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SYRIZA Higher Education Reform Seen Devaluing College Degrees

May 12, 2019

ATHENS – Merging technical institutes with lesser standards into universities with higher standards is nothing but a plan by the faltering ruling Radical Left SYRIZA to hike salaries for government workers in a bid to buy votes and will devalue college degrees, critics said.

“It’s 100 percent political,” said Loukas Vlahos, a physics professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki told Times Higher Education. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

Reeling in polls with elections coming and already accused of trying to dumb down education, the SYRIZA scheme folds the Technological Education Institutes (TEIs) into universities and makes the degrees equal, upgrading them retroactively.

Critics said it’s just designed to inflate the qualifications and boost the salaries of many graduates ahead of a general election in October, the report said. It was passed by a vote of 147-100, with 53 Greek lawmakers not voting.

Vlahous said upgrading the TEI certificates means state workers – a vast pool of voters – will have their pay hiked because it’s linked to qualifications even if they didn’t earn them but were now granted them.

“It’s going to devalue the degrees of those who have (undertaken) enormous efforts to get into very prestigious schools,” he said. Universities generally require better exam scores for entry than TEIs, he explained.

SYRIZA already has blocked private universities that would compete with public schools where students can be admitted with what are failing grades in countries like the United States and stay for life without graduating.

Even holders of degrees from Ivy League schools aren’t eligible then to work as clerks in a public office as the state won’t recognize their diploma, and SYRIZA is perpetuating that after one of its former education ministers said excellence in education was not a virtue.

One newspaper estimated there could be 400,000 such upgraded graduates, Vasso Kindi, an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the site also reported. She said it’s likely government workers with TEI certificates will now also look for retroactive pay bonuses based on qualifications they didn’t have.

Education Minister Kostas Gavroglou said TEI degrees would not be automatically upgraded but that it would depend on factors such as when graduates studied, he said, with the exact criteria worked out over the next six months – after the next elections.

The mergers have promoted TEI faculty to full university professors. This has been done “overnight, sweepingly, without any assessment of their credentials,” said Kindi, as SYRIZA is also opposed to teacher or professor evaluations and wants lower university standards.

The main aim of the reform was to “gain the support of students, faculty and their families associated with the technological institutions,” she argued.

Gavroglou told Times Higher Education that although TEI faculty would become university professors, they could be barred from responsibilities such as Ph.D. supervision if their record was not deemed adequate by university assessment committees.

“We never saw a full plan,” said Vlahos. The reforms will “destroy” Greece’s technical training structures and force them together with its research-oriented universities, he warned.

Kindi agreed. “The new enlarged universities find themselves with numerous new departments whose academic programs are not accredited and are practically unknown. They may overlap with existing departments. They may have no relation to the profile of the university or the faculty they are attached to,” she said.

Gavroglou said in some cases TEIs’ research records outperformed universities, yet they still suffered from a public perception that they were second-class institutions, which he said the reforms would correct.

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