Axed entry exams raise a storm

March 7, 1997

Greek education secretary Gera-simos Arsenis has announced that the Panhellenic examinations for university entrance are to be abolished with open entry from the year 2000. But he has not said where the money will come from.

Critics have called the proposal "wishful thinking" and allege he is simply diverting attention from a threatened teachers' strike.

About 150,000 students take the Panhellenic examinations every year but only a third find places in the country's 17 universities. Unsuccessful candidates flock to universities abroad or to "private universities" at home, often at great expense and hardship to their parents and causing a huge foreign exchange drain to the country.

University principals were asked only last year to take an additional 3,000 students and refused saying they would close their colleges if forced.

But their attitude has changed dramatically. At their conference in Delphi last month, Mr Arsenis's proposals were favourably received although they said it was impractical without extra cash.

Mr Arsenis said that he proposed to expand the university student population by 10 per cent each year up to the year 2000 when the examinations will be abolished. Colleges will be responsible for selecting their own candidates based on a combination of grades and exams which they would set themselves. Students will be able to follow traditional courses and others for which they would pay fees.

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