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Academic freedom is misunderstood in Greece

24 November 2010 / 15:11:05  GRReporter
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Finally - the infrastructure. Each discipline in the universities in Greece has its own lecture-halls and if they are not used by the faculty they remain empty. If several disciplines divide the lecture-halls and if they are full of students from morning till night then fewer lecture-halls, fewer buildings and less money for lecture reading will be needed. For example, the Faculty of Physics has a physics laboratory, which is only for students in physics. But the Faculty of Chemistry also has physics classes and then it makes its own laboratory which is not used too much. But both the faculties could use the same laboratory.  

There is the phenomenon of "eternal students" in Greece – where does the problem lie and what does it mean to be an eternal student?

A law was passed in 1983, under which lecture attending is not obligatory in order not to put students under pressure. The freedom of the university is the freedom of thought, beliefs, but this is misunderstood in Greece. So, students requirements and obligations need to be streamlined. I have graduated in England and if I was absent from 51% of the lectures I could not continue even if I had passed the exams. For lecturers there believe that it does not make sense if you do not have direct contact with the environment, if you study only in memory and then sit for the exam - you forget everything. But if you go to lectures, you listen to the lecturer, you may not agree with him and enter into dialogue, then you discuss the matter with the other students and the process of learning is active, not - passive.  

These are the conclusions from our reports. Five pilot studies were carried out in November 2008, then there was no money and we started again in the spring.

There were a lot of student protests in 2005 against the law on the foundation of your Agency and on the universities assessments. Why?

It was through ignorance. They did not know what it means to assess - the money came from the government. You say I need this amount of money and the ministry grants the money with no criticism. In most cases, the reactions against the assessment are politically targeted.

What does it mean that private capital will enter universities?

I do not know what it means. Universities around the world are trying to find money to engage in research. If the university wants to teach a strange discipline, a state in America would say - you have academic freedom go in and ask a foundation to grant. The university could be established with private capital and to be either for profit or non-profit as it is in America. The Faculty of Architecture in London is in existence since 1832 and is supported by the Union of Architects. Harvard, MIT - they are private, non-profit organizations. Everything the university earns goes for university research and for students services. It is the same in Cyprus but although these good universities require fees to be paid, in Cyprus the state gives money to good students to pay for their education. There are no universities that are good and aim to profit.

Those who talk about privatization could say that because the Dean will be elected by the board of trustees. But Deans will have responsibilities in this way. Now they seek responsibility of the state and the government for not giving money to them. But the Deans themselves have no responsibilities. Universities would say so far that they needed a lecturer; the state would approve this and would begin to pay for this post forever. So, this forms the cost per student. Let me explain something - to say that every student must take six subjects per semester. But one student would take three subjects, the second one would take two, and the third would take one and would do whatever he wants. These six subjects are equal to a full-time student. Americans and West Europeans estimate that the cost per full-time student is € 10,000 for example and give universities this amount for each student. This means that the university could have 10,000 students but only 5,000 are full-time. Now they have found an algorithm and say – the Athens University has 50,000 students, Thessaloniki has 70,000, the rest have 5000-10,000 and sum. But not all students attend lectures. This is like to build a hospital with 1000 beds for only 100 patients. The capacity of the universities is 50,000 each year - in fact 50 or 60,000 are enrolled but only 10,000 attend. There are more lecturers than necessary for those who attend the lectures. The others who do not attend could make a test on the computer. Electricity bills are paid, cleaners are paid, and a lot of money is spent for half-empty halls to function. That's the problem with the eternal student, because the eternal student obtains dash instead of zero if he or she doesn’t go in for the examination. A system should be applied that allows the student to go in for the same exam only twice for example.

Tags: NewsEducationUniversitiesStudentsExamsLecturesCollegesMarksLecturers
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