Moving swiftly despite complaints, Greek Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos said the government would immediately implement plans to cut back the number of university departments to get rid of courses he said don’t help students find work.
While some professors asked for a year’s delay, Arvanitopoulos rejected the request, showing an unusual determination by the government, which frequently gives in after criticism from academics and students.
He told Sunday’s Kathimerini that the number of departments would be slashed from 500 to about 350, but said that would not change how many students are allowed to enter. This year’s classes around Greece number about 80,000.
But with unemployment at a record 26 percent – some 55 percent for those under 25 – and with many college graduates finding themselves with no work when they finish school, he said Greece would concentrate on courses that led to jobs.
“The mergers and closing down of departments will be carried out using scientific, operational and growth criteria,” he said, adding that there would no longer be faculties that would lead students “straight to unemployment.”
Professors have already had their pay slashed as part of austerity measures demanded by international lenders, but the minister didn’t say if the merger of courses and departments would lead to any losing their jobs.
The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) has insisted that Greece fire as many as 150,000 workers over the next few years to lower its staggering debt.
The government is pressing further reforms, such as requiring students to have a limited number of years to study before they can graduate. Currently, students can stay for decades and never have to graduate, a class that Greeks call “eternal students” who prefer to stay at university because they pay no tuition, get their books for free, have free meals and subsidized housing and transportation and never have to work. Many students remain in college for many years, some even decades just so they can enjoy these privileges.
Greece, however, still is refusing to follow a European Union law that requires recognition of private universities and bars students who attend them from working for the state, even if their degree is from an Ivy League college or other universities with a far higher standing than Greece’s universities, which have some of the lowest rankings in the world.