University reforms being mulled

Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou gave Greece’s university rectors plenty of food for thought over the weekend, setting out plans to give the institutions greater autonomy, to encourage them to attract students from abroad but making it clear that they would be receiving no extra funding in the short term. Diamantopoulou told the rectors during their annual conference on Friday and Saturday that the government wants university reforms to be based on four themes: the overhaul of the content of studies and research, the introduction of courses in foreign languages and the possibility of some departments or even institutions merging, all with the ultimate aim of allowing universities to manage their own affairs, free of state intervention. However, Diamantopoulou made it clear that the rectors should not expect an increase in funding. Greece currently spends the equivalent of 1.4 percent of its GDP on universities. «The problems are structural and have to do with the independence and self-administration of universities,» said Diamantopoulou. «I do not think that if we cannot resolve the funding issue satisfactorily it would preclude us from making changes. We will move forward with big structural changes.» The minister is expected to prepare a bill at the beginning of next year but before then, Greece will invite foreign academics to give their opinions on the changes as well.