Berkeley universities

New opportunities for education |

The University of Athens was among the first to launch a course in English. [InTime News]

We recently read that Greek universities plan to introduce more than 200 undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate programs in English, seeking funding from the EU-supported National Strategic Reference Framework known in Greece under the name ESPA.

The country’s – albeit belated – interest in establishing essential partnerships with internationally recognized foreign universities may offer opportunities to improve the functioning of Greek universities. It would be even better if the financing of these programs did not rest, once again, on the EU and the State. As is the case in most American universities, part of the (living) salary earned by professors in these English-speaking programs could come from successful participation in competitive research programs. The institution of named professorships and even alumni associations are other potential sources of funding that foreign universities use extensively in order to reduce their financial dependence on the government in power, a situation that often leads to interventions.

We are looking for an opportunity that the various forms of pressure exerted on universities by external forces in favor of certain candidates will ultimately be seen as strange, repulsive and negative – as they are abroad. And that the electoral bodies stop giving preferential treatment to the protected or relatives of various people.

Another important opportunity that arises from these partnerships is the promotion of a stricter academic code of integrity, as is the case in internationally recognized universities, where plagiarism is considered a cardinal sin that leads to temporary or permanent expulsion of a student. The reaction is just as severe on issues relating to student and faculty publications. Publications that turn out to be fabrications or falsifications, and professors who put their names on articles for which they have never worked are just some of the very serious issues of academic integrity in Greek universities that must be discussed.

Even less important issues like pensions could be handled differently if we learned and took advantage of the procedures that apply in good foreign universities. At Berkeley, for example, professors are subject to an academic examination every three years. If they do not show significant progress – in terms of research, for example – they are encouraged to retire early. At Harvard, on the other hand, a good professor has no retirement limit and continues to teach as long as he wishes. It should be remembered that Berkeley is a “state” university and Harvard is a private, not-for-profit university, and both are considered among the best in the world.

The truth is that those of us who have been advocating for the creation of serious, non-profit English university schools for years (such as an English medical school, for example) are somewhat skeptical of this sudden turn towards the creation than 200 English-language programs, especially since they appear to be entirely dependent on existing academic staff at universities who are already struggling to keep their undergraduate and graduate programs up to a decent standard.

I am convinced that new English language programs should be designed and managed by an independent faculty of experienced academics which will mainly include Greeks from the Diaspora. Many of them hold leadership positions in some of the best universities in the world and have their hearts in Greece. A state invitation to such programs in English in Greek universities would be an opportunity to reverse the brain drain and improve the level of Greek higher education.

Dimitris Linos is Professor of Surgery and Deacon of the Greek Orthodox Church.