University managers

Greek universities have often come under fire for poor management and, in some cases, for corruption scandals that have prompted investigation by the state prosecutor. Admittedly, these problems are by no means exclusive to academic institutions. Even so, Greek universities’ institutional shortcomings are hard to hide. It is common knowledge that universities are governed by rectors while their economic management is the responsibility of the deputy rector. But that structure has failed to deliver. Even the most earnest and vigilant academic staff have trouble exercising effective control over resources as they often lack the requisite know-how and experience. Academic staff are expected to combine their administrative duties – which often amount to a full-time job – with their scientific work and are rightfully said to have too much on their plates. Greece’s accession to the European Union and the inflow of community funds for research and development has radically changed the financial management of universities. Participation in various European programs and projects has allowed access to new sources of funds but, at the same time, makes management more complex and more vulnerable to fraud and manipulation. Economy Ministry officials have questioned the legality of some of the existing practices, without necessarily doubting their transparency; hence it becomes clear that there is need for an institutional solution. In response to this need, the Education Ministry is mulling the appointment of managers in charge of university finances. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou and ministry aides expect that the recruitment of qualified and experienced cadres will enable a more cost-effective use of resources – a fact that should also ease pressure from rectors demanding extra funding. In any case, an institutional shake-up could improve the quality of management, while putting the lid on controversial and scandalous practices. The government’s legal proposal will be judged by the outcome. That said, New Democracy’s intentions are good and prospects look promising. But Kathimerini’s compliment comes with a warning: No manager should be entrusted with powers that may potentially challenge the independence and self-rule of universities. The new post should be under the control of the rector and the responsible state officials.