OPINION

No disparities between central and peripheral universities

The article titled «Universities and TEI’s undergo first evaluation» by Apostolos Lakasas (January 18, 2003), contains a number of inaccuracies that may lead your readers to forming the wrong conclusions. Kindly allow me to analyze the tables published within the above-mentioned article, using simple mathematics to prove these «inconsistencies.» The whole argument supporting the statement that «large disparities in quality [are] found between the center and periphery» (subtitle of the article) is based on the assumption that the ratio of approved to submitted proposals, either for upgrading courses or for postgraduate programs, is the correct one to evaluate the «quality» of universities. Following this argument, the article states that the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) submitted two proposals and both were approved and so it had 100 percent success! In contrast, another university, for example, the University of Crete, submitted 10 proposals and the fact that 4 out of 10 were approved, was considered a failure, with only a 40 percent success rate. However, the article fails to evaluate the last column of the table: «Postgraduate programs approved for 2003» showing the total sum of euros [approved] for each university. Thus, it avoids discussing that the NTUA with the 100 percent success rate gets only 293,600 euros and the University of Crete with the 40 percent success rate gets 1,007,000 euros. [A wholly] new [form of] mathematics would have to be invented to claim that two approved programs are greater than four and that 293,600 euros are more than 1,007,000 euros! It is obvious that the total amount of euros for approved proposals and the absolute number of approved programs for each university are better indices. In addition, the statement «superiority of central versus peripheral universities» has to be supported by evidence and not by assumptions! It could be agreed that all universities in the metropolitan areas of Athens and Thessaloniki are central and all others peripheral. With these definitions, from a total of 17 universities, nine can be characterized as central and eight as peripheral, a normal distribution to make calculations easy. The mean number of approved proposals for upgrading courses is 9.11 (±9.52) for central and 8.143 (±3.34) for peripheral universities. This difference is not statistically significant. Similarly, for postgraduate programs, the mean approved number for central universities is 2.55 (±1.069) versus 2.25 (±0.59) for peripheral [universities]. This difference is not significant either. Finally, the mean sum of euros approved for central universities is 418,400 and for peripheral ones, 446,150. Although this difference is in favor of the peripheral universities, it is not significant. In conclusion, the above simple statistics show that there are no significant differences between center and periphery. Although Apostolos Lakasas’s articles brings the whole subject of «Evaluation of Higher Education» to the attention of all concerned (ministry, academia, the public), this introduction (with articles in Kathimerini) is partial and superficial and thus could be harmful for the whole hot topic. It is my opinion that the diversity or «disparities» between center and periphery do not exist, but the same crucial «diseases» are affecting all universities. These are a) underfunding of universities b) non-autonomous universities c) poor infrastructure (in comparison to European universities) d) lack of national strategic plans for higher education and research e) underpaid academicians, etc. The universities must fight the above diseases united by looking forward to a proper evaluation of higher education! Professor Nikolaos M. Siafakas, MD, PhD, FRCP Vice Rector of the University of Crete (Other academics – Dean of Thessaloniki University Michalis Papadopoulos, Deputy Rector at Patras University (Economic Planning and Growth) Costas Vagenas, professors Ilias Kastanas and Achilleas Gravanis of the University of Crete, and Vice Rector Socratis Katsikas of the Aegean University – have also written to Kathimerini, pointing out that the evaluation of proposed projects, taken in isolation, could hardly give an idea of the whole of an institute’s work. There was general agreement on the need to address the roots of the problem [student numbers, funding, institutional framework, understaffing and lack of infrastructure, particularly at peripheral universities] and on evaluation that would focus on education and research in a competitive, globalized environment. None felt the first evaluation’s results were a true measure of peripheral universities’ capabilities.)