A university for every city

Mayors and prefects often have one pet demand from the government: that their city is selected to host a university institution or, at least, a technical college. The motives, of course, barely qualify as educational. Rather, local communities see such a hosting opportunity as a chance to make money from the students who move into the city. The profit factor naturally fuels competing demands and rivalries. However, a fundamental condition of proper and comprehensive education is the existence of a viable academic community. This in turn presupposes the existence of a considerable number of academics and students but also the coexistence of different departments in a single campus. Only in a diverse environment can real scientific debate and research flourish. These are self-evident principles that are respected everywhere in the world, from the most developed states of the West to the nations of the Third World. When in the 1960s the issue of establishing new regional universities was raised in Greece, there was no plan to spread them out. The University of Patras and, after that, the University of Ioannina were both designed as self-contained units. The scattering of institutions began in the 1980s, not to meet genuine educational needs but rather to fulfill the demands of cities which saw a way to serve their politically expedient objectives. This policy, which has been adopted by all governments, to a large degree condemned to atrophy the regional universities that came later (Thrace, Crete, Thessaly, Aegean, Ionian, Peloponnese). Most of these institutions have ended up as bad imitations of universities who seek to attract «flying» professors while producing hordes of half-baked graduates. Understandable as the growth-related concerns of the provincial towns may be, universities cannot undertake the role once played by military camps. Greece’s educational needs mandate that the government picks a limited number of provincial towns which will gradually evolve into full-fledged university towns.

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