New York College and New Models in Education

Elias Foutsis, President of New York College, discusses the role of private universities in Greece and how educational models are evolving to meet the needs and desires of students.

What is your vision and the guiding philosophy of New York College?
I started my business career in post-secondary education, motivated by my personal belief that offering American and European education to young people in Greece would give them the opportunity for an international educational experience without having to immigrate. I have built my vision on three fundamental principles: students’ ability in choosing what they want to study; high quality teaching; career opportunities in the globalized labor market. The first contact was made in 1988, when we signed a contractual agreement with the State University of New York at New Paltz, and subsequently with the Empire State College. Then this model of cooperation extended to other partnerships with recognized universities in Europe and the U.S.

New York College operates in Athens, Thessaloniki, Tirana, Albania; Prague, Czech Republic; Belgrade, Serbia; and you now have a new branch in Georgia. What drives you to expand beyond Greece?
Having the experience of a successful operation of such programs in Athens, as well as the human and capital resources necessary, we decided to explore the possibilities of offering such programs to several sites in other countries. It is my belief that an educational organization can not operate in isolation. New York College is the first educational institution that dared to invest in the establishment of private universities in the Balkans and Central Europe. A key reason of our success has been that countries such as Albania, Serbia, FYROM, and the Czech Republic have a strict but fair legal framework for the establishment and operation of private universities, according to the European and American standards. So an investor knows from the start that he/she will not have to deal with ambiguity, arbitrariness and overregulation. A second important reason was that we were aware from our existing international students that there was a great demand for high-level European and American education in these countries, partly due to people’s openness to an international education that will enable them to compete on equal terms with candidates from the rest of the westernized world in the globalized labor market.

New York College offers a wide variety of majors. What major areas of study do you offer to Greek and non-Greek students?
NYC offers PhDs, Bachelors and Masters degrees in business, informatics, communication, international relations, psychology, tourism, shipping, film studies, and education. All but one of our programs are taught in the English Language, and the degrees are awarded to students directly from the partner university. In addition, New York College also provides e-Learning courses through its highly interactive e-learning platform, which offers convenience and flexibility for our working students.

How important are non-degree programs, such as seminars, continuing education, and lifelong learning programs in rounding out your instructional offerings?
In Greece, lifelong learning policy started as a top-down process in response to EU directives, and by using funds from the Community Support Framework Programmes, Greek governments implemented a number of structures which are critized for lack of complementarity, coordination and sustainability. However, even today, the response to the learning society has hardly begun, at a time when the Greek higher education system is still unable to meet the national needs and recognition and accreditation learning acquired outside the formal educational system is neither accredited nor recognized.  New York College has implemented a program of professional qualifications, as well as seminars, lectures and workshops which supplement the curricula. Most importantly, skills and competencies such as learning to learn, problem solving, critical analysis and synthesis and reflection skills have been incorporated into the courses of each program.

With which educational institutions are you affiliated and how does this benefit your student body?
We offer flexible study programs which address the needs of both non-working and working students and young executives in cooperation with the State University of New York, Empire State College, USA; University of Greenwich, UK; Institut Universitaire Kurt Bosch, Switzerland; National American University, USA; Paris Graduate School of Management, Ecole Superieure de Gestion, France; LaSalle University, USA, and the University of Bolton, UK. The breadth of curricula, diversity of student body, scholarly activities of the faculty, continuous support and guidance by the partner universities, as well as our contacts with the job market, have secured for New York College students a multicultural educational experience.

Please briefly discuss the new law regarding private education in Greece.
In August 2008, the Greek Government voted for a new law on private post-secondary education, following the pressure of the European Union for incorporating the European Directive 36/05 about the recognition of professional qualifications of graduates of European Universities, who completed their degrees through franchised or validated models at Greek colleges. Last summer, the current government required all colleges to fulfil additional conditions with reference to specific infrastructure and financial requirements that the colleges had to meet in order to renew their licenses. As a result, New York College has upgraded its infrastructure, operational procedures, and administrative structure, all of which have had a positive impact on the delivery of the programs and received licensure in Athens and Thessaloniki (Government Gazette No: 1302 & No 1320, respectively).

Many parents and students are concerned about the recognition of degrees in Greece from private educational institutions.
The EU Directive 36/05 was incorporated in the Greek law through the Presidential Decree of May 2010 and it grants graduates of licensed private colleges the same professional rights as graduates from Greek universities. It should be noted that the recognition of professional qualifications applies only to specific legally-regulated professions, such as doctors, psychologists, accountants, and others. This includes degrees from American universities, provided that students receive recognition and have work experience in any other European Union country, for example in the U.K. Indeed, there is a number of SUNY/ESC graduates who, after having completed their studies at New York College, had their degrees recognized by the British NARIC (National Recognition Information Center). For any profession which is not legally regulated, according to the European Union, European citizens have the right to exercise it, without any special permission.

How will this issue evolve?
Greece is obliged to comply with EU law, otherwise it will face legal and financial sanctions. It is true that the procedure of recognition is long and bureaucratic, but in view of the current economic crisis that our country is experiencing, public servants, decision-makers, and state officials who engage in discriminatory and exclusionary tactics, in serving the interests of a select few, condemn our country to economic and intellectual stagnation. The demand for tertiary education outstrips supply in the Greek educational system, as admissions are limited due to lack of infrastructure and insufficient human resources. Consequently, the number of students who do not enter the Greek state universities does not reflect upon their ability to participate in university education, but it is shaped by supply and demand considerations.  Indeed, our statistics prove that the majority or our graduates have been accepted by renowned universities for continuing their studies at a higher level and have succeeded in having brilliant careers in Greece and abroad.

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