OPINION

Learning from the US university model

Higher education is not for everybody: not because there are too few places at university but because not everyone wants a university degree. Even if there were not examinations at the end of university courses, many would choose not to attend. Moreover, our economy could not guarantee employment to a much larger number of university graduates. However, over the past decades, higher education has undergone a process of democratization. This means more opportunities for more prospective graduates. But it has also provoked a drop in quality. There are more university entrants now but fewer manage to make it through their studies successfully and a smaller proportion translate their diplomas into professional success. When it comes to improving our education sector, we do not need to search very hard for a prototype. It is quite clear that American institutions are miles ahead. But we should not make the mistake of assuming that it is purely money that gives US universities their cutting edge. Where US universities really stand out is in the efficiency of their organization. And this is something that we should imitate here in Greece, on one condition, namely that we only permit our central government to have a limited influence on the content of course programs and the choice of academics. In Greece, as in much of Europe, the state wins the right to do what it wants because it pays. And as our state is highly influenced by the ruling party, so are our universities. In the USA, on the other hand, there is no central planning or national plan but instead a close monitoring of the institutions’ performance and heavy state backing of university research.