GREECE: Dispersing students increases costs

In an effort to achieve a more even distribution of the student population in Greek higher education, a major shift will be initiated this year. While the overall number of student places will not be increased, more students will be allocated to provincial universities while fewer will be placed in the major central and more popular universities such as Athens and Thessaloniki.

In the last few years, and mainly as a result of legislation that did not allow students to take up a place at a higher education institution unless they achieved a pass grade of at least 10 out of 20, the student population at provincial universities became severely depleted and some departments faced closure due to lack of demand.

Now Education Secretary Evripidis Stylianidis plans to restore the balance by transferring funds and students from the centre to the periphery, from fashionable universities to the less glamorous ones in the provinces and to rejuvenate them.

This year, nearly 60,000 students will not be able to secure a place at a Greek university. Inevitably they will seek to continue their studies abroad in such countries as England, America, Scandinavia and Italy, at a substantial cost to their parents; or they will seek solutions closer home in the Balkans, at Romanian and Bulgarian institutions which offer higher education at perhaps more reasonable prices.

More than 145,000 students applied for a place at a university or a technological institute but fewer than 87,000 or 60% of the total will be accepted. From the lucky few, 39,000 places will be allocated to the 11 provincial universities - nearly 2,000 more than last year - all of which will be cut from the central higher education institutes in Athens and Thessaloniki.

The majority of the places were allocated to the universities of Ioannina, Dimokritos, Patras, Crete and Aegean. Correspondingly, the biggest cuts occurred at the two largest universities - Athens and Thessaloniki - which lost 730 and 650 students respectively. Places for the technological institutes were allocated on a similar basis.

This re-allocation of student places in favour of the provincial universities will boost internal migration but is likely to increase the cost of study for many students. On the other hand, it will invigorate local industries - particularly house-letting since not many provincial universities offer student accommodation.

Speaking of the changes, Stylianidis claimed the ratio of those who entered university was far higher than in previous years. He said the government aimed to disengage secondary education from university but that this would not be possible during the government's current parliamentary period.