Greek higher education is provided by universities and technical schools. The usual length of study in technical schools is 3 years, while in universities it is normally 4 years. Certain specialties require additional time (e.g., a total of 5 years for engineering studies and 6 for medicine). It should be noted that all education in Greece is provided by the government and is free for anyone, up to and including the stage of undergraduate higher education. Greek students enjoy some preferential treatment by the government, including lower fees for almost all public services and tax breaks for their families.
Master's studies last for 1 to 2 years. Greek universities first obtained the right to organise master's programmes in 1992.
The PhD is called the "Doctorate Degree of high specialisation", and is the highest university degree provided by Greek universities. Theoretically, it requires that the student make an original contribution that advances the extent of scientific knowledge.
There are only about 7500 PhD students in Greece in total, constituting just 39% of the postgraduate student population (1998-1999 figures from the ESYE--National Statistic Services: Department of Educational Facts). Under a 1992 law (N 2083/92 1) the government has given the authority to each university to organise and run postgraduate programmes (including doctoral studies) as they wish. Up until then, although there were doctoral students at all the universities, they had simply been enrolled in the undergraduate departments as a separate group of students. Nonetheless, the only features of doctoral education that are legally stipulated at the national level by this law are the minimum period of study, the admission standards, and the minimum requirements for the completion of the PhD.
Length of Study
Under the 1992 law, as amended in 1999, the minimum length of study for a PhD is set at 3 years, full-time. This conforms to the "European system". However, the actual length of time seems to vary considerably, depending on the academic department. For example, in technical and applied sciences it is usual to complete PhD studies in approximately 3 years, while in other departments, especially in social sciences and arts, 4, 5, or even 6 years are the average time for doctoral studies.
In addition, there are two kinds of doctoral programmes available. The traditional mode consists of a 3-year, pure research period, with no taught element. Lately, some 4- or 5-year courses have been created, which incorporate the master's within the PhD degree. These courses include lectures and seminars over the first 3 years, with research beginning during the second year of studies. This new approach falls within the so-called "American system".
Standards of Admission
The Ministry of Education stipulates that admission of a student to PhD studies should depend on:
*the grade of the student's first degree
*the grade obtained on courses relevant to the research they want to conduct
*the formal grade as well as an evaluation by the admissions committee of their master's dissertation
*their existing experience in research
*in addition, it is necessary for any PhD student to have adequate knowledge of at least one foreign language
(N 2083/92, article 12)
Formally, a master's is not a necessary prerequisite for doing a PhD. However, it is established practice to require a master's degree, and some academic departments have also incorporated this requirement in their statement of running PhD courses within the department.
Minimum requirements for the completion of a PhD
The progress of each PhD student is required by law to be monitored by three academics from the university, one of whom becomes the students' primary supervisor (N 2083/92, article 13). This panel evaluates the student's progress and submits an annual report to the university. At the end of the research a seven-member committee of academics, usually including the three supervising academics, confirms that the project is original and makes a significant contribution to the science. The student then defends his or her thesis orally before the seven-member committee. The defence is open to all members of the academic community.
Scholarships for postgraduate study are provided, on a competitive basis, by the State Institute for Scholarships ( IKY). However, there are only 225 scholarships in total, and the competition is open to both master's and PhD students of all disciplines. Fortunately, if after the competition the scholarship is awarded to a student willing to pursue doctoral studies, the scholarship is given until the student completes his or her studies, up to a maximum of 4 years. It should be noted, though, that no one can live on a scholarship (just 293 Euro per month), so even those that have succeeded in this competition need to find additional income in order to lead a decent life. About 50 additional scholarships are also available from other regional governmental, private, or charitable institutions, awarded on the basis of the student's overall performance, his or her region of origin, family or marital status, financial means of the family, and so on.
Unfortunately, no information is available about the completion rate for PhD studies.
* At the time of publication Greece does not have a national PhD student organisation. Eleanna has started a national PhD student e-mail list and would welcome assistance in developing this new group. She would be delighted to hear from any Greek students interested in joining the e-mail list, or anyone seeking further information about the situation of Greek PhD students.
1. S. Benos, "The Law 1268/82 and the following provisions for the Higher Educational Institutions," 5th edition (Benos, Athens, 1999).