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Politics

Failing Students Locked Out of Greece’s University, Tsipras Wails

ATHENS – After generations of allowing students who had failing grades in entrance exams to be admitted to Greek universities, raised standards set by the New Democracy government means they won't anymore.

One in three candidates from secondary school, a total of 25,014, and two in the three (10,584) from vocational high schools (EPAL) failed to meet the higher benchmark set by the government.

But Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hasn't moved to allow private universities as Article 16 of the Constitution stipulates that higher education is provided free in state institutions, and that private universities are prohibited.

Graduates of prestigious foreign colleges, such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton in the United States and Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom don't have their diplomas recognized if they want a state job.

Previously, students who had grades as low as 8 on a scale of 100 were admitted to some higher-education institutes but this is the first year – after remote learning in high schools during the COVID-19 pandemic – that the minimum grade to enter universities was raised.

Education Minister Niki Kerameus said plans are being drawn up what to do about the huge gap in students that regional schools rely on for their economy, one of the reasons that failing students are allowed in.

There will be 17,762 positions in university departments were left vacant and some have so few admissions – less than 10 – that they are virtually empty . Some 100 have fewer than 20 entrants and not one was able to get into the  Architecture Department at the Democritus University of Thrace in Xanthi.

The plan will seek to rearrange the academic map of 450 higher education departments around the country, said Kathimerini, although it wasn't said what would happen to schools with few students.

The Education Ministry is also boosting public vocational training schools (IEK) with financial and academic means that weren't explained either after the dismal test results shut out students who in other years would have been admitted.

Greece doesn't require students to graduate either at the New Democracy government said it would try to end the phenomenon of so-called “eternal students” giving them a nine-year limit to finish their studies.but hasn't yet.

Some 92,090 candidates took part in higher education exams but only 63,239 candidates were admitted admitted to the universities and colleges of the ministries of National Defense, Tourism and Citizens’ Protection.

Before the minimum threshold was introduced, students gained entry to universities almost regardless of their exam performance, the newspaper noted and as Kermeus said the higher standard means diplomas will be worth more.

“We no longer have the phenomenon of people gaining admission with grades of 1, 2 and 3,” out of 10, she said.

“Our young people have a way out and a new outlook,” she insisted, adding that “students will get what they need from a university education which will also help them professionally.”

“Our young people are no longer trapped in universities. Their studies have value as we do not have the phenomenon of people admitted with (low marks).”

Universities would see their prestige and standing improve. The inclusion of public technical colleges in the entrance clearing system for the first time also offered alternatives to young people, she said.

Major opposition SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras, whose government wanted open admission and no standards, or even taking tests in some cases, said the higher standards will hurt students who didn't get in.

He said it means they won't get a college education even if they weren't qualified and called the higher standards results a “massacre,” and slammed what he called the “indifference” of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Tsipras referred to an unprecedented “injustice” in the history of the Greek public universities and said the government had chosen to create “universities for the few (and) fee-paying colleges for the many.”

“A Prime Minister that has not even passed outside a Greek university and has the financial means to send his children to study abroad has decided to clip the wings of thousands of pupils that chose to study in their own country,” Tsipras said, the paper reported.

Mitsotakis is a graduate of the prestigious private preparatory school Athens College as well as Stanford and Harvard Business School while Kerameus was graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris and Harvard Law School – which means she couldn't get a job in a Greek state office.

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