Specific proposals for our universities

It appears to have become something of a rule that public debate about issues of critical national concern revolve around established rhetoric. And higher education is no exception to this rule. Despite this overriding fuzziness, there are some pleasantly surprising flashes of clarity. One of these comes in the form of a short book called «On Higher Education in the Future,» by Haris Pamboukis, which is worth some analysis. The author maintains that the current system is «an inflation of bad university education» and that the current debate regarding the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution – aimed at permitting the establishment of private universities – «has operated as an alibi for inactivity and the displacement of the real problem.» Pamboukis believes that power to establish private universities is not a solution to problems in higher education but that it should not be taboo either. He disagrees categorically with the operation of universities as private firms but he does not dismiss the option of «public welfare» universities, arguing that the term «non-state» or even «not for profit» creates confusion. In his opinion, knowledge should be regarded as equally accessible to all citizens. The writer stresses that it is the responsibility of each political party to clarify their stances in the current education debate on specific issues and not just in principle. He also recommends that two prerequisites apply in the creation of non-state universities: firstly, that a minimum level of capital be determined for the establishment of a university and, secondly, that state financing of such institutions – both direct and indirect – be strictly forbidden. Pamboukis believes that the current state apparatus does not favor the upgrading of universities nor of social justice. He proposes «the establishment of a national welfare system to support society’s have-nots.» But although this concept in itself is not erroneous, there are a host of practical problems to be considered which the author does not address in a thoroughly convincing way. He correctly observes that «there can be no meritocracy without assessment» of both students and professors. He also proposes the creation of a national certification system and the abolition of university entry examinations, but he fails to offer a totally convincing argument for his alternatives. Nevertheless Pamboukis makes focused assessments and specific proposals, which is more than can be said for most involved in the current university education debate.