A movement of naysayers

On Tuesday, a large group of university professors and research staff gathered outside Parliament, demanding a revision to Article 16 of the Constitution that would allow the establishment of private universities. Their protest was quite understandable, particularly for those who are thriving thanks to the current quagmire in higher education, but everyone agrees that the situation in this sector has reached a deadlock and that something has to give. Everyone is aware of the problems at the country’s universities and knows that these are partly due to underfunding but also to the indifference of those very individuals who are protesting against any changes to Article 16. But what is really strange is the stance of the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP) – or at least what the union declares its stance to be. The union claims that university teachers are struggling «to upgrade state higher education, to create good and solid state universities.» No one disagrees with calls to improve state universities for the benefit of students and society alike but there is disagreement about which methods should be used to accomplish this. The point is that any method suggested to POSDEP is promptly rejected. The union said «no» to proposed changes to the legal framework for universities because they would «curb the democratic and academic functions of universities and impose authoritarian structures, constituting a social and cultural regression.» POSDEP also said «no» to the operation of the National Academic Recognition and Information Center (DOATAP), condemning it as «a mechanism for the recognition of degrees of any origin, which will lower the standards of our university system.» The union also rejected proposed measures for safeguarding the quality of higher education and the concept of «lifelong learning,» complaining that the latter «creates structures, within universities, that operate without any constraints from above.» Naturally the union objected to a reduction in wages for university professors who joined strike action last year. It also rejected the European system of assessment as it «aims to incorporate Greek universities into the European system, which aims at producing employable and ultimately disposable graduates.» But POSDEP has also rejected proposals for internal assessment by individual universities. To be fair, the union has said «yes» once – to a 20 percent salary increase for university professors. It is this movement of naysayers that shut down the center of Athens yesterday, once again, calling for the quagmire of higher education to remain unchanged. Then again, if you had it as cushy as them, wouldn’t you move heaven and earth to keep things as they are?

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