Sights set on university overhaul

A different entry system to tertiary education and setting up Greek university departments abroad were two of the sweeping changes proposed yesterday by Premier George Papandreou and Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou. Speaking in Delphi, where rectors, professors and students are taking part in a conference about the future of tertiary education in Greece, Papandreou said that the country urgently needs to sort out the serious problems in the sector. «Education is a crucial issue to the survival of our country,» he said. «The new generation faces a challenge: to change the system or to leave the country. But we are determined to change things. We want young people to stay and be a part of things.» Papandreou laid out a series of reforms that his government wants to carry out. He said that one of the changes would have to be the merger of some departments and even universities, likening it to the Kallikratis scheme PASOK has brought in to shake up local government. He also suggested the current university entrance system, whereby a high school student’s grades decides what subject he or she will study, is too rigid. He proposed that teenagers apply for universities of their choice and then choose their subject once they are accepted. «We are obliged to give young people all the resources and the knowledge they need, not just a piece of paper,» said the prime minister. Papandreou also stressed the need for Greek universities to welcome teaching staff and students from abroad. He said the universities could earn tuition fees from foreign students. Diamantopoulou went a step further and suggested that Greek universities could set up departments or franchises abroad, as many British and American colleges do in Greece. She also proposed changes to the way students are taught and examined as well as how universities are administered. The government proposes that the rector’s offices retain the say over academic issues but that special committees be set up at each university to take over a range of other administrative duties, including funding matters that are currently decided on by the Education Ministry. «This is the battle of all battles,» said Diamantopoulou. «We are ready for it, because a change to our education system means that we are also changing Greece.»

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