Home > Project Experience > Human Resources

Financing Vocational Education and Training in Greece

In 2006, Navigator participated in an international project consortium implementing a review of the national system for financing vocational and educational training in the European Union on behalf of the European Commission. This is one of a series of assessments of the education and training sectors undertaken by Navigator since 2004 in Greece and Cyprus. We take this opportunity here to publish some of our results on this topic. Additional information can be requested from Philip Ammerman on pga@navigator-consulting.com.

This report was written by Philip Ammerman of Navigator Consulting Group Ltd. as part of the project consortium for the project: An analysis of progress in relation to select NVE&T priority areas, following the Maastricht Communiqué: Lot 2: Investing in and financing VET in an efficient and sustainable way. Further information can be requested directly from the author at Email: pga@navigator-consulting.com


The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent those of the European Commission.


This Country Report Greece comprises the second draft of the national reporting procedure established for the DG Education and Culture project Investing in and financing of VET in an efficient and sustainable way.

Our responses in this draft are provisory as regards financing volumes. There are extensive questions on the data integrity and coverage, and we are aware that further research will be needed. The question of whether the time, resources and political consensus exist for continuing this research is a separate issue.

General Methodological Approach

A Secondary Review (desk research) of available data was implemented between 17 May and 19 June, based on the project methodology established on 16 May 2006. The main sources for this research included document reviews from ETF, CEDEFOP, Eurydice, the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Labour, OAED, and others.

This data review did not yield sufficiently detailed results. There is a real paucity of hard data available. To address this, the Government Public Expenditure for 2006 (which includes 2004 and 2005) was recorded and analysed.

In order to complete the analysis successfully, extensive further work will be within Ministries and organizations within the VET sector. This sector is currently in an uproar, with national strikes and work actions in effect brought about by four main events:

  1. The 2006 Greek local elections, scheduled for 15 October 2006, will elect representatives to Greece's 3 super-prefectures, 54 prefectures, provinces, and approximately 1,033 communities and municipalities. VET has become an election year issue, as seen in the following three points.
  2. The decision to introduce quality criteria for higher education admissions, and specifically by barring higher education entry to students who scored below a minimum platform of 10 points on the national examinations scale has led to a crisis in the VET sector. A total of 17,245 seats at tertiary VET institutions remained empty, of which 14,365 “belonged” to graduates of the unified Lyceum (academic comprehensive secondary schools) while 2,880 seats allocated to graduates of the seconday technical and vocational schools (TEE). In the wake of these results, the fate of regional VET institutions has become an open question, since a large number of these institutions received very low numbers of incoming students. This issue has since been politicised.
  3. Further politicisation of the reform of higher education, in the form of opposition to a draft bill tabled by the Ministry of Education. This bill, among others, called for the accreditation of private tertiary education at an equal level with public education, and the implementation of assessment of professors, lecturers and trainers. This proposal would have done much to bring Greece in line with the Bologna process. This proposal was met with a firestorm of protest, including the occupation of over 450 institutions by protestors, extensive street protests in major cities in Greece in June-July. The reform process is currently deadlocked in Parliament, although it is expected that the bill will be retabled after the local elections on 15 October.
  4. The commencement of a general teachers’ strike in the week of 18-22 September – only a week after the commencement of classes – was launched among demands for pay rises and the issue of new school-books and training materials. This strike has since been extended for three weeks at the time of writing.

With school occupations, academic vacations, and the political fire-storm created in the build-up to the October 15th elections, the tensions, limitations and potential of the highly politicised and centralised Greek state education system are illustrated in a nutshell. The issue of financing of vocational education and training, though critical, appear almost secondary to the real priorities of the political and administrative stakeholders, both in government and outside it.


Several main challenges are identified with the research methodology:

  1. Most stakeholders have been unavailable for interviews, or cannot easily share financial information.
  2. The current reporting system (UOE, LFS and others) leads to a highly fragmented state of reporting. Education and continuing training financial statistics are collected separately, with a significant time distortion between different survey methods. Few like-for-like non-financial statistics are kept which could be used to determine key ratios on VET spending (such as spending per student, per teacher, etc.)
  3. There is a real danger of double-counting within some sources of VET expenditure. On the other hand, it is clear that due to the tax system, there is a much higher volume of resources collected for VET than are actually disbursed. However, if the funds are not disbursed, such as the funds collected by the Institute for Social Welfare (IKA) under the 0.45% LAEK funding rule, it is quite difficult to gain information on the status of financial reserves. A further problem of double-counting is seen in the “Transfers to Third Parties” budget identification system, which is a result of the highly centralised budgeting system used by the Ministry of National Economy.
  4. There is a further problem with recording the date of expenditure. Much of Greek VET expenditure is tied to implementation of Operational Programmes co-financed by the EU Community Support Framework III. Funding absorption has been extensively complicated by lack of central government co-funding, in part due to Greece’s high public deficit, and in part due to administrative issues. As a result, expenditure budgeted in 2005 may not be absorbed until 12 months later, in 2006, if at all. It is extremely difficult to keep track of what expenditure is Government-financed, and what is EU-financed.
  5. There are no standard definitions of crucial terms, such as “effectiveness” or “sustainability” in use for this project. As a result, we have focused on data collection and reporting as established in the Country Report framework.

Reflections on Efficiency and Sustainability

The objective of this report is to provide some insight into how the financial structure of national and European VET systems affects issues of efficiency and sustainability.  It is impossible to reach any conclusions in the space of the present project which might answer these issues, since (a) methodological frameworks and agreed definitions do not exist, (b) project resources are not sufficient, (c) the political consensus for reform does not exist.

Nevertheless, a politically neutral and financially disinterested observer of the Hellenic educational system would conclude that extensive scope exists for improving the effectiveness and efficiency at all levels. Indeed, the fact that EU funding exists in such abundance should not become an excuse for continuing the system under its current framework. In this case, externally-financed resources contribute to a formula for dependence, and for main-taining what would be an otherwise be an unsustainable status quo.

Three main structural issues require reform in order to contribute to financial efficiency and sustainability:

  1. A national consensus on VET is required which will focus on competitiveness, productivity and individual achievement, and which removes the role of political affiliations from institutional management and staffing.
  2. Legacy issues, such as university asylum, the role of “free” public education, and the role of private higher education accreditation, must be solved.
  3. Bureaucratic proliferation and duplication must be reduced or eliminated. The management and administrative structure is too slow and paralyzed by a lack of responsibility, a paper-bound structure and constant duplication and authorization-seeking at every level. A leaner, IT-based system is needed, contributing towards transparency, lower operating costs and better, more flexible results.


2.     The National VET System of Greece


The Vocational Training and Education (VET) in Greece is highly centralised and controlled by the state, which dominates the sector. Moreover, the VET system, like the wider system of national education, plays a variety of roles, of which human resources development is but one. Other ascribed roles include:

  • Unemployment mitigation;
  • Gender equality and social inclusion;
  • Administrative decentralisation;
  • Local development;
  • National/ethnic identity;
  • A “second chance” for students who do not enter higher academic education.

As with Hellenic academic education, VET is a subject which provokes high political tensions. Few politicians, teachers, administrators, students or other stakeholders claim to be happy with the state of education, whether they are in power or in opposition. This subject raises passions to an extent that is improbable for such a small country with a limited industrial base, so dependent on imports of goods and services, and facing profound challenges in fundamental economic competitiveness and employment.

This consultant believes that the challenges of Hellenic VET education will have to be solved not only by the allocation of additional resources, but by better use of existing resources. This will require, however, a total strategic change in emphasis and priorities. Rather than focussing on resource-based, quantitative supply indicators, it will be necessary to focus on quality, on demand requirements and on the role of VET in meeting national and global competences and competitive advantages.

The problems of deindustrialisation and unemployment in northern Greece, and the role of competition from regional Balkan countries, will not be addressed solely by raising VET enrolment or establishing new regional institutions. VET must assist in the development of critical competencies and skills, such as entrepreneurship, languages, computer skills and innovative professions in agriculture, industry and services. VET curricula must be modernised to reflect tomorrow’s skill challenges, not yesterday’s, particularly in industry and services, where a paradigm shift in human resources requirements is underway.

Extensive reforms in the VET sector have been introduced in the previous decade. Many of these have been in response to the Lisbon Agenda as well as associated EU requirements on public funding, programme evaluation and employment strategies. As a result of this reform, however, the number of vested interests and administrative units has proliferated, to the extent where a rational system analysis might conclude that it is better to scrap the current structure and start over. Unfortunately, in a sector monopolised by the Government, and with key elements driven by EU funding, there is little chance of such systemic reform.  Many vested interests, at the EU, national and regional/local levels, prevent this from happening.

Greece has a fast-growing GDP which is above EU trend growth. While its population rose from 8.768 million in 1971 to 11.083 million in 2005. Since the early 1990s, it is estimated that between 600,000 immigrants have received legal residency in Greece, while an additional 200,000 to 400,000 immigrants work in Greece illegally.

One of Greece’s main challenges is the low labour force participation rate. The economically active labour force is only 53.3% in the first 3 months of 2006. Unemployment has been steadily decreasing, from 12.3% in the first quarter of 2000, to 9.7% in the first quarter of 2006.

While the official figures indicate low labour force participation, it should be noted that there is an unreported employment sector in Greece. This comprises people holding dual jobs or part-time employment, which is unreported, or people working in sectors such as construction or tourism, where evasion of legal controls is possible. Similarly, there are varying estimates of GDP that are unreported: estimates of between 20-40% have been reported in media and various sources.

A further major challenge is the low labour productivity rate. According to the OECD 2004 labour productivity estimates, Greek workers record some of the highest average annual hours worked per person, at 2,060. The average GDP per hour worked, however, is only $ 28.3/hour (expressed in $ purchasing power parity) This is lower than the OECD average, the average of the 19 EU OECD member states, or the U.S.

The low labour productivity and employment rates therefore point to a significant field in which VET can make a positive difference. By improving labour productivity through skills development, and by improving employability and entrepreneurship through labour market support and linking VET closely to the labour market, national productivity, competitiveness and wealth could be raised.

2.2    The Greek Educational System

Education in Greece is mandatory for all children between the ages 6-15, which comprise Primary (Dimotiko) and Lower Secondary (Gymnasio) education. The school life can begin from 2.5 years of age, with pre-school (Kindergarten). Primary education lasts 6 years.

Post-compulsory education is based on two institutions: the Eniaio Lykeio (EL - Unified Lyceum), and the Technika Epaggelmatika Ekpaideftiria (TEE - Technical Vocational Schools). The ELs have a 3-year course of study, while the TEEs last 2 years in the A’ Cycle and 3 years in the B’ Cycle. It is possible to transfer between the two types of schools. In addition, other educational units include Special Schools from Kindergarten through to Lyceum, for pupils with special needs, as well as musical, ecclesiastical and athletic Gymnasia and Lycea.

In post-compulsory secondary education, the Instituta Epaggelmatikis Katartisis (IEK - Institutes of Vocational Training) offer specialised courses of study. Entrance into IEKs is possible from both lower secondary as well as upper secondary levels, based on the desired course of study.

Public higher education is divided between academic and vocational streams. Universities (AEI-Anotata Ekpaideftika Idrimata) provide academic education, while Technological Education Institutes (TEI-Technika Epaggelmatika Idrimata) provide vocational education. A range of specialised universities exist, including Polytech-nics, the Fine Arts School, the Military Academies and the Police Academy. In the vocational sector, institutions such as the Merchant Marine Academy and Higher School of Pedagogical and Technical Education (ASPAITE) offer relevant degrees. Ecclesiastical education also exists at the tertiary level.

Lifelong learning is provided by the Hellenic Open University, Second Chance Schools, Adult Learning Institutes, and Vocational Training Centres (KEKs).  Each in-stitution is covered in further detail in Chapter 4. The pathways and levels in the Hellenic educational system are shown below.


2.3    Educational Infrastructure


2.3.1   School Units

In 2005, there were a total of 3,672 educational units at the secondary and upper-secondary level in Greece, comprising both academic and vocational institutions:


Type of School # Institutions
Evening Gymnasium 70
Daily Gymnasium 1,743
Cross-Cultural Gymnasium 6
Cross-Cultural Lyceum 1
Special Education Gymnasium 6
Special Education Lyceum 4
Religious Gymnasium 6
Religious Lyceum 18
Religious Frontisterio 4
Unified Lyceum – Evening 40
Unified Lyceum – Daily 1,008
Private Gymnasium 19
Private Lyceum 20
Private TEE 39
Minority Gymnasium 3
Minority Lyceum 2
Musical Gymnaseum 33
Musical Lyceum 12
Experimental Gymnasium 22
Experimental Lyceum 19
SEK 125
TEE Evening 39
TEE Daily 433
Total 3,672

Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, 2006


In the 2004-2005 academic year, there were a total of 1,915 upper secondary units in operation. Of these, 1,738 (91%) were public and 177 (9%) were private.

Eniaio Lykeio TEE
School Year Public Private Public Private Total
2000-2001 1,185 97 412 80 1,774
2001-2002 1,182 98 418 77 1,775
2002-2003 1,243 109 462 83 1,897
2003-2004 1,257 111 466 77 1,911
2004-2005 1,265 110 473 67 1,915

MNERA, quoted in Eurybase: The Educational System of Greece, 2006

Total Total Share Share
School Year Public Private Total Public Private
2000-2001 1,597 177 1,774 90.0% 10.0%
2001-2002 1,600 175 1,775 90.1% 9.9%
2002-2003 1,705 192 1,897 89.9% 10.1%
2003-2004 1,723 188 1,911 90.2% 9.8%
2004-2005 1,738 177 1,915 90.8% 9.2%

Some 1,375 units, or 72% of the total, were Lykeia, while 540 were TEE, for a ratio of 2.55 EL : 1 TEE.


2.3.2   Enrolment

Enrolment is similarly dominated by state instutions. Some 226,056 pupils were enrolled in state Lykeia versus just 17,428 in private ones in the 2004-2005 school year. In TEEs, 109,428 pupils were enrolled in public institutions, versus 4,287 in private ones.

A total of 357,199 pupils were enrolled in upper secondary education in the 2004-2005 academic year. A total of 335,484 (94%) are enrolled in public sector institutions; 21,715 (6%) are enrolled in private sector institutions.

Eniaio Lykeio TEE
School Year Public Private Public Private Total
2000-2001 224,573 16,508 117,603 6,502 365,186
2001-2002 219,269 16,814 122,581 6,236 364,900
2002-2003 221,631 17,072 126,028 6,598 371,329
2003-2004 224,819 17,553 119,225 5,341 366,938
2004-2005 226,056 17,428 109,428 4,287 357,199

MNERA, quoted in Eurybase: The Educational System of Greece, 2006

Total Total Share Share
School Year Public Private Total Public Private
2000-2001 342,176 23,010 365,186 93.7% 6.3%
2001-2002 341,850 23,050 364,900 93.7% 6.3%
2002-2003 347,659 23,670 371,329 93.6% 6.4%
2003-2004 344,044 22,894 366,938 93.8% 6.2%
2004-2005 335,484 21,715 357,199 93.9% 6.1%

There are 243,484 pupils, or 68% of the total, enrolled in Lykeia, versus 113,715 enrolled in TEE, a ratio of 2.14 : 1.  This ratio has risen from 1.94 in 2000-2001, showing the preference for academic educational tracks.


2.3.3   Teaching Staff

A total of 42,975 teachers (full-time) are currently employed in upper secondary education. Of these, a total of 39,826 were teaching in the public sector in the 2004-2005 school year, or 92.7%, while 3,149, or 7.3%, taught in the private sector.

Eniaio Lykeio TEE
School Year Public Private Public Private Total
2000-2001 21,092 1,888 15,173 1,372 39,525
2001-2002 21,454 1,879 15,973 1,399 40,705
2002-2003 22,002 2,064 17,288 1,508 42,862
2003-2004 22,605 1,972 17,503 1,073 43,153
2004-2005 23,403 2,076 16,423 1,073 42,975

MNERA, quoted in Eurybase: The Educational System of Greece, 2006

Total Total Share Share
School Year Public Private Total Public Private
2000-2001 36,265 3,260 39,525 91.8% 8.2%
2001-2002 37,427 3,278 40,705 91.9% 8.1%
2002-2003 39,290 3,572 42,862 91.7% 8.3%
2003-2004 40,108 3,045 43,153 92.9% 7.1%
2004-2005 39,826 3,149 42,975 92.7% 7.3%
In the 2004-2005 school year, a total of 25,479 teachers (59% of the total) taught in the Lykeia, while some 17,496 taught at the TEE, for a ratio of 1.46. This is an interesting number, given the far higher number of Lykeia schools and students. This probably reflects the higher use of temporary staff in the Lykeia. The resolution of their status – from temporary to permanent - is a key demand of teacher unions.

2.3.4   Ratios

Based on these data, a number of ratios can be defined.
  • Pupils per Teacher: The lowest number of pupils per teacher is in private TEEs, where this numbers only 4. The highest is in public EL, where this numbers 10.
  • Pupils per School: Private TEEs have the lowest number of pupils per school unit at an average of 64 pupils enrolled. Public TEEs, in contrast, have the highest enrolment per unit, at 231 pupils per school.
The lowest number of teachers per school is in private TEEs, whereas the highest number is in public TEEs. The relatively low number of teachers per EL (public and private) may reflect the geographically disbursed number of ELs in villages and rural areas of Greece, where population density is much lower.
2004-2005 Public EL Private EL Public TEE Private TEE Average
Pupils per Teacher 9.66 8.39 6.66 4.00 8.31
Pupils per School 178.70 158.44 231.35 63.99 186.53
Teachers per School 18.50 18.87 34.72 16.01 22.44

2.3.5   Post-secondary, Non-tertiary Education

There are approximately 30,000 students studying in 116 public Vocational Training Institutes (IEKs) every year, with a further 19,000 in 51 private IEKs. Some 145 degree courses are accredited by the Organisation for Vocational Education and Training (OEEK). The distribution of IEKs is:
REGIONS Public Private Total Public % Private %
Attica 28 23 51 55% 45%
Central Macedonia 20 13 33 61% 39%
Eastern Macedonia & Thrace 9 0 9 100% 0%
Western Macedonia 5 0 5 100% 0%
Epirus 5 1 6 83% 17%
Thessaly 8 5 13 62% 38%
Central Hellas 7 0 7 100% 0%
Western Hellas 7 4 11 64% 36%
Peloponnese 6 2 8 75% 25%
Crete 7 2 9 78% 22%
Northern Aegean 4 1 5 80% 20%
Southern Aegean 6 0 6 100% 0%
Ionian Islands 4 0 4 100% 0%
Total 116 51 167 69% 31%

OEEK, quoted in Eurybase: The Educational System of Greece, 2006

This distribution illustrates the role of public VET institutions in serving the wider public good of the country. Private IEKs are concentrated in areas with major urban centres, notably Attica and Central Macedonia (which include Athens and Thessaloniki, respectively). In sparsely-populated, rural regions there are few or no IEKs in operation.

2.3.6   Tertiary Vocational Education

Tertiary education is divided between Universities (AEI) and Technical Education Institutes (TEI). There are 15 TEI and ASPAITE, the Higher School for Teachers of Technological Education. The TEI offer 95 specialisations in seven major fields:
  • Graphic arts and artistic studies
  • Administration and economics
  • Health and welfare occupations
  • Technological applications
  • Food and nutrition technology
  • Agronomy technology
  • Music technology.
The 2002-2003 academic year had the following enrolment figures and locations:
Institution Location # Study Fields Annual Intake
TEI Athens Athens 32 5,005
TEI Pireaus Pireaus 9 1,765
TEI Thessaloniki Thessaloniki 20 3,750

Kilkis 1 180

Mouthania 1 180
TEI Larissa Larissa 13 3,676

Karditsa 2 460
Institution Location # Study Fields Annual Intake
TEI Patras Patras 11 2,665
TEI Crete Heraklio 11 2,770

Chania 2 450

Rhethymno 1 120

Siteia 1 140
TEI Kavalas Kavala 7 2,130

Drama 1 210
TEI Western Macedonia Kozani 8 2,530

Kastoria 2 650

Florina 3 1,000
TEI Halkidas Halkida 5 1,670
TEI Messolonghi Messolonghi 6 1,960
TEI Serres Serres 6 1,920
TEI Kalamata Kalamata 6 1,880
TEI Lamia Lamia 5 1,270

Amfissa 1 280

Karpenisi 1 250
TEI Epeirus Arta 5 1,210

Ioannina 3 690

Preveza 2 480

Igoumenitsa 3 710

Argostoli 1 240

Lixouri 1 140
ASPAITE Athens 4 340
Schools of Tourism Professions Rhodes 1 60

Aghios Nikolaos 1 100

Total 40,881

MNERA, 2006

An addition TEI (Ionian Islands) was launched by amalgamating some units, and by 2005 enrolment reached per unit was as follows:
TEI 2005 Annual Intake
Athens 4,305
Thessaloniki 3,710
Kavala 2,360
Kalamata 1,950
Crete 3,370
Lamia 1,780
Larissa 4,230
Messolongi 2,115
Patras 3,085
Pireaus 1,505
Serres 1,785
Halkidas 1,845
Epeirus 2,890
Western Macedonia 4,265
Ioanian Islands 1,115
Total 40,690
MNERA, 2006

Total enrolment and distribution of teaching staff and administrators was:
Academic year Students Graduates Tenured Faculty Contract Faculty Administrative & auxiliary staff
2002-2003 192,504 12,388 2,679 8,740 1,806
2003-2004 203,509 12,356 4,000 7,950 N/A

MNERA, quoted in Eurybase: The Educational System of Greece, 2006

2.3.7   Tertiary University Education

There are 22 accredited, public universities in Greece, including Polytechnics, the School of Fine Arts and the Hellenic Open University (EAP). A new institution, the International University of Greece (DIPAE), is being founded in Thessaloniki, with the mission of providing higher education to foreigners interested in studying in Greece. There are also a number of private universities, offering a variety of degree studies, usually in the field of business management. These include the Athens Laboratory of Business Administration (ALBA), an instititution established with the support of the Society of Greek Industrialists (SEV) and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Other institutions provide, under license, degrees from foreign universities, such as the University of Indianapolis, Deree, and others. These degrees are not recognised or accredited by the Greek government. The accredited, public universities are:
  • University of Athens
  • National Technical University of Athens
  • Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki
  • Athens University of Economics and Business
  • Agricultural University of Athens
  • School of Fine Arts
  • Panteio University of Social and Political Studies
  • University of Pireaus
  • University of Macedonia
  • University of Patras
  • University of Ioannina
  • Democritus University of Thrace
  • University of Crete
  • Technical University of Crete
  • University of the Aegean
  • Ionian University
  • University of Thessaly
  • Harokopeio University
  • University of the Peloponnese
  • University of West Macedonia
  • Hellenic Open University
The permanent staff members reached 33,835 in the 2003-2004 academic year:
Academic Faculty Technical/Lab Staff Administrative Staff
Year Tenured Other Tenured Other Tenured Other Total
1996-97 9,587 7,593 2,216 2,202 3,351 2,360 27,309
1997-98 9,794 7,999 2,200 2,176 3,885 2,713 28,767
1998-99 10,038 8,260 1,994 1,937 3,719 2,603 28,551
1999-00 10,459 8,027 1,949 1,923 <