Minister flexible over time frame for education

Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis assured students and rectors yesterday that reforms gradually being introduced at universities have flexible deadlines in a bid to allay concerns about changes in the sector. The assessment of university staff and restrictions on the number of years a student can have to complete a degree are among reforms still being met with opposition by some members of the university community on the grounds that their implementation is complex and difficult. Stylianidis, who took over the ministry after the conservatives won last month’s elections, promised to relax deadlines if the changes demand technical know-how which the tertiary institutions might not possess. «We are here to make improvements and in some cases correct mistakes and oversights. Under no circumstances are we here to obstruct efforts at reform which had already been started,» ministry sources quoted Stylianidis as telling students. It was the first meeting between an education minister and university students since the start of New Democracy’s previous term in office in March 2004. Rectors presented a series of demands to Stylianidis, including increased budgets, allowing more time to implement reforms and revising some procedures being used to introduce changes. The minister also asked the university heads to detail their problems in writing. Meanwhile, news from the European Commission yesterday regarding Greek university graduates and their job prospects was not good. According to the Commission, one in three young university graduates in Greece is unable to find work while the corresponding EU average is much lower at 14 percent. Greece ranks among only a few EU states in which unemployment rates among young people are higher for those who have completed university education. Jobless rates in Greece among young people with a basic education is at 21.7 percent and rises to 26.1 percent for secondary school graduates. The figure stands at 30.1 percent for those with a university degree. The Commission has in the past underlined the need for greater correspondence between Greece’s tertiary education and the real needs of the labor market.