Parallel employment for academics 

Parallel employment for academics 

Parallel employment at two universities, one in Greece and one abroad, was first introduced into law by socialist former education minister Anna Diamantopoulou in 2012 to support the internationalization of Greek universities and at the same time to slow down the brain drain, which, due to the economic crisis, had picked up pace. It gave faculty members who were selected for a permanent position at a foreign university the option of not having to resign from the Greek university, but instead to apply for parallel employment at both universities.

With more confidence now, due to the more favorable economic climate in the country, the latest law governing the issue facilitates the possibility of parallel employment and a brain gain. It allows academics employed abroad and elected to a faculty position at a Greek university not to have to resign directly from their position abroad but to seek parallel employment. This arrangement allows for the smooth and gradual return of academics to Greece and, of course, strengthens cooperation between Greek and foreign universities.

The daily routine of parallel employment is not always easy, as there are a number of practical issues that need to be resolved, such as residence in both countries, insurance status and, of course, family balance. In addition, the two universities need to be convinced that it is in their interest to share the professor, which is not always easy as the multiple benefits only become obvious later.

Having been in a parallel employment arrangement between Panteion University and Queen Mary University of London for several years, I can confirm that, despite the practical difficulties, the advantages are many for all sides. Experience from one system can feed into changing practices and anticipating challenges in the other system much more quickly.

For example, for years now in the UK there has been a lack of engagement among students with their studies and a reluctance to participate in university activities. In contrast, in Greece, students who do manage to get to the classroom are thirsty for opportunities and activities that no longer excite their UK counterparts. As a lecturer, having participated in thorough analyses of the sources of the problem in the UK, I have the tools to try to prevent similar problems emerging at the Greek university.

Experience from one system can feed into changing practices and anticipating challenges in the other system much more quickly

In the key area of research and how it can be useful for the public good and for the formulation of evidence-informed public policy, UK universities have made strides and there is much that can be transferred to Greek universities that are making steps in this direction. Possibilities for international networking and learning from the experience of concluding and implementing international teaching and research agreements can also be drawn from UK universities that have been pioneers in this field for decades.

Equally important is the confidence one can feel for the future of Greek universities as one discovers that many of the administrative and other problems that we consider Greek specificities are ultimately international and can be solved in both systems when there is the right leadership and will.

Parallel employment is an important opportunity for osmosis between Greek and foreign higher education institutions. Having a faculty member fully involved in the teaching, research and administrative activities of both universities means that collaboration and the exchange of good practices can go deeper and in areas where the equally important, but more targeted, relationship with visiting professors – a provision which is also strengthened by the new law – does not reach. The strengthening of parallel employment by the law passed by current Education Minister Niki Kerameos is another important extroversion tool for Greek universities.

Stella Ladi is an associate professor at Panteion University in Athens and Queen Mary University of London.

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