Study abroad in Greece
calendar_month 01 Mar 2011, 00:00
Uniquely positioned between east and west, and even north and south, Greece is more famous for its tourist resorts and ancient history than as a destination for international students to study abroad. But, as Ross Geraghty finds out, there is far more to this small country then meets the eye and the education there is starting to become noticed by students from overseas.
Country overview
Greece is a country in a unique position, located at the apex of two great continents- Europe and Asia -' and not too distant from North Africa. It's also becoming a popular place to study abroad. Extending from the southern Balkans out into the Mediterranean Sea, with Turkey bordering to the east, Greece is a fascinating place in international study terms with an extremely long history.

The top universities in Greece tend to be located in Athens or Thessalonik. The University of Athens was ranked =200 in the THE-QS World University Rankings 2008. The country's influence, on the modern Western world at least, is unparalleled. Without the philosophy, culture and language of Ancient Greece the Roman Empire may not have come about, the languages of the world and even the nature of our social, moral and political structures would be radically different. Concepts of individualism, freedom, democracy and government all have their roots with the great thinkers of Ancient Greece.

Modern Greece bears the hallmarks of the ancient and modern vying for prominence. Beneath the Acropolis, the internationally renowned building that helps dominate the Athens skyline, lies one of the busiest and most polluted cities in Europe. Cars, motorbikes and trucks weave through streets featuring medieval churches and buildings, cafes and restaurants. Of all the cities in the world, Athens is one of the most dominant capitals, in the sense that a high 40% of all Greeks live there (London, by comparison, is home to a mere 15% of Brits).

Greece is also rightly famous as a holiday destination. Golden beaches, island hopping and city breaks are some of the most famous things to do, from partying in Crete and Corfu to visiting the ruins and artefacts of the ancient world. It is a warm and welcoming country with an outward looking mentality, and a high level of English spoken, particularly in the cities.
Education overview
Tertiary Education is divided into University Education, and Higher Technological Education, provided by Technological Educational Institutes (TEIs). The Hellenic Open University was also established in 1998 for distance-learning for people of all ages and professions. Vocational and special education is also provided at Higher Education Institutes.

University Education: This is designed towards a high level of theoretical and all-round training principally with a scientific focus. There are 20 universities in Greece located in various towns and, like most Western universities, these consist of faculties, which are subdivided into departments and individual units. One of the key differences between Greek and most other European university systems, Greek university degrees last four years - except for certain faculties, usually science courses, where courses can last five or six years. The academic year consists of two semesters with 13 full weeks of tuition and three weeks of examinations. The universities award certificates in the following fields:

- Humanities, law and social sciences

- Sciences

- Health sciences

- Technological sciences

- Economic and management sciences

Higher Technological Education: Higher Technological Education courses are more practical than universities. There are 14 TEIs in Greece located in various towns. Higher Technological Education also includes ASPAITE, (the Higher School of Pedagogical and Technical Education). This covers a wide range of teacher education. Studies last four years for a total of eight semesters, including tuition periods and a final semester for a dissertation. During this final semester students may also practice and be assessed on their chosen profession on a trial basis. On completion students are awarded a degree. The TEIs cover a total of 81 specializations in the following fields:

- Graphic arts and art studies

- Management and economics

- Health and caring professions

- Applied technology

- Food technology and nutrition

- Agricultural technology

- Music technology.

Institutes of Tertiary Education are fully self-governing under the supervision of the State, and are financed by the State. Educational programs are mainly offered in Greek. However, specialized study programs at undergraduate and postgraduate level are offered in foreign languages - notably English. Tuition is generally free of charge but there are some exceptions, mainly in the case of certain post-graduate programs and studies at the Hellenic Open University.
Entry Requirements
Students who have received their secondary education abroad may be admitted on the basis of foreign leaving certificate grades, depending on the number of places reserved for international students by the Greek Universities and on the student's proficiency in Greek. This is certified via special examinations organized by the Universities of Athens and Thessaloniki. EU citizens can study at the TEIs free of charge but they must meet certain financial requirements if they wish to study at Greek universities.
Postgraduate studies
Postgraduate courses, which last at least one year, allow students to specialize in certain fields and lead to the award of a postgraduate diploma. Greek universities offer a total of 213 postgraduate courses, open to university and TEI graduates. Candidates are chosen on the basis of a selection process or their (oral and/or written) examination results. Candidates must also know at least one foreign language.

Pros and Cons
Wide range of vocational and non-vocational courses Tuition is generally free of charge and there is a good quality of education Fascinating and varied culture, climate and geography Greek is the most common language of instruction (English is becoming more common in specialized courses) A huge percentage of Greeks leave the country to undertake further and postgraduate education overseas, especially in the UK Greek universities are not renowned for their diversity

International student accommodation
Some institutions do not offer any student accommodation or other residential facilities and, though National Students Hostels, which appear to be similar to Halls of Residence in other countries, do exist there is only a limited number of places availablein them. Rooms and apartments can be rented at private buildings throughout Athens and Thessaloniki and the cost of renting a one-room apartment is approximately 270 per month. It is estimated by university websites that the cost of living in Athens is approximately 700per month for all expenses.

Because of its status as a tourist destination, it's worth looking into long-term flatshare options, as this will keep you away from inflated prices in the expensive summer season. It is also possible to find a host family, which could be an amazing way to get to learn about Greek culture, family structure, history and, of course, the language.


A Mediterranean country, Greece is one of the sunniest and most temperate places anywhere, with an estimated 3,000 hours of sunshine every year. The summer can be unbelievably hot. Winters are generally mild with a welcome rainy period between November and February. With a lot of coastline for such a small country,Greececan getquite humid and the citiesquite sticky for much of the day.

Greece forms an irregular-shaped peninsula in the Mediterranean with two additional large peninsulas projecting from it: the Chalcidice and the Peloponnese. The Greek Islands are generally subdivided into two groups, according to location: the Lonian Islands (including Corfu, Cephalonia, and Leucas) west of the mainland and the Aegean Islands (including Euboea, Samos, Chios, Lesbos, and Crete) to the east and south. North-central Greece, Epirus, and western Macedonia (an area of Greece, not to be confused with the Balkan country of the same name) are all mountainous. The main chain of the Pindus Mountains extends from northwest Greece to the Peloponnese. Mount Olympus, rising to 9,570 ft (2,909 m), is the highest point in the country.
Greece is not a huge country and, with a population of just over 10million, there is a lot of countryside. Transport is generally pretty good, particularly on the mainland, though the islands are less well equipped and geared more towards tourist travel or smaller roads for the locals.

Athens International Airport (ATH) handles most international flights to Greece and is located 25km from the city, though there is a 24-hour bus service into the centre. There are airports on some of the larger islands too as well as Thessaloniki. The national airline, Olympic Airlines, also connects Athens to all airports within Greece.

Taxis are available to/from the airports and are very reasonable, though between 1am and 6am when there is an additional charge and double fares between 2am-4am. Taxis run on a share basis, so do not be surprised if the taxi picks up other passengers for the journey!

There is a reasonable rail system on the Peloponnese Peninsula (the mainland) but no rail service on the Greek Islands. If you are travelling by train, try to book your seat a few days in advance and ask for a free seat reservation. Do not purchase your ticket on the train as you will be charged 50% extra on the price charged at stations. Travelling north, there are regular daily trains between Athens and the other major towns and cities. Students may be entitled to a 25% reduction in the price of domestic rail fares.

For driving, Greece has a good road network in general of mostly paved roads. Traffic, as with most of mainland Europe, drives on the right. Athens to Thessaloniki is 511km; to Corinth 85km; to Delphi 165km. Traffic in Athens can be described as somewhere between a nightmare and a very bad dream. Avoid it if you can.

Buses link Athens and all mainland towns. Service on the islands depends on demand, and timetables should be checked carefully. Fares are low. Buses are generally cheaper than the train and you won't normally have to book in advance unless it is high season.
ItemPrice (Euro)
litre of petrol1.40
souvenir t-shirt10.00
can of soft drink0.80
litre of bottled water1.00
litre of milk1.40
slice of pizza2.00
bottle of Peroni2.00
CD Euro15.00
basic 'Serie A' football ticket15.00
*WorldGuide Index from Lonely Planet

Useful info
Dialing code: 39 Currency: Euro (') Time zone: GMT/UTC +1 (+2 in summer) (Central European Time)

Famous Greeks
Any of a number of brilliant ancient philosophers: Socrates, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Heraclitus, Epicurus

Any of a number of brilliant ancient writers: Aesop, Aristophanes, Euripides, Homer,

Any of a number of brilliant ancient scientists: Pythagoras, Archimedes, Parmenides, Euclid,

Others Alexander the Great, Easyjet creator Stelios Haji-Ioannou (of Cypriot descent), Prince Phillip (Queen Elizabeth of England's husband), Singer Demis Roussos, musician Vangelis, shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, actress Olympia Dukakis.