Adaptation of higher education to the laws of the market
About the answers of the Greek Ministry of National Education and Religions to the questions regarding the Bologna Process to be dealt during the meeting of the Ministries of Education of EU in London from 17 - 19 May in London.
Article published in Rizospastis on 29 April 2007. National Report for the Meeting in London
Monitoring deeper restructuring
Deeper reactionary restructuring and the advancement of the Bologna process are not left to governments’ good will. They are proceeding by means of detailed checks. An account is made and the immediate goals fine-tuned in the direction of subjugating higher education to the laws of the market and the objectives of capital at the meetings of ministers of education of the states that have signed the Bologna accords, such as the meeting in London on 17-18 May. Within this context, governments are called upon to fill in a questionnaire-report for the period 2005-2007, in which the EC’s goals for education are clearly expressed, as can be seen in the following questions : “Include the number of public/private universities”, “Describe the progress that has been made in the direction of introducing a first and second cycle”, “Are there different types of institutions that provide higher education ?” Here, the goal is clearly visible of creating a market in the field of higher education, with institutions of many types, and graduates of many levels, and there are general rules and objectives with which every institution must comply and strive to reach in order to stay in the game.
The Greek Ministry of Education has a wealth of examples of reactionary reforms in education, as it has been working in the direction of implementing the Bologna and Bergen decisions : competitiveness, privatisation, class barriers, the link between education and businesses, grouping of institutions, splitting programmes into cycles of study, and training...
Thus, in the Greek National Report - signed by Ath. Kyriazis, special Ministry of Education secretary for university education - all laws passed by the government, from the outset of its term to the present day, constitute primary indicators “of serious developments related to the Bologna process” !
In the National Report, it is noted that institutions of higher education are financed after consultation “between the ministry, the Council of Rectors and the Council of Presidents of Technical Colleges, as regards the amount, type of expenditures, standards and directions based on the institutions’ four-year plan.” It should be pointed out that at the time the report was written (8/1/2007), no four-year plan was in existence, since 4-year plans were established on the basis of a new framework law that was not passed until 8/3/07, i.e. two months later !
Regarding the existence of public and private universities, the report says the following : “There are as yet no non-state, non-profit universities since they cannot legally be established in accordance with the Greek Constitution (Article 16), but discussions have been held about correcting this provision.” The Greek report does not make the mistake of assuming that the amendment of Article 16 will take place, although it does hasten to reassure the EU that the government is working to correct this shortcoming (i.e. article 16) in the near future ! Moreover, although the reply uses the euphonious phrase “non-state, non-profit universities”, the EU phrased the question without euphemisms : “Please include the number of public/private universities.”
Strong links with business
A very important indicator of the Bologna process is to ensure the institutions’ collaboration with businesses and the “social partners”. So, the national report assures them of the steps being taken in this direction by declaring first of all that the Economic and Social Committee takes part in the national dialogue, on the evaluation authority and on the National Education Council, and submits proposals for reforms. In order to leave no illusions as to who all these committees are working for and what the national - staged - dialogue on the link between companies is doing, it should be noted that at every university there is a liaison office “with the responsibility for building strong bonds between the students and various companies and businesses. In addition a number of courses and seminars are being organised by companies and addressed to undergraduate and graduate students, helping them to find employment.”
Also, the issue is raised in the questionnaire of a “national qualifications framework” and specifically “the degree to which the national qualifications framework has been included in the legislation or agreed among all the partners in question” as well as what is “the role of the partners in developing the national qualifications framework”. In other words, whether the qualifications provided by higher education have been determined precisely - as they were determined at Bergen for every level of education - and to what extent these qualifications have been determined by the “partners” i.e. businesses !
Studies and graduates on many levels
The government has made it clear that two cycles of study (undergraduate and post-graduate specialisation) constitute a reality in Greece. It is true that after post-graduate specialisation became generalised, and the relevant part of academic knowledge has been removed from undergraduate courses and transferred to post-graduate ones, cycles of study are a reality. Also, the report characteristically notes that degrees awarded by medical faculties, technical universities and agricultural schools - studies at which last for more than 4 years - are an exception. However, it hastens to point out that “degrees awarded after these long programmes have been completed are not regarded as post-graduate diplomas” ! Thus the government gives a plain and clear answer to any graduate of the National Technical University of Athens who thinks his degree is a Master’s.
Evaluation for the market
The government affirms that the law regarding evaluation “is compatible with the European specifications and directives” that were adopted by the ministers of education at Bergen : i.e. the “evaluation” of institutions by businesses using purely market criteria. How else could one expect evaluation from “independent” authorities that include a representative of the Central Union of Chambers of Commerce ?
In another question it is noted that “measures are being examined for the validation of informal and unofficial learning” and adds that within the context of qualifications validation will be allowed of any level of learning relevant to the corresponding levels of abilities and skills, and therefore it will be possible for all types of previous knowledge to be recognised, wherever previous knowledge is no more than empirical knowledge or skills that a working person acquires by any means whatsoever, and not through a system of education.
The Greek government’s basic aims in the period ahead include the “effort to reorganise and update the higher education system so that it can respond to modern challenges and the Lisbon objectives and meet the need for quality, open and attractive” learning. The national report is highly informative as regards the aims, priorities and content of the reforms that are expected in the immediate future : i.e. how will higher education become competitive and how will it be tied to the chariot of capital profit.
Nor, of course, does it stop there : “In addition we cannot overlook the challenges arising from : the full reform of the legal framework that has governed higher education since 1982, so as to provide institutions with greater autonomy and flexibility, the amendment of the Greek Constitution and the article regarding higher education (article 16) which will lead to the regulation and establishment of non-state, non-profit universities, the reform of research policy as regards higher education institutions, the internationalisation of the Greek system of higher education, the creation of new post-graduate programmes in the new technologies, the establishment of more interdisciplinary programmes and the upgrading of research”. In short, they’re talking about a framework law to amend Article 16, and bills for post-graduate studies and research, so that the goals of Lisbon are met on all sides...
Susceptible to no corrections
It is more than clear that all reactionary reforms are pieces of the same puzzle, whose purpose has always been and will always be to adapt higher education to the laws and objectives of the market. All the reforms are subjected to and serve the goals of Bologna and Lisbon, which are directly contrary to the interests of the people and the youth, and that flagrantly violate the right to education and employment.
For this reason, no reform should be treated as something isolated, as a “personal” choice unrelated to the strategic goals of the EU and of capital. Everything is part of this strategy and this is why the student and labour movement must keep hammering away at everything constantly. Moreover, among the basic student demands - in addition to reversal of the new framework law - is the withdrawal of all the previous anti-educational laws that serve the same policy.