Greece’s Eternal Students Linger, Don’t Have to Graduate


Panteion University in Athens. (Photo by Eurokiniss/ Yiannis Kontarinis)

ATHENS - With no government yet moving to change it, the long-festering problem of “eternal students” at Greek universities, allowed to stay until they reach retirement age if they want, has put the country in an unenviable position in the European Union - last.

Greece already is the only EU country to bar private universities and even graduates of world-renowned schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford can’t be hired for public positions if they don’t have a degree from a Greek university.

The New Democracy government is moving to make some reforms and offering English language courses in the classics at the University of Athens in a highly-touted move but still hasn’t acted to abolish Article 16 of the Constitution prohibiting private colleges.

Ironically, Greece - compared to the rest of the EU - has a large number of registered university students as a percentage of its population but it lags far behind in the number of those who finish studies and graduate. Data from the latest report of the Hellenic Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency (ADIP) reported by Kathimerini showed that in 2017 there were 735,027 registered students – undergraduates and postgraduates, including so-called “eternal” students that drag their studies on indefinitely.

The figure accounts for 6.83 percent of the total population of the country and is the highest among EU member states and almost double the European average of 3.87 percent and with Greece last in terms of graduates against the total number of students, with 9.41 percent in 2017, a miserable result, while the EU average was 24.15 percent.