young minds abandon debtgripped greece
Last Updated : GMT 02:09:47
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Young minds abandon debt-gripped Greece

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Young minds abandon debt-gripped Greece

Athens - AFP

After struggling for months to find a job in Greece worthy of her qualifications, young programmer Ioanna Giannopoulou has decided to pack her bags and seek a better future in France. And a long-planned university reform that will be brought before parliament in August will come too late to keep the 23-year-old and thousands of other young graduates from abandoning their debt-stricken country. \"I think I have no choice, I need to go abroad,\" said Ioanna who was awarded her master\'s degree this year. \"All of my classmates have already left, they too are unable to find work in Greece even though they are top-notch students,\" she added. Lois Lambrianidis, an economist and geographer at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, estimates that nine percent of young Greek graduates emigrated between May 2009 and February 2010. \"And in recent months, the departures are accelerating,\" he told AFP, a trend also seen in Ireland and other Mediterranean states like Portugal and Spain. Among Greek PhD graduates alone, 51 percent have deserted their country in the last two years, Lambrianidis said. For Ionna, after a slew of short-term Greek offers for a paltry 500 euros ($707 dollars) a month, she now has a job offer at a telecoms company in Paris, pending a final interview. But her family in Athens is unhappy to see another child leave. \"My parents are very sad...but what am I supposed to do? Here in Greece your value is not appreciated,\" Ioanna said. Her older sister Evgenia, who holds a PhD in bioinformatics, is already in the New York, working as a researcher at Cornell University for the past two years -- one of many Greek graduates who have headed to the United States and Australia. Research and education-related posts were already scarce in this country of 11 million inhabitants, but now a deep recession fuelled by austerity cutbacks designed to tackle a national debt crisis are making matters worse. Greece\'s latest unemployment figures starkly highlight the problem. Almost 10 percent of masters and doctorate degree holders are unemployed, up from 5.4 percent in 2008. Overall Greek unemployment in the first quarter of 2011 was up slightly at 15.9 percent though young people were hardest hit, with joblessness for 15 to 29-year-olds at a hefty 30.9 percent. Greece\'s education ministry is currently working on a reform which ministry advisor Yiannis Mitsos said \"is designed to better prepare Greek students for the job market.\" Already applied in most European countries, the changes are designed to bring the Greek university system closer to standards set out by the so-called Bologna Process of 1999 -- reforms to make European high education more compatible and comparable -- with three-year bachelor\'s degrees, five-year master\'s degrees and eight-year doctorates. Academic evaluation is also to be assigned to independent commissions to increase transparency after a number of cases involving professors handing appointments to family members were exposed in Greek institutions. The reform also aims to eliminate a Greek peculiarity -- its army of so-called \"perpetual\" students. University education is free in Greece and students can remain enrolled for years on end, without passing exams or paying any fees. The reforms would impose time limits on obtaining a degree and promote research collaboration with foreign universities. Not all agree with the measures. For Dionysis Gouvias, a professor of education at the University of Rhodes, the changes could actually make conditions tougher for graduates since the government also plans to merge university departments and axe lecturer posts. \"If PhD students stayed in Greece, they could help the country\'s development,\" Gouvias said, but he admitted that there are far fewer opportunities for talented young people in the country\'s current recession. Part of the problem according to Lambrianidis, who has written a book on the subject, is that the Greek economy is built around services such as tourism as opposed to industries where research could be in demand. Though many of the departing graduates promise to return, Lambrianidis said only 16 percent have actually done so in the last two years. Ioanna, however, is determined to buck the trend. \"I don\'t want to live all my life abroad,\" she said.

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