Fight to the death over upgrading of technical colleges

The decision by the Ministry of Education to upgrade the TEIs (technical colleges) into institutes equivalent to universities has had academic circles in a tizzy for the past nine months. Already, problems at the Greek universities and TEIs had been aggravated by a lack of funds. «It is not permissible that annual state expenditure on Greek students should be 33 percent of the EU average for their European fellow-students,» said the dean of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Themistocles Xanthopoulos. «The government urgently needs to commit itself to a brave and incremental increase in university funding, with the the clear aim of rapid convergence with the corresponding EU average,» he added. Regular charges of a shortage of facilities – most acute in Attica and Thessaloniki – leading to the cancellation of lessons is hardly typical of European universities. «At the University of Athens, there are departments which do not have their own lecture halls. The Law School borrows a hall from the old NTUA building on Patission Street. The main problem is that the lecture halls have been designed for a smaller number of students,» said the dean of Athens University, Giorgos Babiniotis. Student sit-ins The law on upgrading the TEIs has served to confirm a huge problem: the political handling of educational concerns. Innumerable protests have been made, students have carried out sit-ins and the NTUA board of governors has resigned en masse. The suspension of normal functioning at many universities has demonstrated that the ministry has been unable to strike the right balance between TEIs and universities. At some universities, student sit-ins caused the exams to be moved from June to October with the result that the start of the fall semester has been deferred. University academics are protesting against having to cooperate with TEIs on research or on postgraduate degrees by TEI graduates. The question of the evaluation of TEIs and TEI educational personnel continues to be a source of tension. University authorities and professional bodies such as the Technical Chamber of Greece have stated their clear intention of battling the implementation of the law. 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. «Among educational staff, there is an underlying dread and unease. The question is whether it will be expressed or die out,» said one Piraeus TEI professor, Constantinos Koulouris. Already, Piraeus staff have decided to appeal to the Council of State over provisions in the law which pertain to the status of some 2,000 lecturers. «The TEIs are being downgraded, and their superior academic characteristics are being undermined,» they said. The abolition of the colleges’ right to set up their own postgraduate studies departments and to carry out basic and applied research will prove catastrophic, as they will be excluded from third Community Support Framework funding for postgraduate programs and equipment.

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