Row over pre-poll college upgrade

March 31, 2000

An attempt by Greece's ministry of education to clear up confusing differences between the its higher education system and those of the rest of Europe has caused turmoil in the academic community.

It comes at a bad time for the government, which is just about to seek re-election.

Parliament passed a controversial amendment to raise technological institutes to university status and harmonise Greek legislation with EU regulations on equivalence of degrees and professional qualifications. This was in order to avoid fines amounting to millions of euros being imposed by the European Court of Justice.

But the move has been declared unconstitutional by the country's highest legal authority, the state council. It also failed to satisfy universities and polytechnics, which are publicly criticising education secretary Gerasimos Arsenis.

Mr Arsenis has been accused of acting in haste, without full regard to the individual interests of institutions and of giving pre-election favours.

The state council objected to the study period's being extended from six to eight semesters, while universities said the status of technological institutes was raised without properly assessing their quality. The polytechnics said the amendment fell far short of their expectations.

The ministry, however, said the amendment regularised an awkward situation without infringing on the rights and responsibilities of the individual parties.

University studies cannot be less than eight semesters, and technological institute studies cannot be less than seven semesters with a compulsory practical semester in the corresponding profession.

A ministry spokesperson said the state council had confused the issue while universities sought to perpetuate a problematic system. Mr Arsenis had undertaken to re-examine any difficulties after the election, he said.

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