Experts propose university reform for better results

A panel of experts, given the task by the government of coming up with ways to reform Greek universities, yesterday admitted there were «serious problems» to tackle as it delivered its findings, recommending a time limit on pursuing degrees and an end to the controversial system of student transfers. The team of eight academics asked for the implementation of measures «which will be part of a long-term policy of modernization and reform» of tertiary education. The panel said it was vital for attention to be redirected toward state universities which were being left struggling in the wake of private colleges sponsored by European universities. The committee said that these colleges were often of «dubious quality.» Students should only be able to transfer between universities if it can be proved that a place has opened up in the department at the institution to which they want to move, the panel said. The clampdown on the oft-abused student transfer system will prevent overcrowding at certain universities and will also provide a level playing field for all students. The panel also suggested that there be time limits on degrees to end the proliferation of so-called eternal students. There are currently more than 144,000 students at Greek universities who have stayed longer than they should to complete their degrees. This makes up almost 80 percent of the total student population, the experts said. They recommended that students only be allowed to stay two or three years more than it would normally take to finish their degree. They also suggested that students from poor families be offered conditional scholarships so they are not forced to delay their studies due to the need to work. The scholarship would be dependent on the student’s performance, the panel recommended. It said that the system whereby each course is assigned only one textbook should be scrapped. The team of eight said that universities should be furnished with modern libraries instead, giving students the chance to pick from a wider range of books. They recommended that universities be equipped with better computer systems as well. The panel asked for the introduction of professional managers, who would be answerable to the university’s senate, to take care of the accounts. The eight experts said that the management of finances at cash-strapped universities was one of the main problems. They called for «bold decisions» to be taken in respect to the law which bans police from entering university grounds. The panel suggested that universities employ private guards to patrol the campus and that a five-member committee, including a student representative, be authorized to allow police to enter the grounds if necessary.