Global health education in Greece under threat of commodification: Peoples Dispatch

Two of the last current tuition-free master’s programs at the Faculty of Medicine of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki – public health and health policy, and primary health care – still face serious obstacles. Their faculty are under constant pressure to cancel courses altogether or charge tuition fees to support them financially.

Recently, professors and students have found themselves locked out of the classrooms they have been using regularly for their courses. The doors were locked before their lectures, and the locks were replaced without prior notice. For this reason, the course had to be temporarily suspended.

According to early reports, the locks were changed because the dean of the medical school decided that the newly renovated classrooms would be used by students enrolled in coursework. Apparently, the dean said that at the time because the money raised through tuition was used to renovate classrooms, and non-paying students should not use it because they did not contribute to that type of fundraising.

The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Faculty Union (ESDEP) denounced the events shortly after they occurred. After their statements, the dean changed his approach, arguing that access to the rooms is restricted for biohealth and safety reasons rather than financial reasons. However, the fact remains that the renovated lecture halls are now used only by programs that require tuition fees, with the exception of selectively only free programs.

Aristotle University is a public university operating in a country whose constitution guarantees free higher education for all. Classrooms that are now out of reach of non-tuition paying students have been used for teaching purposes for more than 30 years. The decision to exclude these programs from lecture halls restricts access to public infrastructure for students unable to cover tuition fees, and for faculty who believe strongly that education is a public good rather than a commodity.

This represents a continuation of the decades-long trend of commodifying health education and medicine. The same trend can also be traced by the rapid expansion of master’s programs that require high tuition fees. This trend has had widespread implications globally, including in Greece, where prospective students are often selected based on their ability to cover tuition fees rather than on their merits.

Public health, health policy, and primary health care programs remain among the few higher education programs that have bucked this trend. Not only does it ensure access to students from different backgrounds, but it is also a space in which future health workers learn about the political aspects of health, the social determinants of health, and the importance of public health care. Thus, their targeting aims not only to limit access to people of different categories, but also to reshape the landscape of public health policy in Greece in the long term.

People’s health dispatch It is a fortnightly newsletter published by a publishing house People’s Health Movement And the dispatch peoples. For more articles and to subscribe to the People Health Dispatch, click here over here.

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