Private universities in bad books

One of Greece’s most prominent academics, Georgios Babiniotis, the rector of Athens University, yesterday asked the government to rethink its idea of allowing private universities to operate in Greece, as he doubts they will improve higher education. Speaking at a conference organized by the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP), Babiniotis said that improvements to Greek universities were needed but the government’s proposal to give the green light to private colleges were simply «fireworks» that would have no impact. «Is it possible for the existence of one or two colleges to increase competition and improve universities?» Babiniotis asked. «Are we not competing with European universities already?» When laying out his proposals last month for changes to the constitution, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said he wanted private universities to be allowed in Greece. Although a number of franchises of foreign universities and colleges have been established here, they have not been given official recognition on a par with Greek universities. Karamanlis argues that the existence of these types of universities would stem the flow of Greek students, and money, abroad. The Municipality of Maroussi has plans to host an international university which will attract up to 5,000 students. «We do not need private universities, which will become education supermarkets,» said Andreas Andreopoulos, the rector of the National Technical University of Athens, at yesterday’s conference. Babiniotis, however, said it was important that there be an effort to improve standards at Greek universities. A panel of eight academics assembled by the government to put together recommendations on improving higher education called last December for greater funding for state universities but also more checks and the appointment of financial managers. «We cannot say ‘no’ to evaluation,» said Babiniotis. «But we have to explain that evaluation leads nowhere if it is just about recording problems. The state must commit to providing solutions.»