GREECE: Chancellors' proposals for access to university

University chancellors, as a rule highly distinguished professors elected to the position and not appointed by the government, are responsible for the administration of their institutions while handling large sums of public money, managing employees of different education, skills and temperament.

They are also responsible for the education of large numbers of students to the highest degree possible. Yet nobody has taken the trouble to ask them to contribute their views in the national dialogue currently in progress for reform of the access system to higher education.

Nevertheless, the chancellors submitted 10 interim proposals to Education Secretary Aris Spiliotopoulos, conscious that whatever the outcome of the dialogue, whatever decisions are taken at the end of June, they will be the ones who will be called on to assume the weight of implementation.

By the nature of their job, chancellors have inevitably a first-hand knowledge of the students attending courses at their institutions: their needs, shortcomings, demands, abilities and ambitions; as well as the difficulties they experience. They also have an overall view of the whole education system - not only because often they carry out research for its development but also because they receive the product of the education provided sooner or later in their institutions.

Accordingly, among other things they propose that fundamental reform of primary and secondary education, including examinations between high and senior high school, so students with highly developed skills and wide knowledge in basic subjects may be produced.

Referring to the current situation, the chancellors say the majority of first-year students do not appear to have the necessary skills or the ability to follow even a most basic university level lesson, making it extremely difficult for themselves and their institution.

Moreover, there appears to exist a certain downgrading of the senior high school where students lack the ability to exercise critical thought because of a barren system of memorisation prevalent throughout secondary education and particularly in the final grades.

The chancellors' 10 interim proposals are:

* Responsibility for examinations to remain with the Ministry of Education with the participation of teachers from secondary and higher education who will continue to have the choice of the examination subjects.
* Retention of the basic grade of 10 out of 20 (50% of total marks) as a minimum achieved grade introduced by former Education Secretary Marietta Giannakou.
* Entrance examinations to the university to be carried out immediately after the final examinations in senior high school.
* Candidates to be examined in a limited number of subjects, four to five according to the scientific-education-humanist field they have chosen to follow.
* Candidates should be allowed to choose only one from the scientific-education-humanist field they have chosen to follow.
* Universities should redefine these fields and should increase them to more than five as they are today.
* University departments to specify the prerequisite qualifications and specific knowledge for the successful following of their studies.
* Successful candidates should be inducted into the university and only after completing their first year they should choose the department or field they wish to follow. (In other words, they propose a foundation course for those institutions which can sustain it.)
* Creation of a registry of teachers who have the ability and the knowledge as well as have received special training for marking students' papers.
* Digitalisation of student papers not only for safety reasons but also to give students access to what they have written.

These proposals are hardly radical and the majority, either in part or whole, have already been proposed by other organisations, individuals or institutions. So it would not be difficult for the committee headed by Professor George Babiniotis who is conducting the national dialogue for the reform of the system of access to the universities to take them into consideration.

How many, however, will be found in the final proposals remains to be seen.