Efforts to introduce a proper evaluation system for educators into Greece’s education system and to reduce the excess number of tertiary institutions through mergers are two red flags for enemies of reform.
Any initiatives by Education Ministry officials in that direction typically send shock waves through the country’s political, social and education systems that eventually force the government to back down.
The leftist SYRIZA party has experienced both sides of the problem: As an opposition party, it attacked the administration’s “neoliberal tactics.” Meanwhile, as a ruling party, it woke up to the need for mergers. This split personality disorder, as it were, not only becomes apparent on issues pertaining to the country’s education system. Data show that Greece has 264 university departments as well as 182 technical colleges (TEI). According to the same data, 16 of these institutions do not have any permanent, full-time professors.
Meanwhile, a survey that was conducted by SYRIZA officials and which is now in the hands of the Education Ministry leadership includes such references as the “unscientific fragmentation of modules,” “a geographical dispersion that defies all academic logic,” and “party priorities and pressure from local administration officials which led to the dispersion of many new departments across cities and towns.”
Talk about mergers started in 2012, but implementation of the decisions reached in 2013 (in what became known as the Athena program) left a lot to be desired. The reason, of course, was that local bishops, mayors, deputies, university staff, administrative officials, shop owners (in other words, the community which was hosting the occasional university department) would protest in favor of the one-university-for-every-town rule. The government would back-pedal in order to avoid shouldering the political cost.
In that way, education came to be understood as a “boon to the local economy” (coffee shops, rentals and so on), a kind of subsidy that no one wanted to see being taken away from them. This is more or less how we ended up with a society where one in 40 citizens have a degree in civil engineering, when the ratio in more advanced societies is 1:400.
This is more or less how evaluation in the education sector came to be seen as “evil” and mergers of scattered university departments as a nonstarter – all that at the expense of our future.