Greeks revolt over institute upgrades

May 25, 2001

Greek university chancellors are threatening to resign en masse if the government presses ahead with its plan to upgrade technological institutes to full university status.

Although the legislation has already been brought before parliament, it is still dividing the academic community and throwing higher education into chaos. Institutes and universities have closed and courses have been suspended or interrupted because of marches, demonstrations, sit-ins, occupations and staff resignations.

The chancellor, one vice-chancellor and the 30-strong senate committee of one of the country's leading technical universities have resigned, while the other vice-chancellor has agreed to remain only as caretaker-manager until a new management is elected.

University chancellors are opposed to the technological institutes achieving university status without prior assessment of their study programmes, the qualification of their staff and their technical resources.

The presidents of the technological institutes have rejected this requirement unless the universities undergo a similar assessment.

Petros Efthymiou, the education secretary who is piloting the legislation through parliament, miscalculated the reaction. His original proposals failed to satisfy either sector. A series of amendments that made concessions to the technological institutes forced their presidents to declare the legislation was "in the right direction".

But it provoked tougher opposition from university chancellors. They have accused Mr Efthymiou of seeking to dilute the quality of higher education by allowing second-rate institutions to become universities.

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