Celebrating an educational institution

This week the National Technical University of Athens is celebrating its 170th anniversary. Its principal benefactor, Georgios Averof, and other major benefactors Nikolaos Stournaris and Michail Tositsa provided the funds for Lysandros Kaftanzoglou to create the monumental neoclassical building on Patission St. Since then, the NTUA has played a significant part in the economic and technological development of Greece. It has left its mark on Greek history through the political activities of its students and staff. Today the NTUA has nine faculties with some 13,300 students, 1,800 postgraduate students, 2,500 doctoral candidates, 616 teaching staff, 276 special staff and 1,044 administrative employees. NTUA Rector Constantinos Moutzouris spoke to Kathimerini about the strengths of the institute and the challenges facing it and Greek education in general. How does the NTUA feel about its 170-year past? The exceptionally high level of the NTUA derives from it past. We are proud of our progress over 170 years. The milestones were: 1840, when we settled into the first building of our own; 1871, when we moved into Patission Street; 1914, when we became equal to Athens University; 1941, when we resisted the German occupation; 1944, when we made a decisive contribution to postwar reconstruction; and 1973, when our students rebelled against the dictatorship. And of course 2007, as the NTUA continues to attract top students. What are its comparative strengths? The greatest is the human potential, the students. First-rate young Greek students choose to study here. Second is the excellence of our courses, especially at undergraduate level. Third are the buildings, infrastructure, and the 92-hectare campus in Zografou. Some of our labs are either the largest or the only ones of their kind in Europe. And our universal acceptance by Greek society is a huge advantage. What is the weak point? Excessive enrollment. In some faculties it reaches 250 percent of capacity. That comes from transfers and regulations about enrolling new students outside the university entrance exams. What challenges does the NTUA face? The greatest is continual improvements in studies and research. Improving our international profile by contributing to new knowledge. And persuading the Education Ministry to rationalize the number of students enrolled.