Greece in 2030: On top of education | David Horner | TEDxAcademy

Greece in 2030: On top of education | David Horner | TEDxAcademy

September 15, 2019 5 By Ronny Jaskolski


Translator: Alena Chernykh
Reviewer: Chryssa Takahashi So … how could it be that a guy
from Boston, Massachusetts, manages to time his arrival
in Athens, Greece perfectly to coincide, in 2008, with the beginning
of the Greek economic crisis? (Laughter) Actually, my family
has a talent in this area. My father immigrated
from Belfast, Ireland, to New York City in 1929. (Laughter) Now, fortunately,
he brought a special talent. He was an international football player. So he made it
through the great depression: because of that talent, he played
for the New York Giants in Yankee Stadiums throughout the years of the depression. I didn’t bring that kind
of special talent to Greece. So it wasn’t easy for me
in the Greek economic crisis. It wasn’t easy for anybody
that I knew in Greece at that time. But, in those years
of struggle and challenge, some amazing things happened,
some fundamental changes were made, and, through those changes,
Greece was able to re-imagine itself. And I’m happy to be able to share
a part of that story with you today. But my story and that story
begins many years earlier. Actually, in 1978, when I graduated
with my PhD from Stanford University and joined the management
consulting firm of KPMG in the education consulting group. My very first assignment was to be
the lead consultant for a project aimed
at boosting the annual fundraising of the University of California, Berkeley, from $20 million a year
to $40 million a year. To do that project, I was sent out
across the United States, and I visited colleges and
universities across the US that were engaged in major
fundraising initiatives. When I came back from that trip of visiting private
and public universities, I said to my colleagues, “I’m convinced
that perhaps the greatest thing the United States has ever done is to produce this system
of higher education. When you see it up close and personal,
it’s an amazing, amazing thing.” So it’s not surprising to me that the great revolution in Greek
higher education, by the year 2030, took place in part by applying principles taken from the US system
of higher education. The most astonishing fact, by 2030,
is encapsulated in this one picture. In 2030, Greece has three universities
in the world top 40. To give you some perspective: in 2015, Greece
did not have one university in the top 350 of the world. But, by 2030, three Greek universities
were in the world’s top 40. How could this possibly be? For me, it was not so astonishing, because I had served for 18 years
as president of a small university in the State of Illinois. Now, Illinois is relevant to this story, because Illinois has essentially
the same population as Greece, 11 million. It also has the number-ten-ranked
university in the world, the University of Chicago; the number-25 university,
Northwestern University; and the number-36 university, the University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign. As it so happens,
Illinois is also bankrupt. (Laughter) And, as it happens, Illinois is also
historically, politically dysfunctional. Does this sound at all familiar to you? (Laughter) In fact, the two most recent governors
of the State of Illinois ended up in federal prison
serving time for political corruption. So, obviously, Illinois is not
a perfect environment, and yet Illinois has been able to produce
three of the world’s top 40 universities. Now this is a kind
of cautionary tale for us, because it tells us a couple of things. Number 1: It tells us that
you don’t have to have a perfect economy or a perfect political system to produce great universities. But it also tells us that if you have great universities, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your economy is going
to be great or perfect, or your political system
is going to function as it should. Illinois showed the possibility. It didn’t surprise me
that Greece was able to do this, because Illinois could do it
despite all of its challenges. But how precisely was Greece
able to make this leap? First of all, Greece was able to build
on a couple of key assets that it had long had. First of all, excellent human capital. The key to any quality university
is the faculty and the students. And Greece has always had
excellent faculty and excellent students. The problem was these students and faculty
were functioning in a system that really didn’t support
and bring out the best in them. But still, this was
a leverage point for Greece, these existing human assets. The second leverage point was
the brand magic of Greece for education. The world knows that Greece is the birthplace
of the western intellectual tradition. And so Greece combined that
with its natural beauty, with its incredible weather, with its strategic location
in South-Eastern Europe, and this built for Greece,
in the education sector, a powerful, powerful brand – building on these key assets. But Greece has had these assets
for many, many years. It wasn’t just these
that made the difference. It was Greece’s commitment
to four key operating principles that really were different from how Greece had approached
higher education in the past. The first of these best practices, taken partly from the US
and from other international systems, is a commitment
to institutional diversity. Probably the greatest single strength
of the US system of higher education is the diversity
of institutions in that system. 62% of the students attending
four-year colleges and universities in the United States today attend public universities. But 30% attend private,
non-profit universities, 8% attend private for-profit
colleges and universities. If you look at the international rankings,
the statistics are essentially reversed. The United States has 22 universities
in the top 40 of the world. Fourteen of those are private
non-profit universities, eight are public universities, zero are private for-profit universities. So by 2030 Greece had managed to interject this kind of institutional
diversity into its system. In 2030, the majority of students continue
to attend public universities in Greece, but there are many more
private universities. Actually, in 2015 and 2016,
there were none, because Greece didn’t allow it. Greece allowed and encouraged
the formation of private universities, and now many of those universities enroll
a significant percentage of students. Two of those private universities
are among the top 40 in the world. One of the public universities in Greece
is among the top 40 as well. The second institutional practice
was institutional autonomy, giving to universities the power to respond to social needs
and student interests, not to be controlled
by bureaucracy and government. This was a big change for Greece,
and it was the second major factor, that the institutions themselves were able
to respond as they saw fit, and not [be] dictated to. They looked to international crediting
for quality control, not to government bureaucracy. The third major change related to
student choice and admission criteria, how students are admitted to universities. Today, in Greece in 2030, students can apply
to any university they wish to, and they can transfer easily
from one university to the other after they have started in one. And admission criteria have changed to move away from national testing
as the major criterion to a more balanced portfolio that students present as a result
of their high school experience. And what’s happened now,
as a result of that, is that Greek families invest
far less of their time and money in private tutoring
to prepare for national exams. And the students invest much more in the quality of their high
school experience. The final change was philanthropy. I mentioned my earlier project
in 1978 at the University of California. In the 1970s and 80s, the US public universities followed
the example of the US private universities in developing very powerful
fundraising staff and efforts. In the 1990s, the European
universities followed them, and places like Oxford and Cambridge
got into the fundraising game, and they managed to assemble an extra, very important
element of support that hadn’t been there before
to support their missions. Finally, Greece, between 2015 and 2030, committed itself also
to philanthropic support on behalf of its universities, and, as a result, billions of euros
came from within Greece, and from the diaspora beyond Greece, to support both public and
private higher education. So there you have it, a miracle really in some respects, by 2030, amazing! But one final thing I want to mention: for all of this to happen, Article 16 of the Greek Constitution,
written in 1975, that had forbidden
private universities in Greece, had to be changed. It wasn’t easy, but the change was made. Today, Article 16 is best known in 2030, not as an article
in the Greek Constitution, but it is best known as a discotheque. The Article 16 Discotheque features music
from the 1970s and the 1980s. And Greeks enjoy going there. It reminds them of the way things were, and they are able to celebrate the difference that has come
to Greece by the year 2030. If you have an opportunity to, you should check it out. (Music) (Applause)