation which decrees the state as the sole source of funding. The rules governing the hiring of staff at universities are to become more stringent, Giannakou said. Emphasis will be placed on the expansion of distance learning, as demanded by European Union regulations. A new department of the Hellenic Open University, based in Patras, will be set up in Athens and more distance-learning degrees will be made available to students. Giannakou said the reforms were necessary to put Greek higher-learning institutions on par with their European counterparts and to make sure that Greece was still eligible for EU funding for the education sector.