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Greece: Wave of reforms in higher education

The Greek press reported, early this summer, about university students taking the streets to protest against a series of reforms of the higher education system in Greece by the Greek minister of education. Although the news hardly reached the international press, it certainly had a strong impact in Greece, where it was received with days of demonstrations and sit-ins by students. Why are these reforms controversial? To find out, the ACA newsletter Education Europe contacted Dr Foteini Asderaki, who kindly offered to write an article for the ACA Newsletter Education Europe (see link below).

The modernisation of the Greek higher education system has been one of the main concerns of the new government elected in 2004. With a view to this, the Greek minister of education Marietta Giannakou established a national dialogue and proceeded towards various and immediate reforms, such as the introduction of a quality assurance system, ECTS, the Diploma Supplement, the establishment of Life Long Learning Institutes and Joint Degrees. In the meantime parliamentary discussion began about a possible revision of the Greek Constitution which would allow the establishment of non-state and non for profit higher education institutions. All these discussions caused a big stir among the students population, who feared that the establishment of private higher education institutions might eventually lead to the progressive introduction of tuition fees. Representatives of universities’ staff also protested against some reforms that were introduced the previous year..

What’s next: The Greek education minister published a proposal for a reform of the higher education system last June. Some of the main elements of the proposal are as follows:

  • Changes to the exam system and to the length of studies. At present students who fail an exam can re-sit for an unlimited number of times until they have passed. This is creating a situation where these so-called eternal students end up staying at university for a longer period then the normal study period;
  • Enactment of an executive director in charge of financial and administrative matters;
  • Establishment of an ombudsman for higher education issues;
  • Allow the use of languages other than Greek at all the three cycles of higher education.

At present the ministry of education is consulting stakeholders and is continuing the parliamentary dialogue. The bill should be presented to the Greek parliament in late autumn.

The reforms in higher education in Greece