Regional colleges in the mire

Some 50 departments at technical colleges outside of Greece’s big cities could be forced to close after figures yesterday revealed that more than 17,000 spots at the schools will remain empty. Teenagers around the country discovered yesterday which universities or technical colleges, if any, have accepted them. It was the third year that entrance exams have been conducted since the government introduced tougher admission standards. The stricter entrance requirements, coupled with the adverse economic climate mean that fewer students are heading for regional technical colleges, known as TEI. Based on yesterday’s figures, 17,411 places at TEIs will remain vacant this coming academic year, which means that more than 50,000 places at the technical colleges have not been filled over the last three years. This could lead some of the schools to financial ruin and is likely to have a serious knock-on effect on the economies of the areas where they are based. Many smaller towns rely on an influx of students to support their local economy as they bring money into the areas by paying rent and spending cash in stores. It is estimated that some 50 TEI departments are in danger of shutting down because the number of students applying for spots is too low. This year, five departments had no applications while 32 were set to receive less than 10 students each. Some people see the decline of regional colleges as the government’s indirect method of boosting the standing of private colleges, which the ruling conservatives want to eventually put on the same standing as universities. However, Education Ministry sources said yesterday that the struggling technical college departments will simply have to adapt to changing times and change their subject matter or merge with other departments.