Greek aca­demics thrive in US

Pro­por­tion­ally speak­ing, Greece is world’s 2nd largest ex­porter to Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY APOS­TO­LOS LAKASAS

A grow­ing num­ber of fig­ures among the aca­demic com­mu­nity’s elite in the United States re­ceived their un­der­grad­u­ate de­grees in Greece, which, pro­por­tion­ally speak­ing, ranks sec­ond in the world in terms of the num­ber of aca­demics it has ex­ported to top Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties. It is out­ranked only by Is­rael, which has a par­tic­u­larly strong pres­ence in the ar­eas of re­search and tech­nol­ogy.

The find­ing comes from a study con­ducted by Tolga Yuret, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics at the Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity of Is­tan­bul, who col­lected in­for­ma­tion about where 14,310 pro­fes­sors at 48 top Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties ob­tained their de­grees. Ac­cord­ing to the study, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of In­for­met­rics, in pro­por­tion to its pop­u­la­tion, Greece as a coun­try ranks sec­ond only to Is­rael in terms of the aca­demics it has ex­ported to the US.

Yuret found that 149 Greek aca­demics work at the 48 Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties that were stud­ied, com­pris­ing a ra­tio of 13.6 per mil­lion of the Greek pop­u­la­tion. Is­rael came first with 24.22 pro­fes­sors per mil­lion of its pop­u­la­tion and Canada third with 10.75 per mil­lion (382 aca­demics).

Based on the above cal­cu­la­tion, Greece ranks first among the Euro­pean coun­tries in­cluded in the study, which in­clude the UK, Rus­sia, Ger­many, Italy, France, Bel­gium, Switzer­land, Nor­way, Aus­tria, Spain, Por­tu­gal and oth­ers.

What is even more strik­ing about the study’s find­ings is that Greece also ranks very high in terms of ab­so­lute num­bers, com­ing ninth with 149 aca­demics. In­dia is in first place with 604 aca­demics at the top 48 US uni­ver­si­ties, fol­lowed by China with 515 and the UK with 470. Next is Canada, then Rus­sia, Ger­many, Is­rael and Tai­wan, with Italy trail­ing Greece in 10th place.

“I firmly be­lieve that ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in Greece is ex­tremely high-cal­iber and aims not just at am­ply ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents at ev­ery level but is also clearly geared to­ward the pro­duc­tion of sci- ence via ba­sic and ap­plied re­search in a broad spec­trum of fields,” Thanos Di­mopou­los, a med­i­cal pro­fes­sor and the rec­tor at Athens Univer­sity, told Kathimerini in re­gard to the study.

Di­mopou­los went on to point out that, bear­ing in mind the 16 aca­demic fields of study and 45 coun­tries ex­am­ined for the study, more pro­fes­sors at the US in­sti­tu­tions had de­grees from a Greek univer­sity than from South Amer­ica, the African con­ti­nent and even Aus­tralia and New Zealand to­gether. Greece also ex­cels in com­par­i­son to Euro­pean coun­tries with sim­i­lar eco­nomic and so­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics, pro­duc­ing, for in­stance, eight times more aca­demics than Por­tu­gal.

“This very in­ter­est­ing study shows that more than 1 per­cent of reg­u­lar pro­fes­sors at the top Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties are Greeks who got their de­grees in Greece,” said John P.A. Ioannidis, pro­fes­sor of medicine at Stan­ford Univer- sity. “That would have been above 2 per­cent if it in­cluded Greeks born in Greece who were ed­u­cated abroad, as well as sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Greeks. The study also does not in­clude the ar­eas of medicine and bi­ol­ogy, where the Greek pres­ence is even stronger.”

Ioannidis stressed that the ar­eas in which Greeks tend to ex­cel world­wide are in cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies needed for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

“The com­par­i­son with Is­rael, which is the only coun­try that ri­vals us in terms of the rel­a­tive ex­port of top sci­en­tists to the US, is in­ter­est­ing. The per­cent­age of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct in­vested in re­search and tech­nol­ogy is al­most five time higher in Is­rael than it is in Greece, and the in­vest­ment is much fairer and more strate­gic. Is­rael has four uni­ver­si­ties among the world’s top 100, while in Greece rec­tors cel­e­brate if their univer­sity makes it in the top 500,” added Ioannidis.

“The pro­fes­sors in the study grad­u­ated in Greece mainly be­tween 1970 and 2000. I’m afraid that we may not see the same per­for­mance among grad­u­ates from the past decade or so. For ex­am­ple, Greece has pro­duced very few stud­ies that have had a wide im­pact in the past few years. Not a sin­gle pa­per from Greece made it into the top 750 cited pa­pers, ac­cord­ing to data from the Sco­pus data­base for 2015 through Septem­ber 2017,” he said.

The pres­ence of so many Greek aca­demics at top-flight Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties is proof that there are pock­ets of ex­cel­lence in this coun­try. How­ever, Ioannidis stressed, “this huge pool of lead­ing aca­demics is largely cut off from Greece. They run into se­ri­ous ob­sta­cles when­ever they try to con­trib­ute to the coun­try. I don’t know whether we should be pleased at hav­ing so many won­der­ful sci­en­tists or sad at hav­ing chased them away.”

Stu­dents walk past Har­vard Law School. Greece has a pro­por­tion­ately high num­ber of aca­demics at top US uni­ver­si­ties.

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