Unorthodox move

The announcement by the Education Ministry yesterday that it intends to elevate the clerical schools in Athens, Thessaloniki, Iraklion and Ioannina into full-fledged universities (while also turning a blind eye to their unacceptable administrative status) is a cause for serious concern. The move would deal a fresh blow to Greece’s already troubled university education system, as it foresees the establishment of four new institutions that serve no real purpose. It is widely acknowledged that the creation of new yet hardly necessary universities and technical colleges across the country and the upgrading of post-secondary education institutions into universities, for politically expedient reasons, has done great harm to Greece’s education system. For that reason, the reports challenge the education minister’s pledge to improve tertiary education. In fact the decision is bizarre, dangerous and anachronistic. Its ulterior motives remain unclear. University rectors have already reacted to the ministry’s intention to set up a quartet of new institutions. Professors at the theological schools in Athens and Thessaloniki have also raised objections. Hundreds of students enter the theological schools every year – more than enough to cover the needs in academic staff and clerics. Nothing seems to justify the establishment of four new schools which, according to the proposed legislation, «will award degrees (that will be) equal to those (awarded by) higher education institutions.» The Church of Greece has every right to raise the standards of clerical schools with the aim of producing better-qualified religious men. But it makes no sense for the education minister to grant university status to institutions that will, according to the bill, screen candidates by means of oral examination and a recommendation letter written by the local bishop. Greece’s true universities should modernize and upgrade their standards to meet the challenges of our times. The minister should push in that direction rather than waste time and effort on highly controversial bills that fuel social tensions.