OPINION

End to status of ‘eternal’ student

It is common knowledge that Greek universities are seriously deficient in many sectors. It is true that the Education Ministry’s desire to solve the problem of «eternal» students does not touch on the major issues of tertiary education, but it is a start and should be treated as such. After all, there can be no serious objections to putting a stop to the phenomenon. It is clear that the minister, Marietta Giannakou, wants to begin with problems that are easier to solve. According to official figures for 2004-05, 144,668 post-high school students have not completed their degrees within the set number of years. Obviously their number includes many different categories of students. One category is that of graduates who have enrolled for another degree but who are not interested in finishing it. A second category comprises those who have abandoned their studies, and yet another, those who have fallen behind but still want to complete their degrees. The problem lies with this last category. By giving students in ostensibly four-year degree courses a total of six years to complete them, the Education Ministry is being generous. Therefore the protests coming from the student unions seem unreasonable. There is no doubt that something needs to be done on the issue. However, it does not mean that the current situation should be replaced by a rigid system. Students who are forced or who wish to interrupt their studies for a reasonable length of time should be able to do so. Equally, however, it should be made clear that for such a period of time, their student status will be suspended. The Education Ministry wants to put an end to an unhealthy situation rather than raising obstacles for students who for various reasons need to to delay their studies. In that sense, student unions should abandon their outdated unionist tactics, since they themselves know that this problem has to be dealt with once and for all. They will have fulfilled their purpose if they contribute ideas and proposals to the debate, so that realistic and flexible solutions can be found to all the problems in tertiary education.