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In the midst of financial crisis, the government of Greece is proposing to reform the country’s higher education system. Prime Minister George Papandreou announced at the end of October a set of suggestions focused mainly on decreasing state funding and increasing the involvement of the private sector, all with an eye to addressing perceived ineffectiveness in the system. Specifically, the reforms call for the replacement of university rectors with managers from outside the academic community, more selection of foreign academics in these leadership roles within Greek universities, and a transition from state financial support to more private funding for higher education.
Under the new proposals, state financial support would gradually be reduced while, simultaneously, private institutions would be offered greater opportunities to promote their courses and programmes. Existing programmes and institutions could be merged or even closed. The appointment of assessment units from outside Greece is another suggested reform, and the introduction of tuition fees has not been discounted. There could also be major changes in the management of higher education, such as the exclusion of students in the decision-making process.
All of these proposals are currently under consideration in a public consultation process, to last for the next three months. For its part, the Greek Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religion has pointed out the urgent need for changes in light of the unprecedented challenges precipitated by the economic crisis and the fact that the country demonstrates among the lowest higher education completion rates in Europe. However, the proposed reforms have generated sharp criticism. Media reports have noted charges by universities and student unions that the plan will destroy the system of state universities. No matter the outcome of the public consultation in early 2011, changes and challenges seem certain to lie ahead for Greek higher education