The main guidelines of the government’s planned changes in higher education were outlined by prime minister George Papandreou at the commencement of a dialogue on the new draft framework law for tertiary education, held in Delphi on Sunday.
Papandreou announced that a new system will be introduced under which students will gain entry into universities rather than specific university schools or departments, as is currently the case.
The plan, proposed by the Ministry of Education, includes unifications of universities and technical institutions of higher education (TEI) through unifications, mergers and abolitions of departments.
The Delphi meeting is attended by education minister Anna Diamantopoulou, university rectors, TEI presidents and representatives of teachers’ associations and social agencies.
The prime minister further linked the citizen with life-long learning, and stressed the need to tear down the walls between the various levels of education in order to render knowledge accessible at any age, but with the required certification.
Papandreou also stressed the need for the extroversion and internationalisation of the universities so as to be able to take in professors as well as students from abroad.
Greece, he continued, is among the 30 richest countries but suffers from bad management of its wealth and human potential, and stressed the need to highlight its potential, creativity and productivity.
Referring to the economic crisis, Papandreou said that must has been said about the crisis in Greece and many people not only realise the necessity of but are also willing to take part in and demand a change for a Greece that stands firmly on its feet, without borrowed strength.
Education is a fundamental necessity for the country’s survival, the premier explained, adding that it is a wager for the young generation, which has a choice between leaving or change. “This is how the youth feel today. We, however, are determined to change that. We want the participation, not the departure, of the youth,” he stressed.
Papandreou noted that Greece is in third place with regard to university entrants, but in 118th place as regards effectiveness. “From the veneer of democracy we must go to real freedom. The university must serve the country’s needs and have a say, which it does not, today,” he said, adding that “the academics have, to a degree, become involved in politics in Greece…They are not an autonomous voice that brings proposals and solutions”.
In today’s globalised economy, “no one can hide”, he said: “We are judged and we judged. It is a delusion that a young person can go ahead if he has ‘connections’.”
“Today, we are judged on meritocracy, excellence, competitiveness. These are the fundamental concepts. It is our duty to give to the young people all the tools to acquire substantial knowledge, and not simply a piece of paper. Consequently, internationalisation of the institutions (of learning) and substantive participation are required, participation of all the professors and students with open procedures. This is important for our economy, too, because in this way we will create contacts with other economies and societies and possibilities will arise for investments in Greece as well,” the premier continued.
Papandreou spoke of the acceptance of foreign students into Greek universities, for example through scholarships, stressing however, that “we must see how much every student costs us and, of course, pay, but a foreign student should be able to submit his scholarship, which we will utlilise”.
He also stressed the need for universities to be constantly developing and not bogged down by antiquated perceptions, as well as the need for them to become competitive, innovative and creative.
Addressing the meeting earlier, education minister Anna Diamantopoulou described the situation in higher education in Greece, and proposed the establishment of regional councils to regulate the number of students, educators and entrants.
She further proposed that the universities be managed by an administrative council that would undertake management of the funding, while the academic affairs would be managed by the rectoral authorities.
The minister also announced that changes are being mulled in the organisation of studies themselves, and the examination and teaching systems, noting that students, professors and other citizens will be able to take part in the dialogue via the internet.
“Today, we are waging the mother of all the battles, and we are ready, because change in education means that we are changing Greece,” Diamantopoulou said, and invited the political forces of the country to join in on the dialogue.