European Union Influences on Professional Education in Greece

By Zaharopoulos, Thimios | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

European Union Influences on Professional Education in Greece


Zaharopoulos, Thimios, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


During the past 15 years, Greek higher education has been going through major structural changes. These changes resulted from national political changes, but also from Greek higher education's attempt to find a new identity amidst a rapidly changing socioeconomic and political environment. This new reality reflects Greece's membership in the European Union (EU), which is attempting to standardize professional training and academic preparation in accordance with the principle of a "single market."

Nevertheless, Greece is unlike most other European Union members. It has a different political, social, and cultural identity. Any changes that are to take place as a result of membership in the European Union, including changes in its educational system, will be much more difficult for Greece than most other EU members. For example, Greece was under Ottoman occupation during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and while Western Europe industrialized in the 19th century, Greece industrialized only in the 1950s.

According to Legg (1977), Greece modernized by establishing modern political institutions, but did not industrialize and it did not receive modern organizations and ideologies. In relation to higher education, Doder (1994) reports that Greek universities today "continue to operate in the style of the turn-of-the-century German and French institutions on which they were modeled. Their primary function is still the production of civil servants, teachers, and other public employees" (p. A45). This is because state employment was always seen in Greece as a means to achieve social mobility. Legg (1977) writes that historically in Greece, "government provided the single channel for mobility and the only source of income other than land" (p. 289).

Two prominent features of the modern Greek state according to Legg are the patron-client relations and foreign influence. He adds that, "Patron-client relations flourish in environments perceived as hostile and threatening. ...This insecurity reduces individual concern to the family and its survival" (p. 285). Two factors that made the environment hostile are the lack of natural resources and arable land, and the strategic importance of the region. As Sanders (1967) indicates, "In almost every generation, parts of Greece have been overrun by invading armies" (p. 319). In response, the Greeks learned to rely on the family for both social stability and individual survival. When the family was not enough, artificial forms of kinship were established.

Although scarce natural resources contributed to inner-family strength, they also fueled strong competition between families or other groups. As Campbell (1964) indicates, families (or in-groups) see their interests in opposition to other families (out-groups). This competition extends to the realm of social prestige as well. Friedl (1962) found that Greek adults know themselves in contrast to others. Furthermore, people work for the same goal, namely "the enhancement of the honor and prestige of the family" (p. 37). One method of achieving this is social mobility and social status, thus the emphasis on education and white collar employment.

Legg states that political modernization in the 19th century was an important incentive for the political clientelism that flourishes in Greece. Political modernization, which was not accompanied by industrialization "reinforced traditional patterns of interpersonal relations" (Legg, 1977, p. 285). Individuals within various institutions of the state maintained clients and thus kept their powerbase. For both patrons and clients, the "state existed for personal manipulation and exploitation." In effect, the social change that political modernization was to facilitate did not take place as planned, because the existing patterns of interpersonal relations altered the imported political institutions (Legg, 1977, pp. 285-288). As a result, modernization in Greece did not take a linear direction as it did in other European nations.

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