Mitsotakis Repeats Pledge for Private Universities in Greece


FILE - ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his meeting with the members of his shadow cabinet on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS - His party didn’t do it when they had the chance under previous leaders, but major rival New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said if elected he would move to amend Article 16 of the Constitution to allow private universities, which only Greece bars among European Union countries.

In December, 2018, with the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA dead set against allowing recognition of private university degrees for public service positions, Greek academics  called on the government to open the door for the schools, with some American colleges showing interest in opening branches.

SYRIZA, which favors no standards in education and for college students not to be pressed to complete school or face testing, is opposed to private universities saying Greek students should instead have no choice although state schools that are among the world’s worst.

The Greek constitution requires that higher education be entirely public, and Article 16 states that the "formation of universities by private individuals is forbidden,” although some do operate, but their degrees not recognized for government jobs.

Mitsotakis said that, "Revision of article 16 is our main proposal, which unfortunately, has kept our country back for the past 44 years. The state must guarantee the quality of public higher education, but giving opportunities to other.


“However, it (the Greek state) must allow what applies throughout the world: the operation of private, non-profit institutions; under the supervision, of course, of a highly regarded special independent authority," he said, the business newspaper Naftemporiki reported.

Students with degrees from private schools, including American Ivy League schools and top British universities, won’t have those accepted if they want to work in the public sector as successive governments, including New Democracy and the former PASOK Socialists who also didn’t move to recognize the private colleges.

In an open letter to SYRIZA and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the professors said they want the government to amend Article 16 of the Constitution that prohibits establishment of the private universities, making the country unique with the ban.

“Greece is unique in this: It is the only country in Europe, if not the entire world, where the average lawmaker does not have the freedom to regulate the status of universities in accordance with the educational, social and cultural needs of the time, as well as the priorities of the majority of the time. On the contrary, they are strictly limited by the constitution,” the academics said in the letter published in Sunday’s Kathimerini.

They said bureaucratic rules are stifling innovation and reform in a call that came after SYRIZA scrapped Diaspora educational consultants.

“Having served in tertiary education for decades in Greece as well as abroad, we are in the position to have very good knowledge of the pros and cons of state and private universities,” they say. “We agree on some things while we disagree on others.

However, we are united in the conviction that regardless of what model is chosen, lawmakers must be able to adapt it to the conditions of the time… This is, in other words, a question of democracy,” they wrote. The group includes Nobel Prize winner for economics Christopher Pissarides of the London School of Economics, who is from Cyprus.