Ομιλία του καθηγητή Richard Hunter, προέδρου του Συμβουλίου Διοίκησης του Αριστοτελείου Πανεπιστημίου Θεσσαλονίκης

Speech delivered by Prof Richard Hunter, President of the Council of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, to the Paediatrics Conference in Thessaloniki, 28 September 2013


ap8-panepisthmioIt is a very great pleasure to have an opportunity to take part in your gathering today, although I do so with some trepidation, as I cannot claim any medical knowledge whatsoever, let alone in the field of paediatrics (just ask my own children). My only consolation is that Prof Tsanakas and his colleagues cannot say that they were not warned. If, however, you turn to my own subject, the study of ancient Greek literature and culture, you will find medicine everywhere. Greek tragedy constantly uses the language of health and disease to reflect on the moral state of cities and individuals, and doctors were at the forefront of the intellectual developments of the classical age which established reason, or at least the appeal to reason, as a primary criterion for judging the world around us. Plato, however, appears never to have had much time for doctors, but that is perhaps because he saw medicine as a system of knowledge based in perception and experiment, rather than in dialectic and metaphysics; perhaps also he saw just how useful most people thought medicine was. You will not be surprised, on the other hand, to learn that already 2,500 years ago comic poets mocked doctors for speaking in a pompous jargon to confuse the layperson …


The practice of temple medicine, that is divine healing of those who passed the night in the courtyard of temples (notably of Asclepios), might make us wish that it was all that simple again (how often have I wished that some of the things I have witnessed since becoming President were merely a bad dream), but it does remind us very forcefully that in antiquity the practice of medicine and ideas about health were intimately tied to the society which gave birth to them and can only be understood within the context of that society. The same is very true of education, both then and now; education, after all, is, or should be, education for values appreciated in any particular society. In speaking to you today about the reforms in how Greek universities are organized, I do so well aware that Greek society generally is under very great, I sincerely hope not terminal, strain, as – now more than ever – are its universities, and that society at large is being asked to change at the same time as the universities, or rather that what is happening in the universities is a symptom, if I may be permitted a medical term, of the condition of society at large. Is the patient to be saved?


In November of last year I had the very great honour to be elected first as an external member of the new Council of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and then as President of that Council; let me say at once how lucky I have been to have a doctor at my side, Prof Vasilis Tarlatzis, my Vice-President, has been a constant source of advice and support and (even better) has done most of the work. The law, however, under which we operate lays it down that the President of the Council is to be an external member. This in itself was perhaps the result of a diagnosis about the state of the patient, and it is striking in this context that Greece’s two largest universities, the Aristotle and the University of Athens, chose professors based abroad to preside over their Councils. This was certainly in keeping with the spirit of the reform: the introduction of Councils, with external membership, was intended to be a step towards raising the level and ambition of Greek universities by drawing on the experience of higher education outside Greece. The watchwords were to be meritocracy and transparency, and the Councils came into formal existence in February of this year with cautious optimism and a sense of excitement at the possibilities. If most of my remarks today will focus on the difficulties of the present situation, it is worth reminding ourselves at the outset what the goal is. But what is it? What does Greek society want of its universities? Where are they to be in 20 or 30 years time? Are they to be outward-facing centres of excellence, driven by external research funding and a sense of intellectual adventure, as the best European and American universities are, or are they to be ever more inward-looking degree factories, run by increasingly small cliques of entrenched interests, where students are encouraged to aim no higher than the piece of paper which may entitle them to a teaching job, if there were any jobs, and where the brightest students are not to be found because they have been lured away to universities abroad which seem to have a rather richer experience to offer?


Greek society has to decide in which direction it wishes to travel. Change is possible, even in the desperate financial and social situation now prevailing, but those involved in the organization and administration of education must want that change, and there is a lot of evidence that not every one does, and for a variety of reasons. The institution of the Councils was a very positive step. It is unimaginable that any of the world’s great universities would not have Councils or Boards of Trustees charged with oversight of all areas of activity, academic, financial, and social, acting as an important marker of checks and balances in the system, and that those Boards would not bring in people from outside, who are not employees of the University, to advise and keep an eye on how the University conducts itself. I have to say that, for an outsider such as myself, the fierce opposition which the introduction of the Councils met and which we still meet is almost impossible to understand, except perhaps as the result of willful ignorance and/or a fear of what close inspection might reveal. Any institution that fears that is of course an institution precisely in need of change.


Universities belong to society as a whole, not to any small group of administrators (including members of Councils), and they have to reconnect with society as a whole. I have said that universities are symptomatic of the society around them, and as such their organization and methods of operation will reflect that society. It is a cliché about Greek society, one particularly repeated by foreigners such as myself, that what drives people is care for, and the promotion of, what they perceive to be their immediate interest groups – family, friends, political allies and so forth. (As a footnote I should add that the still dominant role of political parties in Greek universities is one of the aspects of how things are done here which seems most ‘foreign’ to astonished outsiders). What is lacking in this over-simplified vision which I have presented is care for, and the promotion of, society as a whole; this can look after itself, so a common attitude goes, provided that ‘my group’ win out. So it is with universities. Academic and administrative jobs are too often given not on merit, but on connection to a particular interest group (we can call this patronage, if we like), and there is no sense of the ‘greater good’ of the institution as a whole and of what that institution can contribute to the society around it, a question which (in the local case) is literally dramatized by the physical setting of the Aristotle University in the middle of the city. One result of this is a very serious shortage of people working at the heart of university administration, and particularly financial administration, who have wide experience of the world outside, but it is that outside experience which universities most desperately need.


In a time of shrinking resources, these practices and pressures, and their deleterious effects, increase dramatically. How are very limited resources to be distributed? Are, for example, libraries to be allowed to wither away because those responsible for them are not ‘on the inside’? I hope not. I must however say that one of the things which concerns me most is the very dangerous gap between those academics who, for reasons with which it is easy to sympathise, just wish to be left alone to get on with their research and those who are willing to take part in the administrative process by standing for election, serving on important committees and so forth. We need the involvement of far more of our best professors, of all ages, or else they will find that they have no successors. Of course, there are reasons for the current situation which are not difficult to understand. University teachers are under enormous strain. Salaries at all levels have been savagely cut, and this of course most affects those in ‘midcareer’.


The sheer effort of teaching and examining student numbers such as are the norm in Greece can be debilitating and depressing, and certainly leaves little time for extra-curricular engagement. The situation is of course getting worse, rather than better, as more and more academic and administrative staff leave and are not replaced: the strain on those left behind grows daily. Morale is important in academic life, and now is not a good time: a mentality of ‘them and us’ takes over all too easily, and I see the signs of this all around me in Greek universities. That said, I also see (and have been lucky enough to teach) wonderful Greek students and researchers who do want change, who do not want to be abandoned to an endless treadmill of almost meaningless lectures and exams; they must make their voices heard, because if they do not, those with apparently a great deal of free time to spend interrupting classes and meetings and disfiguring the university with graffiti certainly will.


Let me add that Councils too need to learn, and that the process of learning is by no means over. The Councils offer Greek universities a new way of doing things, and a quite new administrative model, a sense of joined-up thinking about different areas of academic activity, but Councils have to earn respect and trust, just like other organs of university governance. Members of Councils have had to learn that the traditional purpose of promoting one’s own political agenda and one’s own interest groups is not what being a member of an oversight body or Board of Trustees is about; there is a wider agenda, and if Councils do not properly focus on that wider agenda, at the expense of the old parochial struggles for influence, then they will not deserve to succeed. There is of course a much wider issue here which goes well beyond University Councils. It may well be true (it certainly is, in my experience) that notions such as confidentiality and the avoidance of conflict of interest are alien to traditional Greek academic administration and politics; I fear, however, that these simple, if foreign, ideas have to be learned and respected if there really is going to be a new and serious way of doing things – informed consensus leading to the advancement of the University, rather than the truly depressing round of political posturing by blog, website and Press leak, which merely obscures a University’s real achievements and successes. The learning process continues.


Mine probably more than anyone else’s. Much of my time since becoming President has indeed been learning: ‘I grow old always learning’ said the poet, and I have to say that in the last nine months I can almost hear my hair turning grey. The principal task of the Council in the first months was to try to understand the organization of a very complex and multi-faceted institution, and it will not surprise you if I say that this has been no easy task and one that is far from finished. Answers to questions apparently take a very long time, and it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that the path has always been a smooth one. The Council has faced particular difficulties in that it is being asked to set up oversight structures and control procedures from scratch, at the same time as learning the basic facts about the current situation. In areas such as university endowments, properties and research funds, clarity of information, transparency if you like, has been particularly difficult to achieve. There are many reasons why this is unsatisfactory, and not just for members of the Council, but let me focus for the present on just one.


One reason for opposition to the Councils has been a nagging feeling, sometimes expressed overtly but more left to smoulder unspoken, that the Councils are a Trojan Horse through which Greek higher education will move more towards the private sector and away from being an ‘item’ freely (in both senses) available to all. The general direction of education is, however, a matter for the elected Greek government, not for University councils. What is plain, and what does fall within our remit, is the state of universities generally, for we have been given a legal duty of care towards them, and it is blindingly obvious that Greek universities need new sources of funding and endowment in order merely to stand still in the fields of teaching and research, let alone progress in the directions that we desire and which we hope that the Greek people also desire. The idea that a university can flourish largely, let alone wholly, on state funding has long been abandoned in Britain, and will never return – regardless of the political colour of the government. The great American ‘state universities’ are heavily reliant on their links to local and international industry and commerce in order, precisely, to be great centres of teaching and research, and hence in turn drivers of social, intellectual and economic health. If any university in Greece has any higher ambition to be a centre of excellence, then the need for external sources of funding is all the greater. The time is of course not propitious, but we have to try, both with industry here and abroad, with the great international foundations, both those based in Greece and elsewhere, and with the alumni of the universities, who on the whole have been shamefully neglected by Greek universities. It is however not possible to make a serious approach to potential donors and partners, if one is unable to be clear and precise with them about the processes through which donations will be managed and how progress will be measured and reported. Let me say that I have (unfortunately) personal experience of the fact that potential supporters will simply not contemplate offering real support for the basic functions of the university until these structures of control, accountability and transparency are firmly in place. It takes time and energy (and money), of course, to establish a proper fundraising office and a plan of action, but that time and that energy will be wasted without the confidence that proper structures bring with them.


Education should be a driver for Greek recovery, it should be a field where new opportunities make it possible not only to halt the alarming drift of bright young people out of Greece, but even to draw back some of those already expatriated, whether to jobs or to post-graduate degrees. Again, I know from personal experience how many Greeks now working in Britain will not contemplate return, because they have got used to a different system, one based on merit and results, and on a proper system of appraisal, leading to a sense of worth and purpose. Let us not forget that the opportunities are in fact very considerable. If we just stick to Thessaloniki for the moment, the city is excellently placed to attract students from both western Europe and the east, with which it has very strong historic links; it has a vibrant life which makes it very attractive for students, and it has increasingly good transport links to other places . The city is experiencing something of a minor boom – it is a lovely place to spend one’s time. There are of course also particular areas of study – art, archaeology, history, theology – where Thessaloniki, and Macedonia more generally, offer resources almost unparalleled elsewhere. We need to start to utilize those riches properly; in my own subject, for example, Greece should in fact lead the world, nit turn its back, whether in high school or later, on its classical heritage. Students from abroad will want to come here, but they will need modular courses organized on American and British lines, and courses taught not just in Greek (though that too of course) but also in English, as of course already happens on a relatively small scale in post-graduate courses here. Universities throughout Europe have been very successful in attracting whole new cohorts of students by teaching courses in English, and this too is an area where Greek universities must learn to catch up. Both they and their Greek colleagues will of course also increasingly demand – and rightly so – online courses and material available over computers, the so-called ‘virtual university’. Here too is a real chance that we must seize. The Aristotle University is extremely well supplied with online resources and knowhow, and they must be utilized to serve a purposeful agenda of teaching and research. Let me repeat that this is not about turning Greek universities into pale and unexciting replicas of universities elsewhere; rather it is about putting the reforms in place which will allow Greek universities the chance to compete with the best. It will of course take time, but more than that, it will take the desire to do so.


Higher education is a particular activity with its own particular forms and challenges. Like medicine, not everyone is suited to it, or rather, if it is something which virtually everyone does at the same stage of their life, then it loses what is distinctive about it. There are signs that this is being recognized. The current debate about reforms in secondary education (high school) suggests a recognition in some quarters that there are very useful things people can do with their lives other than go to university (via the medium of the Panhellenic exams). Countries such as Switzerland and Germany have long had successful high school (and examination) structures which prepare young people for rewarding jobs in industry and craft, rather than for an uncertain future at university. The idea is taking off in Britain, where – if Press reports are to be believed – more and more students are moving not from school to university but from school into some form of apprenticeship and on-the-job training. Here it is very clear that diversity is a strength for society, whereas uniformity and a belief that ‘one size fits all’ will flatten and lower standards and achievement levels, rather than raise them. Universities in Greece struggle with mind-boggling student numbers, and with an examination system which is held in very low regard by those who have to administer it and devote their summers to marking papers. This is not what either being a student or being a university teacher is supposed to be about. It is a system which only survives by repeating itself at the level of the lowest common denominator, namely the piece of paper which says you have passed; it is also a system which discourages good and innovative teaching, and we are lucky to have here dedicated university teachers who can rise above this. The system should, however, encourage them to do so, and reward them when they do, rather than discouraging them.


Just as important of course is the attitude of the Ministry and the government. The Councils have been brought into existence: the end has been willed, but have the means? Despite Law 4009 which governs our lives, there is a huge body of law and ordinance which makes no mention of Councils, and which, if required, can always be cited to obstruct our work. The current legal framework takes us part of the way there, without supplying the means to reach the desired destination. Is there a will to finish the job? One of the most important tasks facing the Councils is the approval of a new organismos and internal kanonismos for universities; the law says that Councils must revise and approve drafts submitted to them by the other organs of University governance. Fair enough, but we have been waiting a very long time, and the Ministry, despite very welcome words of good intention and expressions of support for the work of the Councils, has yet to force the issue. It has of course a very great deal on its plate, but there is a sense – I will not put it more strongly – that, now that the Councils have been established, the job has been done. Very far from it, I fear. Even in such details as making possible the travel expenses of overseas members, let alone proper budgets for Councils to do their work, we are still waiting for more than good intentions: these are, from one perspective, small details, but cumulatively they must force us to ask again – is there actually the will for real change? Something similar might be said about the ‘Athina program’ of reforms within the organization of universities. The idea was a good one and very long overdue, but – as indeed the Ministry recognizes – what eventually emerged was really the smallest of first steps, not yet the necessary ‘giant leap’ for Greek education. Will the next stage follow and follow soon? I certainly do not know; I would like to think so, but I am not holding my breath.


Will, then, people such as myself just go away and get on with our lives elsewhere? I am perfectly well aware that among the reactions to the introduction of Councils and the election of people such as myself was precisely the view that, after 6 months or so, we would get tired of the experiment and retreat to the safety of planets, such as the University of Cambridge, which are much less close to a gritty real world than are Greek universities. Student occupations, the constant threat of violence, and stashes of Molotov cocktails are not part of the current scene at Cambridge. So too, it was widely held that Councils would be mere decoration, a cosmetic exercise, and if they had any true function it would – so it was hoped – be in raising some money for the universities. Well, I fear that, at my age, not even cosmetics will help me (though perhaps some in the audience may be able to suggest surgical procedures) – I must face the fact that I will never be a decoration … Will I go away? Well, that remains to be seen. I certainly have no intention of staying where I am not wanted, but – despite everything – I remain convinced that the will for change is there, however silent some of its supporters may be. Academics who want real change must take part and must make themselves heard.


Thank you.




Στις 20 Οκτωβρίου 2013, δημοσιεύθηκε στην Καθημερινή ένα άρθρο του καθηγητή, στα ελληνικά, το οποίο είναι βασισμένο την πιο πάνω ομιλία



Πρέπει να φύγω από το ΑΠΘ;

Του Richard Hunter*

Toν περασμένο Νοέμβριο είχα την τιμή να εκλεγώ πρόεδρος του Συμβουλίου του Πανεπιστημίου Θεσσαλονίκης. Είναι αξιοσημείωτο πως τα δύο μεγαλύτερα πανεπιστήμια της Ελλάδος, της Θεσσαλονίκης και της Αθήνας, επέλεξαν ως προέδρους καθηγητές με έδρα στο εξωτερικό. Αυτό συνάδει με το πνεύμα της μεταρρύθμισης: τα Συμβούλια με εξωτερικά μέλη θα αποτελούσαν ένα βήμα προς την αναβάθμιση των ελληνικών πανεπιστημίων, αντλώντας από την εμπειρία της ανώτατης εκπαίδευσης εκτός Ελλάδος. Αξίζει να θυμηθούμε πρώτα ποιος είναι ο στόχος μας. Τι ζητάει η ελληνική κοινωνία από τα πανεπιστήμιά της; Πού θα βρίσκονται σε είκοσι χρόνια; Θα είναι οικονομικά εύρωστα, εξωστρεφή κέντρα αριστείας, με διάθεση για πνευματική πρωτοπορία; Ή θα έχουν γίνει ακόμη πιο εσωστρεφείς βιομηχανίες παραγωγής πτυχίων, διοικούμενες από μικρές κλίκες συμφερόντων, όπου οι φοιτητές θα προτρέπονται να μη θέτουν υψηλότερους στόχους από την απλή απόκτηση ενός χαρτιού, και οι καλύτεροι εξ αυτών θα έχουν φύγει για πανεπιστήμια του εξωτερικού;

Η αλλαγή είναι δυνατή, ακόμη και στις σημερινές απελπιστικές οικονομικές συνθήκες. Την αλλαγή αυτή πρέπει όμως να τη θέλουν όλοι όσοι ασχολούνται με τη διοίκηση της εκπαίδευσης. Ολα τα μεγάλα πανεπιστήμια διεθνώς έχουν εξωτερικά Εποπτικά Συμβούλια, τα οποία επιβλέπουν τις ακαδημαϊκές, οικονομικές και κοινωνικές δραστηριότητες του πανεπιστημίου. Ετσι, για κάποιον νεοφερμένο σαν εμένα, η ισχυρή αντίσταση που συνάντησε και συναντά η ίδρυση των Συμβουλίων είναι ακατανόητη, εκτός αν ερμηνευθεί ως αποτέλεσμα πεισματικής άγνοιας ή/και φόβου για το τι θα μπορούσε να αποκαλύψει ο αυστηρός έλεγχος. Ο θεσμός που φοβάται είναι ακριβώς ο θεσμός που χρειάζεται να αλλάξει.

Ενα τετριμμένο σχόλιο, σχετικά με την ελληνική κοινωνία, είναι ότι το βασικό κίνητρό της είναι η προώθηση των συμφερόντων του άμεσου κύκλου -οικογένεια, φίλοι, πολιτικοί σύμμαχοι κ.ά.- και ότι το ευρύτερο καλό έρχεται σε δεύτερη μοίρα (θα προσθέσω πως ο κυρίαρχος ρόλος των πολιτικών κομμάτων στα πανεπιστήμια είναι από τις πιο ακατανόητες, για εμάς τους προερχόμενους από το εξωτερικό, πλευρές του ελληνικού ακαδημαϊκού σκηνικού). Μια συνέπεια της νοοτροπίας αυτής είναι η έλλειψη σε υψηλές διοικητικές θέσεις, ιδιαίτερα στην οικονομική διαχείριση, εξειδικευμένου προσωπικού με εμπειρία από τον επαγγελματικό στίβο εκτός πανεπιστημίου. Κι όμως, αυτήν ακριβώς την εμπειρία χρειάζονται απεγνωσμένα τα πανεπιστήμια.

Ενα άλλο θέμα που με προβληματίζει είναι το επικίνδυνο κενό ανάμεσα στους πανεπιστημιακούς που θέλουν απλά να αφεθούν στην ησυχία τους, για να κάνουν την έρευνά τους, και σε εκείνους που είναι πρόθυμοι να συμμετέχουν στις διοικητικές διαδικασίες. Υπάρχουν βέβαια ευνόητοι λόγοι. Οι πανεπιστημιακοί δάσκαλοι υφίστανται τεράστια πίεση. Οι μισθοί όλων των βαθμίδων έχουν υποστεί βάναυσες περικοπές. Η προσπάθεια που απαιτείται για τη διδασκαλία και την εξέταση των τεράστιων αριθμών φοιτητών, που αποτελούν τον κανόνα στην Ελλάδα, δεν αφήνει πολύ χρόνο για άλλες ασχολίες. Η κατάσταση διαρκώς χειροτερεύει, καθώς όλο και περισσότεροι καθηγητές και διοικητικοί υπάλληλοι συνταξιοδοτούνται χωρίς να αντικαθίστανται: η πίεση στους εναπομένοντες αυξάνεται καθημερινά. Παραταύτα, βλέπω επίσης (και είχα την τύχη να διδάξω και κάποιους) εξαίρετους Ελληνες φοιτητές και ερευνητές που θέλουν να αλλάξουν τα πράγματα. Πρέπει να κάνουν τη φωνή τους να ακουστεί. Διαφορετικά θα ακούγονται μόνον εκείνοι που, όπως φαίνεται, διαθέτουν άφθονο χρόνο, για να διακόπτουν παραδόσεις και συνεδριάσεις και να ασχημαίνουν το πανεπιστήμιο με γκράφιτι. Τα Συμβούλια αποτελούν έναν καινούργιο τρόπο διαχείρισης του ακαδημαϊκού γίγνεσθαι. Πρέπει όμως να κερδίσουν τον σεβασμό και την εμπιστοσύνη τόσο της πανεπιστημιακής κοινότητας όσο και της ευρύτερης ελληνικής κοινωνίας, όπως οφείλουν να κάνουν και τα υπόλοιπα πανεπιστημιακά όργανα. Η προώθηση της ατομικής ατζέντας του καθενός και της ομάδας συμφερόντων του δεν αρμόζει στα μέλη ανώτατων εποπτικών οργάνων.

Το Συμβούλιο αντιμετώπισε ιδιαίτερες δυσκολίες, εφόσον του ζητήθηκε να θεσμοθετήσει εκ του μηδενός εποπτικές δομές και διαδικασίες ελέγχου, χωρίς τη στοιχειώδη ενημέρωση αναφορικά με την υπάρχουσα κατάσταση. Σε τομείς όπως οι δωρεές προς το Πανεπιστήμιο, τα πανεπιστημιακά περιουσιακά στοιχεία και τα ερευνητικά κονδύλια, η πληροφόρηση δεν υπήρξε άμεση και επαρκής.

Μια βασική αιτία αρνητισμού είναι η διάχυτη αίσθηση πως τα Συμβούλια αποτελούν έναν Δούρειο Ιππο, μέσω του οποίου η ελληνική ανώτατη εκπαίδευση θα συνδεθεί με τον ιδιωτικό τομέα και, ως εκ τούτου, θα πάψει να είναι ένα «αγαθό» διαθέσιμο σε όλους. Είναι, ωστόσο, ολοφάνερο πως τα ελληνικά πανεπιστήμια χρειάζονται επιπλέον πηγές χρηματοδότησης, απλώς και μόνο για να εξασφαλίσουν την επιβίωσή τους, πόσω μάλλον την πρόοδό τους (χωρίς αυτό να σημαίνει πως το κράτος απαλλάσσεται από την ευθύνη για διατήρηση ή και αύξηση των δαπανών του κρατικού προϋπολογισμού για την παιδεία). Η ιδέα πως ένα πανεπιστήμιο μπορεί να προοδεύσει στηριζόμενο αποκλειστικά σε κρατικά κονδύλια έχει εγκαταλειφθεί προ πολλού στη Βρετανία –ασχέτως κυβερνήσεως– αλλά και τα μεγάλα αμερικανικά «κρατικά» πανεπιστήμια στηρίζονται κυρίως στους δεσμούς με την εντόπια και τη διεθνή οικονομία και τους συλλόγους αποφοίτων τους, ώστε να μπορέσουν να σταθούν ως σπουδαία κέντρα έρευνας και διδασκαλίας.

Η παιδεία θα έπρεπε να είναι καθοριστικός παράγοντας για την ανάκαμψη της οικονομίας. Θα έπρεπε να είναι ένας τομέας όπου η δημιουργία ευκαιριών θα μπορούσε να σταματήσει τη φυγή νέων επιστημόνων από την Ελλάδα, αλλά και να φέρει πίσω κάποιους. Ευκαιρίες υπάρχουν. Στο δικό μου αντικείμενο, για παράδειγμα, η Ελλάδα θα έπρεπε να βρίσκεται στην κορυφή, και όχι να αποκηρύσσει την κλασική της κληρονομιά, ούτε στη δευτεροβάθμια εκπαίδευση ούτε και αργότερα. Οι ξένοι φοιτητές θα θελήσουν να έρθουν εδώ, χρειάζονται όμως ένα πρόγραμμα μαθημάτων δομημένο κατά τα αγγλοσαξoνικά πρότυπα, και μαθήματα που θα διδάσκονται και στα αγγλικά, όπως ήδη συμβαίνει σε ορισμένα μεταπτυχιακά προγράμματα. Οι φοιτητές χρειάζονται επίσης διαδικτυακά μαθήματα και ηλεκτρονικό υλικό, το ονομαζόμενο «εικονικό πανεπιστήμιο»· και αυτό πρέπει να προωθηθεί. Ο στόχος δεν είναι να μετατρέψουμε τα ελληνικά πανεπιστήμια σε χλωμά αντίγραφα ξένων. Αφορά στην πραγματοποίηση μεταρρυθμίσεων που θα επιτρέψουν στα ελληνικά πανεπιστήμια να ανταγωνιστούν τα καλύτερα του κόσμου.

Η διαμάχη σχετικά με τις μεταρρυθμίσεις στη δευτεροβάθμια εκπαίδευση υποδηλώνει την αναγνώριση πως υπάρχουν κι άλλα πράγματα που μπορεί κανείς να κάνει στη ζωή, εκτός από το να πάει στο πανεπιστήμιο. Χώρες όπως η Ελβετία και η Γερμανία διαθέτουν από παλιά επιτυχημένες δομές διδασκαλίας στη δευτεροβάθμια εκπαίδευση, οι οποίες προετοιμάζουν τους νέους να καταλάβουν επικερδείς θέσεις στον χώρο της βιομηχανίας ή ως επαγγελματίες τεχνίτες, αντί να επιλέξουν το αβέβαιο μέλλον της πανεπιστημιακής εκπαίδευσης. Η ποικιλότητα ενδυναμώνει την κοινωνία, ενώ η ομοιομορφία ισοπεδώνει και χαμηλώνει τον πήχυ. Τα ελληνικά πανεπιστήμια προσπαθούν να τα βγάλουν πέρα με ασύλληπτους αριθμούς φοιτητών και με ένα σύστημα εξετάσεων που δεν χαίρει μεγάλης εκτίμησης. Δεν είναι αυτή η ουσία του να είσαι φοιτητής ή πανεπιστημιακός δάσκαλος, δηλ. ένα χαρτί που λέει ότι πέρασες.

Εξίσου σημαντική είναι και η στάση του υπουργείου. Τα Συμβούλια έγιναν πραγματικότητα: ο σκοπός απέκτησε νομική ισχύ με τον N. 4009/11, αλλά υπάρχει ακόμη ένα μεγάλο σώμα διατάξεων στο οποίο δεν υπάρχουν προβλέψεις για τα Συμβούλια και το οποίο μπορεί πάντοτε να επιστρατευτεί, για να παρεμποδίσει το έργο μας. Το υπάρχον νομικό πλαίσιο δεν μας καλύπτει, παρά ώς έναν βαθμό. Ακόμη και για πρακτικά θέματα όπως η κάλυψη των οδοιπορικών εξόδων, για να μην αναφερθώ στη διοικητική υποστήριξη του Συμβουλίου, χρειάζεται κάτι περισσότερο από την έκφραση καλών προθέσεων. Υπό μία οπτική αυτά είναι ελάσσονα ζητήματα: η συσσώρευσή τους, ωστόσο, μας αναγκάζει να επανυποβάλουμε το ερώτημα: υπάρχει στ’ αλήθεια η διάθεση για ουσιαστική αλλαγή; Θα ακολουθήσει ένα επόμενο βήμα; Δεν μπορώ να ισχυριστώ κάτι τέτοιο με βεβαιότητα.

Παραμένω πεπεισμένος, όμως, πως η επιθυμία για αλλαγή υπάρχει. Τα μέλη της ακαδημαϊκής κοινότητας που πραγματικά επιθυμούν να αλλάξουν τα πράγματα πρέπει να αναλάβουν πιο ενεργό ρόλο και να υψώσουν τη φωνή τους.

* O κ. Richard Hunter είναι πρόεδρος του Συμβουλίου του ΑΠΘ, βασιλικός καθηγητής Αρχαίας Ελληνικής Φιλολογίας στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Κέμπριτζ, τακτικό μέλος της Βρετανικής Ακαδημίας και αντεπιστέλλον μέλος της Ακαδημίας Αθηνών και της Αυστραλιανής Ακαδημίας.


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One comment

  1. Ὄχι, κάνει μεγάλο λάθος ὅτι «ὑπάρχει ἐπιθυμία γιὰ ἀλλαγή», ἀλλὰ καὶ νὰ ὑπῆρχε δὲν θὰ εἶχε σημασία. Ὅλοι κοιτοῦν πῶς θὰ περισώσουν ὅσα μποροῦν περισσότερα άπὸ τὰ «κεκτημένα» τους. Ἀλλαγὴ ὑπάρχει μόνον ὅταν ὐπάρχει Ἀνάγκη γιὰ ἀλλαγή. Πόσο κρῖμα πού δὲν τὸ καταλαβαίνει ἕνας τόσο ἔξυπνος ἄνθρωπος !

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