University reform

About three months ago, conservative Education Minister Marietta Giannakou warned that the degrees awarded by Greek universities could be rendered worthless. It is an open secret that many universities – let alone the country’s technological education institutes (TEI) – are in sorry shape. Infrastructure shortcomings, anemic research, absent professors, a large number of students, schools and departments that have been founded without careful planning – all go to paint a very grim picture. The Greek university system falls short of providing our youth with the necessary equipment for the future. The national dialogue on education is due to be launched on Friday. The number and the size of the problems that plague all aspects of our university system make it difficult to offer any recommendations. The question becomes more urgent when one realizes that the main factor behind the current situation is that a large proportion of students are not that keen to study and learn. Rather, their main concern is to gain some form of formal recognition that will open them a door into the public sector. Save for the students attending courses in high demand, the rest show little interest in reversing the current trend and seeing an end to phenomena such understaffing, the lack of books, or the loss of teaching hours. Aspiring merely to university entry and a piece of paper, most of the students seem happy with the establishment of departments that are doomed to decline. Similarly, they seem at ease with the absurd situation whereby students are admitted to the university although they have scored below the pass mark. There is urgent need for countermeasures. For a small country like Greece, education is the only way to achieve convergence with more advanced nations. In a globalized economy where much depends on the quality of knowledge and information, university is expected to equip youth with the products of thinking and research carried out in the more advanced countries so that they can compete with foreign graduates. Many changes have to be made to our university system. Most importantly, we must put emphasis on quality. In the context of the national dialogue, everyone from politicians and responsible officials to the ordinary people must realize the need for reform and push in that direction even if that entails a decline in the number of university entrants and departments.