Higher education in Greece has been experiencing significant changes in the recent past, especially in the areas of cost and funding. Traditionally, Greece’s higher education system provided free education to its citizens, with the government heavily subsidizing its institutions of higher learning. However, with the country’s recent economic crisis, the government’s ability to fund the country’s public universities has greatly diminished, leading to increased reliance on tuition fees and other forms of funding.
With skyrocketing debt, Greece’s government was forced to make austerity measures that also affected the higher education sector. In 2014, the government instituted a law requiring students to pay tuition fees for the first time, reversing the country’s tradition of offering free public education. The measures passed in 2014 allowed universities to begin charging comparatively low tuition fees, although the fees are relatively low when compared to other European universities, they have still placed strain on many students and their families. Today tuition fees for undergraduate studies at Greek universities range from €500 to €1500 annually.
This move was highly unpopular in Greece, and it provoked the student body to stage large protests to demand free public education. According to the students, the cost of education should not be an obstacle for individuals seeking to further their education and higher education should be seen as a fundamental right rather than a commodity. Paid higher education also exposed the weaknesses of the Greek educational system, with dissatisfied students and parents complaining of reduced teaching hours and overburdened professors who fail to provide quality education as a result of increased classroom sizes.
To mitigate these unfavorable consequences, Greece’s government set up a system to provide loans to financially constrained students, who are unable to finance their tuition fees, although the number of students who utilize the loan system is still relatively low. Furthermore, as a result of the climate of austerity, the country’s public universities turned to private fundraising, partnering with private companies and donors, to obtain additional funding and instituting project funding requiring students to raise their own funds to carry out research work.
The effect of these changes has been difficult to assess as a clear picture of Greek higher education financing has yet to emerge. The country’s higher education system is currently undergoing significant reform with the aim of improving the quality of education and creating opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to acquire skills that will help them in their professional lives. Efforts are also being made to provide scholarships for the most vulnerable groups, and grants for research projects undertaken by students have been implemented.
In conclusion, the changes toward paid higher education have been a significant transition for Greece and its educational system, which has been known for providing free education to its citizens. The move toward paid education has led to increased opportunities for private funding and a change in how the customs of the educational system are understood. Though there are concerns about the quality of education being provided, tuition fees contribute significantly to the financial stability of Greece's public universities while encouraging a shift of responsibility from relying solely on government funding.