3 day ultimatum in Greek HE tragedy

Nieuws | de redactie
12 januari 2012 | Greece desperately tries to modernize its HE sector, but faces massive opposition from university rectors. Only 2 out of 60 universities took measures to implement the recent HE reform. Now, the government set an ultimatum: if rectors do not comply within 3 days, all public funding is cut.

Greek universities and researchers are facing major reforms.Sweeping governance changes will require higher educationinstitutions to install new governing councils that areindependently in charge of university budgets.

Autonomy, mergers, competition – the EUapproach

Such greater autonomy should be in the interest of rectors.Their main concern, however, is that the governing councils mustconsist of 15 members of which 6 have to come from outside theuniversity. Only one council member would be a studentrepresentative, while the board as a whole is in charge ofproposing future rectors to be elected by all faculty members.

In addition to that, the government plans to merge smallerresearch institutes and universities to increase theirinternational competitiveness and counter fragmentation. Barriersbetween organization in general are to be torn down to make iteasier for scientists to move back and forth.

These changes are part of a bigger reform package that isdesigned to standardize Greek’s higher education system accordingto EU norms. Internal processes are depoliticized while greatertransparency and competition is created.

Especially universities mergers have gained great popularity allover Europe. In Sweden, 3 top institutes merged into oneorganization catering to 70.000 students. Similarly, the Dutch Erasmus University Rotterdam, LeidenUniversity and TU Delft intend to fuse their capacities. In France, Sarkozy employs a carrot and stickapproach to have universities merge while giving them greaterautonomy.

Rectors revolt, government sets ultimatum

Despite seemingly good intentions, the Greek government’sinitiative has encountered massive resistance by students and university rectors.Yiannis Mylopoulos, rector at the renowned Aristotle University ofThessaloniki, commented that the new law was an “inexplicableattack aimed at lowering the prestige [of Greek universities]. Itviolates Article 16 of the Constitution, which states thatuniversities are state institutions and have their own governingbodies, and it opens the way for the privatization of highereducation.”

At first, lecturers and professor opposed the higher educationbill as well. Within the past couple of months, however, thisopposition turned into wide-ranging support as talks between government officialsand university rectors have reached a dead end. Even though thereform bill was officially signed into law last year August, only 2out of 60 Greek universities have taken measures to implement ituntil now.

The government has now threatened that it would cut all publicfinancing 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 isto be heard on February 3 at the Council of State, the SupremeAdministrative Court of Greece.

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