The most serious and acute problem faced by Greek universities nowadays has to do with the ever diminishing funds allotted by the State, as a result of the unprecedented economic crisis in our country. I will not address the question whether it is of actual use to downsize investments in human capital when the structure of our economy is collapsing; but I intend to highlight the fact that under the circumstances, it is pivotal to maintain a satisfactory – to say the least – level of standards in education, research and student care, if not to promote excellence as pursued by our University on an ongoing basis.
It is a blessing – and at the same time a by-product of the quality and international repute of our faculty members – that at Athens University of Economics and Business we manage to attract funds outside the State budget through our numerous research projects and our quality postgraduate courses that are in high demand. Without this extra funding, we would fail to offer many of our services to our students; just as we would cease to boost research and provide support to doctoral and postdoctoral students.
As a result, it seems like a small ‘miracle’ that AUEB keeps constantly ranking in the top 5% of almost 20,000 universities worldwide; and it is surely worth stressing that our institution received last year the EFQM Excellence Award for our commitment to excellence, our push for innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, our quality in education and administration standards as well as for reengineering our services and functions. Many leading universities and many major organizations and corporations in Europe pursue excellence via the EFQM model. AUEB has been the first academic institution in Greece to receive this award.
Another ‘internal’, this time, problem that I identify with universities in Greece is tied to their introverted orientation or – if you wish – their limited extroversion, much smaller than expected. There is a great need for local educational institutes to open up to society and the economy, as subsequent synergies will benefit all parties. Foolish and outdated stereotypes that pose as obstacles to such a move should be decisively put aside.
Excellence, extroversion and contribution to society are the pillars for our stream of actions and our source of inspiration at Athens University of Economics and Business. We assist our students in their business initiatives in many and creative ways. We are the country leaders in hosting foreign exchange (ERASMUS) students. We attract foreign candidates to our postgraduate courses. We build academic partnerships with major tertiary education institutes in Europe and around the globe; and through the ‘Business Confucius Institute’ we host at AUEB, we have organized two Hellenic-Chinese Business Partnering Conferences in Athens in 2011 and 2012, and a Greek Products Fair in Beijing this May 2013 – a unique, pioneering initiative crowned with huge success and highly attended by local media.
At the same time, we feel it as an obligation to provide support to those social groups that have been hit the most by the ongoing crisis. The youth, the unemployed, small enterprises and youngsters who wish to make a new start, to overcome the crisis and stand on their feet, can all benefit by the ‘Social Contribution Network’ set up at AUEB by faculty and students on a volunteer basis.