A veteran lecturer at the University of Essex has spoken of a former student who studied under him in the 1980’s, and other left-wing Greeks who read at the University, who now find themselves in senior positions in the Greek government.
After the recent elections placed the radical left-wing Marxist Syriza party in power for the first time, the focus of attention turned to its elected officials and cabinet members, many of whom are young and untested in national administration. One unusual pattern appears to be the prevalence of University of Essex alumni, which includes the new Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, the Governor of Athens Rena Dourou, member of parliament Fotini Vaki, and left-wing economist Sir Christopher Pissarides.
The Daily Telegraph reports the comments of Roy Bailey MBE, who has lectured in economics at Essex since the 1970s. Remarking that he was “bemused” by the sudden rise of his former student Varoufakis, who got a poor grade of a lower second for his undergraduate but was allowed to stay on to study for a PhD in the 1980’s was “always prepared to argue”.
Bailey said: “I wouldn’t say he was always scoring top marks… You wouldn’t say this is a stellar individual we should send to Harvard. But he shone when it came to independent thinking”.
The dean of the school of Social science said, despite the “post-Marxist” techniques taught at the institution the sudden proliferation of its graduates in the radical Greek left was nothing more than a coincidence, noting some 4,000 Greeks had studied there in the past 50 years.
Speaking of Dourou, the radical leftist governor of Athens, he said: “She was from the Left already and she would have responded well to the course. It was all about criticising modern society for its contradictions. She has re-imagined a Leftist vision for Greece and what she studied here probably helped her”.
The University of Essex is one of a number of British institutions founded during the mid and late 20th century to accommodate the growing number of people attending university after school, instead of going directly into the world of work and apprenticeships. It is today considered to be a world leader in social sciences.