Edition 124 - August 2011

New higher education framework in Greece

In an attempt to improve the overall efficiency and accountability of the Greek higher education system and give it a new impetus for development, the Hellenic Parliament passed on 23 August 2011 a new law on higher education. This legislation addresses the ‘structure, function, quality assurance and internationalisation of higher education institutions’ in Greece. Presented as part of the government’s education reform package rather than a response to the current economic crisis, the new law underpins introduces several measures that are novel for Greece particularly with regard to university governance. Some of the proposed changes include

  • the selection of university leaders on the basis of a new administrative model of university councils consisting of representatives from the academic community, students and external members; 
  • the simplification of internal academic structures based on three academic ranks; 
  • the strengthening of the role of faculties, in particular, of their right to design and oversee curricular;
  • the enhancement of performance-based principles of public funding in alignment with qualitative criteria and national priorities; 
  • the expansion of the role of the national quality assurance entity; 
  • the creation of doctoral schools for postgraduate education; 
  • the authorisation of new sponsorships and donations practices, as well as endowed academic chairs; and 
  • the abolition of the “asylum provision”, which prevents police officers from free access to university campuses.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has admitted that the new law aims to cope with major structural problems of the Greek higher education system, describing it as a "Soviet model of central irrational planning ... with student leaders involved in transactions with professors, who aspire to assume administrative positions." In its reform effort, the Greek government has also been relying on the advice of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The latter produced in early August a report on Greece’s education policy titled Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Education Policy Advice for Greece. The report outlines major challenges faced by the Greek (primary, secondary and tertiary) education sector and recommends a set of short-, medium- and long-term actions to help Greece to modernise its education system on the basis of best practices in other OECD countries. Some of the OECD’s recommendations – for example, the call to reduce the high degree of fragmentation within the Greek higher education system – have been incorporated into the new law. 

Not everyone is happy with these developments. The new law and the framework it aims to put in place is being rejected by many students and university boards as well as left-wing parties protesting against the introduction of an “educational neo-liberalism” in Greece. Against this background, the implementation of the new measures and the law’s enforcement may become a major challenge as the new academic year gets underway and beyond.

(back to newsletter)