NEWS

Academics split on way forward for universities

Academics agree that the way tertiary education operates in Greece needs to change, but one week ahead of a debate in Parliament on whether private universities should be allowed, a survey suggests that teachers cannot agree as to what changes need to be made. A poll of 84 university lecturers and professors from 13 universities conducted by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and seen by Kathimerini indicated that educators were most united when it came to identifying the biggest problem faced by the education system – underfunding. More than 57 percent of those questioned said that the government needs to increase the amount of money spent on education. The lack of infrastructure and the poor functioning of regional institutions were seen as the next biggest problems. However, there seems to be a lack of consensus among teachers and lecturers on what reforms should be made to the system. Almost 42 percent of respondents said they are against private universities being allowed to operate in Greece, compared to 35.7 percent who want the law to be changed so that state institutions can face competition. This is one of the key changes that the ruling conservatives want to make to the education system but it requires a review of the Constitution. MPs will begin debating a possible change to Article 16 of the Constitution in exactly a week’s time. The outcome of this debate and the reaction to the subsequent unveiling of other changes to the education system are seen as playing decisive roles in whether Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will call early elections. A panel of academic experts appointed by the government to suggest ways of improving university life proposed a series of reforms last May, including the removal of students who were failing or taking too long to complete their coursework and the constant assessment of teachers’ work. According to the ELIAMEP poll, eight in 10 academics agree or «probably agree» that measures should be taken to root out so-called eternal students. Equally, 95 percent of respondents said they were in favor of teachers being assessed. However, 40.5 percent of teachers said the current assessment system was adequate, while 36.9 percent disagreed with the existing method of evaluation. Teachers also disagree on the quality of resources available to students, with 48.8 percent saying that university libraries are well stocked but 47.6 percent saying that not enough books are available.