Greek universities and researchers are facing major reforms.
Sweeping governance changes will require higher education
institutions to install new governing councils that are
independently in charge of university budgets.
Autonomy, mergers, competition - the EU
Such greater autonomy should be in the interest of rectors.
Their main concern, however, is that the governing councils must
consist of 15 members of which 6 have to come from outside the
university. Only one council member would be a student
representative, while the board as a whole is in charge of
proposing future rectors to be elected by all faculty members.
In addition to that, the government plans to merge smaller
research institutes and universities to increase their
international competitiveness and counter fragmentation. Barriers
between organization in general are to be torn down to make it
easier for scientists to move back and forth.
These changes are part of a bigger reform package that is
designed to standardize Greek's higher education system according
to EU norms. Internal processes are depoliticized while greater
transparency and competition is created.
Especially universities mergers have gained great popularity all
over Europe. In Sweden, 3 top institutes merged into one
organization catering to 70.000 students. Similarly, the Dutch Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden
University and TU Delft intend to fuse their capacities. In France, Sarkozy employs a carrot and stick
approach to have universities merge while giving them greater
Rectors revolt, government sets ultimatum
Despite seemingly good intentions, the Greek government's
initiative has encountered massive resistance by students and university rectors.
Yiannis Mylopoulos, rector at the renowned Aristotle University of
Thessaloniki, commented that the new law was an "inexplicable
attack aimed at lowering the prestige [of Greek universities]. It
violates Article 16 of the Constitution, which states that
universities are state institutions and have their own governing
bodies, and it opens the way for the privatization of higher
At first, lecturers and professor opposed the higher education
bill as well. Within the past couple of months, however, this
opposition turned into wide-ranging support as talks between government officials
and university rectors have reached a dead end. Even though the
reform bill was officially signed into law last year August, only 2
out of 60 Greek universities have taken measures to implement it
The government has now threatened that it would cut all public
financing of universities if they continued to oppose the reform.
The ultimatum was set for January 15, three days from now.
Meanwhile, the university rectors have launched a lawsuit which is
to be heard on February 3 at the Council of State, the Supreme
Administrative Court of Greece.