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Greece gears up for international education boom

Greece is gearing up for an international education boom, with its universities focused on an internationalisation drive and the inception of new Study in Greece initiatives, according to a key stakeholder.

A law change in Greece now means bachelor's programs can also be taught in foreign languages. Photo: Pexels

Greece will be looking to fully enter the race for Indian students

Christos Michalakelis, the project manager and president of Study in Greece – whose members now consist of all 24 public universities in Greece – spoke with The PIE News about what’s coming next for Greece’s international education sector.

In 2014, the time of Study in Greece’s inception, the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of education were looking to provide a source of information for international students looking to study on Greek language programs, due to an influx of interest. “Students were turning up to consulates asking for information,” Michalakelis noted.

These were mostly Cypriot students, due to the countries largely sharing the same language.

Study in Greece’s website, which was founded originally by a volunteer group as an info hub, then began to receive the support of the government departments, Michalakelis explained.

In 2019, a new administration came into power which began to further push the idea of internationalisation in the country’s universities, he added.

Gradually, some masters programs began to be allowed to administer international language-taught programs – over 140 were available in 2021.

“It inspired a tremendous amount of demand,” Michalakelis, who is also a professor in Informatics and Telematics at the Harakopio University of Athens, explained – but the masters’ provisions still weren’t providing enough range to truly internationalise Greece’s institutions.

“Last year, the government changed the constitution, which has allowed for universities to start offering bachelor’s English-taught programs,” he said.

This law change, which happened in July 2022, was a turning point. At the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, for example, its medicine program in English received over 1,200 applications from 45 countries – for just 60 places.

“A masters’ is only around €5,000 a year for a two year course”

“[Greece] now has three foreign language programs in medicine, one in classical studies, and there are more to appear in the near future – other disciplines like economics and maritime studies, computer science and engineering science,” Michalakelis said.

Through that same law, the organisation expanded into a fully fledged internationalisation organisation, with funding and a full-time team instead of the volunteer model.

As part of the new initiatives being pushed, Michalakelis said the US and UK were key factors in their efforts.

“We’re looking at the US for shorter programs, perhaps accredited ones for even two to three weeks, and then for the UK we’re actively looking at joint masters and bachelors between certain British universities and Greek institutions.”

Greece will be looking to fully enter the race for Indian students – something already set in motion through a Cultural and Educational Exchange program launched between the two countries for 2022-26.

“Indians generally want to come for a master’s degree, or a bachelor’s in economics or computer science.

“We have skill shortages sciences especially related to the sciences and computer science, around 8,000 cases per year,” he noted.

“Each country has different needs. Our job is to support all of these kinds of programs and help them come alive,” he added.

International PhDs are also in the pipeline, but testing is still underway for four, five or six year programs.

A meeting with relevant ministries later this year will also discuss the prospect of post-study work rights.

“We are aware of what’s happening in the rest of the world, so our intention is to [expand post-study work rights].

“We want [students] to stay and find a job, not only for their own sake, but also because we have a demographic problem here in Greece ,” Michalakelis explained.

What Michalakelis wants international students around the world to know about primarily, though, is the affordability of a Greek education.

“A medical degree costs only €10,000 per year, which is very low compared to the rest of Europe – a masters’ is only around €5,000 a year for a two year course – and the accommodation is relatively cheap,” he noted.

“We are very optimistic about what is to come.”

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