My colleague and dear friend Mathios (Matthew, Matt) Karlaftis suddenly passed away on 4 June 2014 just before the opening of a conference in Kos, which he organized along with other professors of my School. Yesterday (7 June) I said a last goodbye to him. By a strange quirk of fate, the final meeting of the review committee for his promotion to the rank of full professor had been scheduled for the day before (6 June). I was a member of this committee, which convened according to the schedule and unanimously decided that he deserved the promotion. Instead of a tribute, here is what I said in the meeting of the review committee (which was international and thus the language was English).
When you have dedicated most part of your professional life (and not only) to this university in this country you may find it quite interesting to hear the (former) prime minister of the country (the leader of a government which, among other heroic deeds, made a “reform” in universities), when talking to the parliament, to ascertain that the Greek university and its people are incompetent and corrupt. It is even more interesting to see an emerging consensus among prime ministers, ministers of education, other politicians and journalists, regarding the necessity to depreciate the Greek university.
Indeed, this depreciation was a presupposition to tear down the democratic organization of the university, in a country which is the cradle of democracy, and replace it with an unprecedented oligarchic system controlled by the political establishment. Some in the academic establishment also contributed to such depreciation and supported the government’s “reform”, with the apparent aim to gain power in the redistributed power game. In our university very few gave their support to the government publicly; however there were many more, particularly from a specific group, from which I divorced as soon as I understood the majority stance with respect to this “reform”.
In the last two years our university has had to struggle to survive the “reform”, accompanied by huge job cuts, in order to continue to operate as it did before, for the benefit of our students and our country.
It seems we did it quite well and this is also reflected in our international rankings. For second year in a series, the QS World University Rankings gives our school, the School of Civil Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) very good rankings: 28th in the world and 7th in Europe among civil engineering schools. Europe’s top thirteen civil engineering schools that rank among the top-50 of the world are shown in the figure below. Interestingly, a more detailed investigation reveals that among these thirteen only the NTUA and Karlsruhe schools do not have tuition fees; all others do.