GREECE: President calls for more university support

The state's lack of responsibility for higher education has been severely criticised by Greek President Karolos Papoulias who also censured academics for the current condition of the nation's universities.

Although head of state and without any real political power, Papoulias made his comments during a meeting with the newly-elected management council of the Panheelenic Federation of Greek Universities Teaching and Research Staff Associations (POSDEP) in the presidential hall.

"The development of the Greek university is the only way to get out of many an impasse we are facing both as a society and as a state," he said.

On their part, federation officials outlined the main problems facing higher education: open management and social accountability of the institutions as well as strengthening the funding system.

Papoulias showed a great deal of understanding of the problems, saying that "the political system does not always do its duty towards the universities". But, as befits his office and his position he added, "Academics, however, also bear the greatest part of the responsibility."

The president recently returned from a five-day official visit to Finland and was full of admiration for the country's general progress as well as its education system. He indicated this would be a good prototype to follow for Greece.

Referring to the progress made by Finland he said: "A small country like Greece, it suffered a severe crisis but, by relying on its education in general and the universities in particular, not only managed to overcome it but also create the conditions for the improvement of the state and the community."

Papoulias insisted that "the only way to get out of many a social stalemate is the development of higher education because, after all, the dissemination of information and ideas in universities have a powerful enriching impact in the development of political life."

The 80-year-old president has been a prominent politician for many years. He was a founder member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement with Andreas Papandreou and a successful Foreign Minister (1981-1989 and 1993-1996) and Defence Minister (1989-1990) when his party was in power.

Though propelled to the presidency by the present government, he does not hesitate to speak openly against its policies on subjects he considers of national importance.