Ο κ. Richard Jackson, πρόεδρος του Anatolia College της Θεσσαλονίκης, έδωσε την παρακάτω ομιλία στο American Hellenic Institute στην Ουάσιγκτον στις 6/11. Η ομιλία αναδημοσιεύεται με άδεια του συγγραφέα.

Mr. Richard Lee Jackson, a Magna Cum Laude graduate from Princeton University, also attended Sorbonne and holds a master’s degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School. He joined the Foreign Service in 1965 and has had a long and distinguished career with the Department of State including assignments in Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece, as political advisor to ambassadors Donald McHenry and Jean Kirkpatrick at the US Mission to the UN, and as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat. Later he was Deputy Chief of Mission/Charge d’ Affairs in Rabat, Morocco, Dean of Area Studies, Foreign Service Institute, Director for Egypt and North Africa, Department of State, and Executive Director-Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. He is the author of a book entitled The Non Aligned, the United Nations and the Superpowers and has written articles in the Christian Science Monitor, the Mediterranean Quarterly and other publications. He has earned numerous awards including the Meritorious Honor Award, Group Meritorious Award, several Superior Honor Awards, and Presidential Meritorious Award among others. Mr. Jackson became President of Anatolia College and its university division, the American College of Thessaloniki, in August 1999. He also serves as President of the Association of American International Colleges and Universities (AAICU) of which the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a member institution.

        Mr. Jackson speaks Greek, French, Italian and Somali. He is married to Eia Jackson who is an accomplished painter. They have three daughters and a son.

Remarks on Higher Education Reform under the New Greek Government by Anatolia College President Richard Jackson at the American Hellenic Institute in Washington, DC November 6, 2007

It seems presumptuous of me as an American heading a private, non-profit school in Greece to be speaking about reform under the new Government, so let me preface it by saying I’ll be speaking from the perspective of heading Anatolia College and its university division, the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT). I am a former diplomat, so I come at the subject also from that optic as well.

First, a thumbnail sketch about what Anatolia is for some of you who may not be familiar with our institution. We are one of the oldest American colleges in Europe and evolved directly from the Haystack Prayer Meeting at Williams College in 1806. I was invited back to Williams for their bicentennial celebration last year and was a speaker at that event. This early meeting led to the formation of the American Board for Foreign Missions in Boston in 1810, and we were one of the original Congregationalist missions, first set up as the Bebek Seminary in Constantinople. We divided into two halves, one of which secularized and stayed in Constantinople as Robert College. Our half moved in 1862 to Merzefon in the Pontos region, where we also secularized and took the name Anatolia College in 1886. We functioned there as the largest American campus in the Mediterranean region at that time with 45 buildings and a teaching hospital. The Turks closed us down in 1921, and the then-President of Anatolia, George White, met with Eleftherios Venizelos in 1923. Venizelos said to him that Greece wanted American education and we must come to Thessaloniki because Thessaloniki is the most international city of Greece, so we took his advice and have been in Thessaloniki since 1924, establishing ourselves there first as a secondary school and then gradually filling out to the full mandate we had in Turkey of elementary through university education.

We are today an elementary school for 400 children, a six-year high school for 1,300, generally regarded us arguably the best school in Greece in terms of placement into the top Greek public universities as well as prestigious institutions in the United States and Britain. We are at the higher level a four-year undergraduate program and an intensive one-year MBA. We are expanding the latter program in partnership with a business school in Athens, the Athens Laboratory of Business Administration (ALBA), and will start an executive MBA program this coming January and a Masters in Finance next September. That is, in a nutshell, who we are.

I would like to say that in the nine years that I’ve been privileged to be in Thessaloniki, education has seemed to me to be in total ferment at all levels in Greece, operating as we do elementary, high school and university divisions. We thus follow reform at each level. At the elementary level, there is an acute shortage of teachers and last year there was a paralyzing strike for a 45% pay increase. At the secondary level, it is a very lockstep system where every child is on the same page of the same book at the same time each day. In other words, a very centralized statist system with a premium on preparation for countrywide Pan-Hellenic exams, which are the threshold for university entrance, and it is very competitive in Greece to get into the top faculties. Everybody who graduates from high school and achieves a minimum 50% success on Pan-Hellenic examinations gets an offer to an institution of higher education, but to get into the high-quality ones is extremely competitive.

Having served as a diplomat for close to 30 years and traveled around the world, I think that Greek parents are the most ambitious, of any parents anywhere that I’ve observed, for education as a vehicle for advancement for their children. Paradoxically, this works against the established educational institutions. There is a network in Greece of what we would call cram schools or “frontistiria” to prepare students for the university entry exams, and as I have observed from high school students at our school, they will work an intensive 8:00 a.m. -3:00 p.m. day, go home for a sandwich, and rush off to cram school often until 10:00 o’clock at night, effectively robbing them of, I would say, their childhood or leisure time, and sports. So, with that background, we can now turn to reform of higher education which is my topic today.

I find it a paradox, if you argue that higher education originated in Greece 2,500 years ago, that there is today a flowering next door, of all places in Turkey, of high quality, non-profit higher education. Schools like Bilgi, Sabanci, Koc, Bilkent and others are high-standard, private institutions which have developed because the government there recognizes private, non-profit education and, realizing that it is reinforcing for the public system, offers attractive tax incentives for people to support it and, in that way, unleashes the ambition and energy of entrepreneurs who compete with eachother for who can build the best private, non-profit university. Non-profit is a keyword here, and we are not talking about for-profit enterprises or franchises.

The barrier, of course, to such progress in Greece is Article 16 of the Constitution which provides that all higher education shall be free and public. Greece is the only country that I’m aware of that has such a provision in its constitution. Both the Prime Minister and the current opposition leader are products of American private, non-profit higher education. They both understand this. About eight months ago they were moving towards the first stage of amending the Constitution, but that cooperation fell apart for a variety of political reasons. There is a very strong opposition, as all of you know, to the very thought of private, non-profit higher education in Greece. There have been demonstrations just in the past week against it in Greece. In my view, there is an unholy alliance between students who do not want to see any reduction of the considerable political power that they have accumulated on university campuses since the eighties and the privileges that they have, the so called eternal student privileges, to take as long as they want to go through university, even three or four times the normal length of study. There have been proposals to limit the length of study to twice the normal period of degree requirements, but even that is controversial. Students in turn make common cause with public university faculty who, with many exceptions, tend to oppose the idea of evaluation, and the whipping boy for their common protest is private non-profit education.

I do not mean to give the idea that this is a purely Greek problem. It is part of a larger picture in Europe. Europe has a tradition of public, statist higher education which has a great many consequences in today’s world. There was an interesting report from the European Institute of Technology which showed how the modest EU funding available for university research in Europe is distributed politically without primary reference to ability to carry out the research in question. So, if you give to Germany you have to take account of all of the other members of the EU and give to Estonia or Slovenia, for example, so that everybody gets a piece of the EU research pie. Then, within each country, the sliver that comes to Greece, for example, is further divided. Greece now has, with the addition of a proposed international student university, 23 universities and 16 technical institutions. The Government must take account of these 39 potential recipients and farm out research money accordingly. This further dilutes potential for innovative research with the consequence that, relative to Asia or North America, the level of university research in Europe has plummeted, forfeiting to the corporate sector, pharmaceuticals for example, responsibility for ground-breaking research. So I do not find convincing the argument against private, non-profit education that it will entail a commoditization or commercialization of education. I think the current system is working in exactly that way.

Elsewhere in Europe, there is a gradual movement away from exclusive reliance on public education that takes different forms in different countries with Spain and Italy taking a lead in recognizing private universities. The British also realize that the public treasury cannot afford the cost of some 140 public universities. Thus, the Blair Bill imposed tuition, euphemistically called top-up fees, and the impact of that is only now becoming evident. Initially, top-up fees were capped at relatively low levels, but are further increased every few years. This will have real world consequences for the 30-40,000 Greeks that are studying in Britain, paying the higher living fees in return up-to-now for the free public education available there. That will no longer be the case, and students will not be able to afford going there. The British see that very clearly and have been effective within the EU in lobbying for recognition in each country of franchises and branches of universities headquartered elsewhere in the EU. It does not matter that these branches are entirely for-profit and, for the most part, of fairly low quality. This is the catalyst for EU legislation that is now coming down, and coming down very hard, on Greece. I think the British are obviously conscious of the consistent ratings of top world universities. The University of Shanghai, for example, year after year shows that on all criteria for the 10 top world universities, eight are in the United States and two are abroad, Oxford and Cambridge. Although public institutions, both of the latter are increasingly mixed and are increasingly partnering with private institutions, as well as effectively fundraising so that at Oxford and Cambridge only 30% of the operating budget is state-funded.

We have been talking here about academic accreditation, quite a different thing from right to work and recognition of professional credentials. It is in this second area that the legislation I mentioned is coming down on Greece. Specifically, there are two EU directives, Number 48 of 1989 and Number 36 of 2005. The former has been on the books longer and has exhausted the appeals process. It has gone through the courts, and there is no longer a right of appeal. The final decision will be issued by the end of this year and will have a four-month period for implementation. It requires the recognition of professional qualifications of degrees awarded by European universities and imposes a very substantial daily fine which I do not think Greece will want to pay. That will go into full effect late this spring. A second and more recent directive came into effect October 22nd and is Directive 36 which has a broader spectrum of provisions and detailed requirements. It now starts a period of two years for applications in particular cases and then legal challenges and appeals. So how are these two separate processes going to play out and to affect a private, non-profit school such as ours?

First of all, the revision of Article 16: The New Democracy Prime Minister has announced the Government’s continuing commitment to this process; however with a thinner majority in the Parliament of 152, there does not appear to be any way to muster the 180 votes necessary in the current parliament. There has already been a vote in the earlier parliament with a New Democracy majority of 165. Had the vote received a majority of 180, only a simple majority of 151 would now be required, but I do not think most people feel that a new vote would command 180, so there are two scenarios that flow from that. Number 1, if they fail to deal with the issue or receive less than 180 votes, constitutional revision becomes an issue for two future parliaments. That would push action on this issue, depending on how the elections fall, some four to eight years into the future. As a second option, the Government has, I understand, a right to restart the process in October 2008 in this Parliament to be continued in the next parliament which would shorten the process, if all went well, to between two to four years. Again this pushes to the longer term any outcome that would affect a school such as ours.

The second track, professional recognition, is however, a present reality with this legislation taking effect in the spring. I think there is likely to be massive confusion, and I was struck the other day by an announcement of the President of the Sorbonne, Professor Jean Robert Pitt. As you probably know, the Sorbonne has announced a program of graduate degrees in Athens in business and humanities in partnership with the French Institute there. Pitt in his public statement said that Article 16 is based on protectionism which does not suit the European Union. I find that a remarkable statement coming from the French who have such a statist and bureaucratic tradition of public education. But it shows that France is moving under President Sarkozy in a reform direction and that Greece is therefore increasingly exposed on this issue. There has been a tendency in the past on issues like educational reform to follow the French lead. It is also the case that there continues to be a proliferation of advertisements throughout Greece for branches of European universities. Here are two examples of billboards in Thessaloniki. They both say “Recognized by the Greek State” (Αναγνωρίζεται από το Ελληνικό Κράτος) which is of course completely false, at least until this legislation takes effect. While some government officials recognize that this is false advertising and illegal, such billboards remain and shape the thinking of, sometimes unsophisticated, parents about foreign education. I would predict that this is going to intensify as more and more for-profit franchises enter the market following the entry into effect of this legislation. On the one hand, this is bad for a school like ACT or our sister school, the American College of Greece, because it is creating a more unequal playing field between the European private institutions and American counterparts. Possibly over the longer run it will increase pressure for fundamental reform, but that will require time. In the meantime, the new Minister of Education is talking about imposing greater controls on Laboratories of Free Studies, (Κέντρα Ελευθέρων Σπουδών) which is the category that we are in.

If I am correct about these general directions, what options does a school such as ours, have today? Number one, we will clearly continue to work with the US Government to seek assurances that American institutions that have been in Greece for many, many years and have made a positive contribution to different levels of education receive equal treatment. On the other hand, successive American Ambassadors to Greece have taken up that cause and have not yet been able to prevail. We cannot thus be under any illusion that education is going to be high on the bilateral agenda which inter alia includes terrorism, the Macedonian name issue, Cyprus and many other concerns that probably displace this issue. While education, as a service export from the United States, comes right after entertainment, there is no Motion Picture Association for education. There is no Jack Valenti or Dan Glickman to go to bat on this kind of an issue. By contrast, the portfolio is divided within the US Government between the Commerce, Education and State Department with frequently conflicting and protectionist advice from lobbies such as American Architects.

We will, however, also continue our lobbying efforts. We have formed a group of the American College of Thessaloniki, the American College of Greece, AIT which is the Carnegie Mellon branch in Athens and ALBA to coordinate conversations with the Greek Government. We have also received strong support form the US Chargé in his representation to the Greek Government. Thirdly, we will continue to upgrade educational quality in order to be ready, when and if Article 16 is revised, to meet whatever criteria are put in place. It is generally thought that these criteria will be the same as those applied to the public universities which seems like a level playing field but it really is not, in the sense that an institution such as Amherst College would not meet such criteria which are drawn up on the basis of the public research university model that we would call a Category 1 research university. All departments, might, for example, be required to issue the PhD, and to demonstrate an extremely high percentage of faculty with PhDs and proof of major scientific research which liberal arts colleges would have difficulty meeting, although I would argue that they substantially reinforce the work of the public university.

Finally, I think many of us are going to have to investigate British validation which is something we have resisted for many years in hopes that the Constitution would be revised. British validation means passing on to students increased costs, paying a British university that offers validation services a substantial fee and often intrusive bureaucracy of inspectors, examiners and validators that in our view could lower rather than increase academic quality. We are already as an institution meeting demands of one the world’s most rigorous accreditation processes, that of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges which is the accreditation agency for Harvard, MIT or any of the accredited New England schools.

That is then how I see things are moving and the impact on us. I would like to say that we fit into a larger context, and our university division is a full member of the American Association of International Colleges and Universities. I am serving, for a two-year period, as President of that group. We are some 20 American universities outside the United States will full stand-alone American accreditation from one of the seven-US regional accrediting bodies. Greece, by sheer coincidence, is host to two members, ourselves and ACG. I think that fact is a substantial resource, when and if the Constitution is amended and the doors are open for public non-profit higher education. I also think, that as a network of universities around the world, running from London to Nigeria, from Paris to Kyrghistan and the United Arab Emirates, this is a unique resource for the United States in public diplomacy, although not one that Washington has chosen to use in recent years. I was struck reading about a recent farewell ceremony for the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, that one of her major accomplishments was cited as sending the noted baseball star, Carl Ripkin, abroad as a diplomatic asset for the US. I am sure Ripken is a wonderful representative of the United States but I think that a network like the AAICU which has established a fabric of ties over a period of several centuries with key countries around the world and formed, to some extent, the professional classes and government services in critical countries and regions, is equally a potent resource although under-appreciated and under-used in recent years.

In concluding, I’d like to promote in this receptive audience the potential for study abroad in Greece, and specifically at the American College of Thessaloniki, as a vehicle to re-Hellenize Greek-American children or grandchildren and, more generally, to Hellenize young American men and women of college age. I thank you and look forward to your questions.

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