Greece The University System
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
Article Sixteen of the Greek constitution prohibits the operation of private institutions of higher learning. The cultural rationale behind that position is that education should not be commercialized at any level, nor should its availability be determined by the workings of the marketplace. In the early 1990s, the legalization of private institutions of higher education, urged by many education experts, was blocked by a PASOK government that was averse to opening a traditional bastion of state control to privatization. In practice, this situation has meant that the full burden of supporting Greece's system of universities and higher technical schools falls on the state budget, hence ultimately on the Greek taxpayers. It also means that the supply of higher education does not respond to increased demand except insofar as a government makes a conscious policy adjustment.
The high social status conferred by a university education causes enormous demand for the relatively small number of places in the university system. This trend sharpened in the early 1990s; in 1994 about 20,000 university slots and 20,000 technical college slots were contested among about 140,000 secondary school graduates. In the early 1990s, slightly more than 50 percent of university students were female. Although the number of university acceptances had increased after the reforms of the late 1970s and the early 1980s, the number of applicants increased at a much faster rate during that period. The economic stimulus of EU membership was a major factor in continuing that trend into the 1990s.
Because of their limited funding, Greek universities offer very few programs beyond the bachelor's degree, and faculty have little incentive to do advanced research. The ratio of faculty to students is also quite high in most universities. The highly politicized administration of Greek universities was based on a "chair" system that put groups of associated departments under the control of senior faculty and discourages innovative teaching methods. A 1983 law was passed to democratize university administration by replacing the system with American-style departments and giving junior faculty and student representatives a voice in policy making. The restructuring was achieved despite stiff resistance from entrenched senior faculty, however. Another measure established a National University Council to advise the government on higher education policy and an Academy of Letters and Sciences to set university standards.
The intense demand for higher education has had several results. Students with sufficient means attend as much as two years of supplementary private schooling in specialized frontisteria (sing., frontisterion), either during their last two secondary years or after graduation, to prepare them for entrance examinations. (The quality of these expensive private schools is quite uneven; statistics show that on the average they make only a marginal difference in test results.)
Many of those students who are not accepted by a Greek university go abroad to study--the largest number to Italy and significant numbers to Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. In the mid-1980s, Greece had the highest ratio of foreign to domestic university enrollment in the world. The increasing numbers of Greek students at foreign universities drained funds from the domestic economy, and a significant number of students established careers abroad, depriving their homeland of their expertise. In the 1990s foreign universities began to open branches in Greece, where Greek students could begin study programs that must be completed at the parent institution abroad, increasing the "brain drain." The sale of fraudulent university degrees also was a frequent occurrence in the 1990s.
Private postsecondary institutions called "Laboratories of Liberal Studies" now offer three- and four-year programs. Graduates of these programs have been absorbed readily by private industry, despite the fact that their credentials are not the equivalent of university degrees. In 1989 some 194,419 students were enrolled in postsecondary institutions. In 1994 the largest universities were the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the University of Crete, the University of Thrace, the University of Ioannina, the University of Patras, the National Polytechnic University of Athens, the University of the Aegean (with facilities on several Aegean islands), and the University of Macedonia. In addition, programs in archeology and Greek studies are offered by American, British, French, German, Italian, and Swedish colleges, primarily for visiting students of those nationalities.
Adult education programs are directed by provincial and local authorities under the general policy guidelines of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. In the provinces, a central goal of adult education is to combat illiteracy, the rate of which was estimated at 6.8 percent of the population in 1990. The rate for females, however, was over four times higher than that for males, reflecting the higher dropout rate of females from secondary school. The rapid spread of primary education in the postwar years reduced Greece's adult illiteracy rate from 72 percent to 10 percent between 1951 and 1981.
Data as of December 1994
NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece The University System information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece The University System should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.