Higher education Accreditation in European
Higher education in Greece has always been a highly politicized terrain. Until recently the sole responsibility of the State because of an explicit constitutional ban on private Higher Education, it has been considered one of the main forms of upwards social mobility and this can account for the social pressure to broaden access to Higher Education. Currently there are more than 75, 000 posts to Universities and Technological Educational Institutes offered ever year. For the average Greek family entrance to a University Department, traditionally associated with obtaining better employment prospects, has always been a major goal. This can also explain the importance, in the public sphere, of events such as the university entrance exams or the high cost of extra tutorial courses a family is ready to bear in order to achieve entrance to a good University Department (Medical Schools, Law Schools, and Engineering Schools).
Struggle and protest has been an integral part of Greek Higher Education. The history of Greek Universities has been marked by the intervention, since the 1960s, of a highly politicized student movement, which was highly esteemed because of its role in the struggle against the 1967-1974 military dictatorship (epitomized in the 1973 Occupation of the National Polytechnic School which was brutally suppressed by the military dictatorship). After the fall of the dictatorship, the student movement was a crucial aspect of a process of radicalization of Greek society, producing not only victorious movements (such as the 1979 movement of occupations that forced the government to repeal the law 815/78 – one of the few cases in the past 40 years that a law that had been passed was subsequently repealed because of protests) but also important elements of the general social and political culture. Most aspects of Greek post-1974 left-wing radicalism emerged from Universities. In the early 1980s a wave of extensive reforms – and especially the 1268 frame law introduced in 1982 – combined a modernizing, technocratic aspect with the introduction of a democratic system of extensive faculty and student participation in the administration of University students, which included high representation in University Senates and Department Assemblies and a particular weight of student vote in the election of Rectors, Deans and Department Heads.Since the 1990s there have been successive waves of reforms of Higher Education in a more neoliberal and authoritarian direction. Of particular political but also symbolic significance has been the campaign, from 1990 onwards, from the part of the forces of capital and mainstream media, for the amendment of article 16 of Greek Constitution that explicitly states that Higher Education is the responsibility of solely the State. Such a amendment would have been necessary in order for Private Higher Education to be fully established (private post-secondary education had been developed but it lacked the formal status of University Studies). Attacks on Higher Education have also been directed against the high degree of student participation, the gratis provision of text books, the rights of lower faculty members (lecturers and assistant professors) and the ability of the Student movement to act and organize exemplified in the so-called University Sanctuary, namely the explicit ban on the forces of order to enter University premises which has protected for many decades protesters from being harassed by the police. A central aspect of these reforms has been the attempt to ‘reform’ Higher Education according to business interests, a tendency that international capitalist organizations such as the OECD had described even in the 1980s as the answer to the ‘Crisis of the University’, and which had been actively promoted by the European Economic Community. Of particular importance has been the attempt to make sure that the degree-structure and the rights – but also collective aspirations – associated with holding a university degree corresponded to the new realities of the workplace, as part of a broader offensive by the forces of capital to have a labour force more educated but with less rights, more qualified but able to accept worse working conditions, in a position to enrich their qualifications but also to easily move from one position to the other.These attempts have been met with successive waves of mainly student unrest: in 1990-91 (with a big wave of occupations in High Schools and Universities against a series of authoritarian proposals for secondary education along with a plan for a more entrepreneurial Higher Education including introduction of private universities), in 1995 (University Occupations against the abolishment of the gratis provision of university textbooks), in 1997-98 (High School and University Occupations against a new entry exam system), in 2001 (University protests against changes in the relative value of degrees), in 2006-2007 (two massive successive waves of University Occupations plus Faculty strikes against legislative changes and the amendment of article 16 of the Greek Constitution), in 2008 (Mass youth protests – the ‘Greek Riots’ – after the assassination of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a policeman), and in 2011-12 (Mass student and faculty protests against the new legislative framework in Higher Education).
European Union policies and directions have been instrumental in the neoliberal transformation of Higher Education in Greece. In the second half of the 1980s European research programs initiated the funding of research through competitive programs and pressed for linkages to industry and the turn towards marketable research. This was accelerated in the 1990s when research driven Departments or groups of professors became the leading poles in favour of neoliberal reforms and a more entrepreneurial Higher Education. A new figure of professor emerged, who was more preoccupied with this kind of entrepreneurial quest for research funds than with teaching.However, the biggest changes have been associated with the so-called Bologna Process reforms. The Bologna process has been one of the most coordinated attempts to implement a profound change in Higher Education; both in the direction of more entrepreneurial education, but also in the direction of introducing the Anglo-Saxon model of a two-cycle Higher Education. Instead of solid first degrees offering employment prospects the pressure after the Bologna Process begun was on introducing three or four year Bachelor degrees that would be simply the basis for subsequent graduate courses, MAs, and re-training practices, as part of the general trend for ‘life-long learning’, namely the tendency for increased mobility and precariousness of labour.
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