A frank analysis of the university sector

A documentary on Mega television channel earlier this week addressed the issue of private universities, which has provoked widespread debate in Greece since the government announced its intention to permit the establishment of such institutions in this country. The documentary, presented by the experienced journalist Pavlos Tsimas, passed through Athens, Amfissa and Kalamata as well as Bremen, London and Lisbon, gathering a broad range of opinions, images and insights. In short, it offered a comprehensive overview for those watching, provoking our interest and encouraging us to draw our own conclusions, instead of imposing any particular outlook. Of particular interest were the comments of staff at a private English-speaking university in the German town of Bremen who referred to the «global education market» as well as the opinions of the director of a Greek private college («We exist because the state university system is bad»). A brief glimpse into life at the technical college in Amfissa, central Greece, revealed a sorry state of affairs, while the president of a university in the Peloponnese stressed that «95 percent of Greeks want the state university system to change.» Many strong opinions were expressed but Tsimas – to his credit – avoided taking either the side of the students or the system. However, he did note that he and his camera crew failed to spot any caches of homemade explosives upon entering the campuses they visited. Tsimas’s research yielded two key conclusions: Firstly, that although every generation of adults in postwar Greece believed that their children’s lives would be better than their own, the current generation of adults fears that its children will have a worse – or at least tougher – time than they. Secondly, that students are not rebelling against what they are experiencing at the country’s universities as much as what awaits them in the labor market. Last week the International Herald Tribune published the summary of a treatise by the president of Johns Hopkins University, William Brody, who maintains that we are about to witness the birth of an entirely new institution, that of the global «megaversity.» According to Brody, universities are subject to the same forces and stresses of globalization that confront all other aspects of society and, increasingly, have more in common with multinational firms in their planning and organization. Tsimas’s documentary touched on these issues but, most importantly, it avoided cliches and contributed to fueling public interest in an issue which will determine the nature of our society and culture in the 21st century.