Withering TEIs call for reform

Many technical colleges (TEIs) are suffering because they receive just a trickle of new students each year and academics are now calling for the government to stop creating new schools and to begin merging departments if the TEIs are going to have any hope of surviving. There has been a steady decline in the number of high school students enrolling in technical colleges each year, largely as a result of the government’s decision in 2006 to prevent any pupils who obtain less than 50 percent in their exams from being accepted to the TEIs. Since this decision, some 45,000 places at the schools have not been filled. However, this has not prevented the government from continuing to expand the colleges, which are the lifeblood of many countryside communities that rely on the money spent by students and their parents on accommodation and general living expenses while they are studying away from home. According to an Education Ministry decision taken last year, 13 new TEI departments will begin accepting students this year. But those involved in this part of the tertiary education sector say that this is exactly the opposite of what is needed. «There need to be some major reforms,» Grigoris Gikas, the president of the Ioannina TEI in northwestern Greece, told Kathimerini. «The departments of different technical colleges need to be merged. We should even look into the possibility of merging TEIs and universities.» Gikas has experienced firsthand the slowdown in the number of students arriving at technical colleges. The Tourism Management Department of his institution has not received a single high school student since 2006. «At some point, these departments have to be shut down,» he said. «They are only being kept alive by older students.» «The state created new TEI departments and then forgot about them,» said Patras TEI president Sokratis Kaplanis. «It regards them as third-class hotels, which is evident from the lack of funding.»