GREECE: Universities expel drop-outs

Greek students who have dropped out, neglected or abandoned their studies over a long period will be asked to renew their interest otherwise universities, colleges and other higher education institutions will take steps to strike them off the register.

More than 140,000 students or 41% of the total student population are estimated to be non-active ‘eternal’ students or drop outs – call them what you will. After an initial registration, these students have not made an appearance either in the lecture rooms or the auditoria.

With the start of the new academic year, the missing students have to declare their intention to continue or be evicted from their colleges.

According to law 3549/07, which the Greek parliament passed last spring: “The highest period of study for undergraduate studies cannot exceed the number of semesters necessary for obtaining a degree…increased by 100%”.

In other words, a four-year course has to be completed in a maximum period of eight years. Now all higher education institutions are obliged to send letters to undergraduates who have exceeded this specified period and ask them to declare their intentions.

Letters have already been sent by some university departments while the rest, although preparing to do so, complain bitterly that this is a hugely difficult operation and they do not have the resources.

The number of students who have exceeded by far the period of their studies or have not attended at all is greater in the so-called ‘old’ universities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Piraeus and in study areas such as theology, biology, physics and literature where, under certain conditions, a student can receive a degree without attending lectures.

Correspondingly the percentage of non-active students is very low in studies such as medicine, architecture and art where attendance is mandatory.

It is thought the majority of drop-outs have no intention of continuing their studies either because they have given up for social or economic reasons, they have gone to study in another country, they have changed disciplines or have already built a satisfactory career without the need for educational qualifications.

The largest percentage of non-active students appear to come from socially and economically weaker classes who attend less glamorous courses whose degrees have rather dubious value in the wider labour market.

Students from stronger social backgrounds, who attend courses with guaranteed professional development and easy access to secure careers, exhibit very low inclination to drop out of their studies.

Once again it would appear that education is a class problem. With the cost of attending a higher education course inside the country but living away from home rising to €10,000 to €12,000 (US$14,400 to US$17,300) it becomes extremely difficult for working class families to sustain it.

Inevitably there is no option for students but to abandon their studies, readjust their expectations, seek an early entry to the labour market, start to earn a salary and cease to be a burden on the family budget.