Partnerships between Greek and American universities

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According to the plan devised by the conservative administration, public funding of universities will be linked to performance results in strategic areas.

“Have faith in your stars.” This is the chosen motto for a Ministry of Education program to fund individual scientists as well as research consortia over a three-year period on the basis of academic excellence. Meanwhile, other reforms are underway which officials say will be guided by criteria of excellence, extraversion, independence and accountability. Among these is the creation of schools of applied sciences that will fill the space left by technical colleges, known in Greece as TEI, which were abolished by the left-wing SYRIZA government. In addition, the ministry strives to advance partnerships between Greek universities and major foreign institutions.

According to the plan devised by the conservative administration, public funding of universities will be linked to performance results in strategic areas. The objective will be to modernize their research and teaching infrastructures (such as equipment and laboratories), their expansion into new areas of research and the improvement of their teaching methods. In addition, universities will be able to recruit visiting professors from outside institutions. The idea is to attract renowned Greek and foreign scientists for several months or even years.

Several partnerships have already been launched between Greek and American universities, giving rise to some initial synergies: A total of 10 Greek institutions including the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUT), the The Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB), Ionian University and Hellenic International University have partnered with leading American institutions including Harvard, Columbia, New York University (NYU) and Johns Hopkins. Progress has also been made in cooperation with China. A joint postgraduate program is expected to be launched in September next year, while the statute of the Center for Ancient Greek and Chinese Civilizations has been approved by the senates of four founding universities.

Another key objective is to reduce the gap between higher education and market needs. To this end, the ministry will fund industrial postgraduate programs with the aim of building a pool of doctoral workforce with essential R&D skills for roles in industry. Officials are also putting the finishing touches on a bill that includes provisions for the commercial exploitation of research results and the establishment of spin-off and knowledge-intensive businesses by researchers and academic staff.

Another goal is to create schools of applied sciences. This will be combined with a wider reorganization of higher education after the ministry’s decision to introduce a minimum entry requirement left universities with empty seats. The report of the expert committee headed by Nobel laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides recommends that given the abolition of TEI, the ministry should ensure that higher education institutions are more oriented towards scientific and technological applications At work. One idea would be to divide universities or university departments between those offering courses in science and technology, and those with a more theoretical or research orientation. The former could offer three-year programs with compulsory internships and close cooperation with business, with an emphasis on dynamic sectors of the economy (such as manufacturing, food, energy, tourism , information technologies and the green economy).

Over the past decades, the share of graduates as a percentage of the labor force and the population has increased significantly. Upgrading and renewing their skills requires expanding the role of universities in lifelong learning. This trend is already evident in Greece and is expected to intensify in the coming years. There is a lot of room for cooperation between universities and companies in what could form a win-win relationship. The Ministry of Education wants lifelong training centers in universities to support vocational training for the unemployed.

Finally, the globalization of higher education obliges Greece to modernize the procedure for the recognition of diplomas from foreign universities. The existing system has been dysfunctional, often prompting protests from Greek holders of foreign university degrees. A bill is currently being drafted by the National Center for Academic Information and Recognition (DOATAP), a public body – formerly known as DIKATSA – that recognizes diplomas.


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