Cash crisis threat to universities

January 12, 1996

University chancellors have failed to convince the Greek government of the seriousness of the problems facing higher education. To make matters worse the government has once more reneged on its promises.

Last year the chancellors received assurances from prime minister Andreas Papandreou that more money would be made available for education. But with the prime minister seriously ill in hospital, the budget, under which universities will receive less money, is expected to be voted on without him. It is doubtful he would have authorised any changes.

In a sharply worded statement, the chancellors claimed that "the continuous reduction of funds is seriously threatening the state character of education and serves the interests of private education".

Education secretary George Papandreou, the prime minister's eldest son, expressed his satisfaction with the budget while assuring chancellors that the further needs of higher education will be financed by a special bond that is expected to raise an additional 200 billion drachmas (Pounds 600 million).

George Tsamasfiros, vice chancellor of the Technological University, said: "The government has reneged on its promises and that means that the ministry of education has failed to convince the economic ministers of the crisis faced by the universities." He added that for 1996 the government had allocated more money for buses and railways than for universities.

Mr Tsamasfiros produced analytical tables that show next year's budget allocation for education is 6.7 per cent compared with 6.9 per cent in 1995 and 7.3 per cent in 1994. The operating costs of the universities were 3.88 per cent of the gross national product next year compared with 4.13 per cent in 1995, and 4.42 per cent in 1994, despite numbers of students increasing by 3.5 per cent and of graduates by 7 per cent in 1995.

At their meeting in October, Mr Papandreou promised the chancellors 1,000 new staff. Three hundred and fifty of these are still outstanding at a cost of 3 billion drachmas - the amount set aside for the entire appointment needs of all three levels of education.

The chancellors pointed out that among the European Union member states Greece allocates the smallest proportion of its GNP to education.

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