Experiment haunts ministry

Another experiment by the Education Ministry in Greek tertiary education was the programs of studies of choice (PSEs). Large sums – approximately 7 billion drachmas during 1998-2000 – were spent, hundreds of students essentially wasted their time and the universities that had such programs suffered enormous upheaval. So bitter was the taste left by the PSEs that they are regarded as an example to avoid. The ministry is now planning the Institutes of Lifelong Learning. The PSEs commenced operating in 1997. Within existing university structures, departments were set up, chiefly with technical subjects. The programs operated at the universities of Ioannina, Thessaly and the Aegean, and the Technical University of Crete. The departments were not independent entities but used existing structures, personnel and equipment, while students were not enrolled on the basis of academic criteria. Theoretically, PSE academic qualifications were equivalent to those of universities. Reactions were predictable – sit-ins, court cases, even violent incidents. In the end, PSEs were judged to be anti-constitutional by the Council of State and were shelved. The results of the experiment were that «billions of drachmas were squandered and the 3,000 participants wasted their time. Over some of these, the ministry should feel shame – some people attempted to find a place in the program on the basis of personal notes of recommendation,» said the deputy rector of the Technical University of Crete, Ioakeim Grispolakis. The Institutes of Lifelong Learning, the Education Ministry’s new attempt, will not share the same characteristics and, it is hoped, the same fate as the program of studies of choice. But Grispolakis predicted the same outcome, as the funding for buildings, equipment and the general functioning of actual universities is lacking. University academics are protesting against having to cooperate with TEIs on research or on postgraduate degrees by TEI graduates. At the TEIs themselves, instead of the expected euphoria over the upgrade, a climate of «grief, confusion and ill feeling» prevails, since there is no self-evident improvement.

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