On Tuesday, 23 January 2024, in the presence of HE the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, academics from NKUA and beyond filled the Great Hall of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens to celebrate the inaugural event for the assumption of office by the new Rectorial Authorities of the University.
The Rector of NKUA, Professor Gerasimos Siasos, delivered the keynote speech. Next followed addresses by the Vice-President of the NKUA’s Administration Council, Professor Nikolaos Thomaidis and the Members of the NKUA’s Administration Council, Professors Spyros Vlachopoulos, Dimitrios Kenourgios, Athanasia Smirniotou, and Achilleas Chaldaeakes. The event closed with a video on the history of NKUA and a short musical programme performed by students of the Department of Music Studies of the NKUA’s School of Philosophy.
In his speech, the Rector of NKUA, Professor Gerasimos Siasos, mentioned, among other things, the following: ‘Today, in the presence of the Head of State, the new administration of NKUA—the Rectorial Authorities, the Administration Council, and the Senate—commit ourselves to continue contributing towards the decisive role of our University to the educational excellence of our Nation. We commit ourselves to a modern and independent public University, that is sensitive to the challenges and shocks faced by modern society, opening up broad horizons while remaining true to tradition, where meritocracy, the free flow of ideas, extroversion, solidarity, team spirit, and inclusion will always be present. All of the above show our respect in practice to the principles and values that lie in the core of Greek civilization’.
At the end of his speech, the Rector, addressing the members of the NKUA’s academic community, said: ‘We, the new Administration, invite all of you to work hard with us for the NKUA of tomorrow, which will play a leading role in education, research, and innovation and will contribute to the prosperity and progress of the country. An Institution that will provide high-level services to the Greek people and represent as a worthy ambassador modern Greece to the world. A beacon of culture and values in our society and a tree of everlasting knowledge’.
Then the Vice-President of the NKUA’s Administration Council, Professor Nikolaos Thomaidis, mentioned in his address, among other things, that ‘May 3, 1837, and January 23, 2024, are two dates linked by a long invisible thread that spans all periods of Modern Hellenism, from the Modern Greek Enlightenment and the preparation of the Revolution through to the present day—with the University of Athens’ new goals, i.e., the development of the academic environment for the sake of its students and researchers, inclusion, and adaptation to a new era of high digital demands. And we will make it! After all, NKUA has always depended on its people’s dedication, hard work, and solid scientific background! We promise now to maintain our commitment, hard work, unity, and inclusivity in the pursuit of a new NKUA—one fit for the 21st century ’.
Next, the Member of the NKUA’s Administration Council, Professor Spyros Vlachopoulos, in his address, noted that ‘We feel proud to serve NKUA, a University inextricably linked with our nation. It is a common debate to determine whether Greek civilization rests on Ancient Greece or Orthodox Christianity. The answer lies within this room, the Ceremonial Hall of our University. On my right, wise Athena, the emblem of our University. On my left, the Three Hierarchs. And a final remark. Nowadays, unfortunately, there is a growing number of enemies of Democracy who either overtly or covertly embrace National Socialism while pretending to commit to patriotism. Once again, the answer lies in this Hall. On New Year’s Day 1942, German soldiers-conquerors of Athens transformed this Hall into a venue for entertainment and destroyed the statues! LET US NOT FORGET ALL THESE THINGS! That is why our University will not only continue to cultivate knowledge, it will also continue to defend Democracy and the Rule of Law’.
In his address, the Member of the NKUA’s Administration Council, Professor Dimitrios Kenourgios, highlighted the issue of bureaucracy, which continues to be one of the most crucial challenges facing the public University in particular and public administration in general. From a lengthy accreditation and evaluation process to the delayed execution of routine administrative tasks, bureaucracy seriously impacts ‘academic health’, threatening to become the greatest enemy of academic creativity, distracting from the new challenges of the 21st century, such as climate crisis and artificial intelligence, and undermining the strategic goals of extroversion, internationalization, and the promotion of innovation, entrepreneurship, and NKUA’s impact on society and the economy. He also noted that the new Administration of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens is fully aware of this issue and—to the greatest extent possible—, in full cooperation with the State and with attention to institutional legitimacy, will contribute to the adoption of a progressive approach, focusing on the simplification, rationalization, and modernization of procedures, as well as the adoption of digital technologies and solutions.
Then, the Member of the NKUA’s Administration Council Professor Athanasia Smirniotou, addressed the audience, mentioning, among other things that ‘It is our will, in addition to the imperative and crucial academic and student affairs, to give priority to infrastructure projects, especially those related to students and their everyday life. According to this viewpoint, our goals include enhancing the working environments for students, assisting them with their psychological integration, providing individual or family counselling, maximizing the assistance provided by the Academic and Student Welfare infrastructure, and much more. However, such a policy is concerned not only with knowledge and scientific training/specialization but also with the formation and integration of students’ personalities, the cultivation of intellect, acceptance, and cooperation, and the improvement of self-image and self-esteem through their participation in social, cultural, and sporting activities, among other things. The new Administration of NKUA aims to foster effective communication and engagement among the members of its academic community’.
Finally, the Member of the NKUA’s Administration Council Professor Achilleas Chaldaeakes, stressed, among other things, the following: ‘The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens must, and will, articulate urbi et orbi its academic testimony. It must continue to exhibit dynamic extroversion, trust in the role of the academic teacher, and faith in the Greek public University. The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens must, and will, cherish in turn, especially to the inhabitants of the city that houses it, the inhabitants of Athens, it must cherish in turn the light breeze and life-giving energy of the letters and arts it serves and cultivates for a long time now. As a cultural heir of a long domestic diachrony that places humans at the centre of interest, our academic community must attempt to link the numerous pursuits and innovative scientific activities of its members with the economy in an attempt to capitalize on culture, an attempt that is very productive, especially in environments with a high cultural index, such as that of Athens. In this direction, we will work, to the best of our ability, in the coming period unceasingly and indefatigably.’
The event took place in the presence of HE the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Members of the NKUA’s Administration Council, the Vice-Rectors, the Members of the Senate, the Deans, the Chairs of the Departments, the former Rectors, Michalis Stathopoulos, Petros Gemtos, Georgios Babiniotis, Christos Kittas, Dimosthenis Asimakopoulos, and Theodosis Pelegrinis, former Vice-Rectors, and Emeritus Professors. Also present at the event were: the former Prime Minister, Mr Antonis Samaras, the former Prime Minister, Professor Emeritus, Lucas Papademos, the representative of the Prime Minister, Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, Mr Kyriakos Pierrakakis, the representative of the President of the Hellenic Parliament, 1st Deputy Speaker, Mr Giannis Plakiotakis, the representative of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan Theodoretos of Laodicea, the representative of His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Right Reverend Bishop Chrysostomos of Euripus, benefactors and donors of the University, the representative of the President of SYRIZA, Member of Parliament, Mr Dionysis Kalamatianos, the representative of the President of PASOK – Movement for Change, Member of Parliament, Mr Panagiotis Doudonis, the representative of the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece, Professor Aphrodite Ktena, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr Kostis Hatzidakis, the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Mr Christos Staikouras, the Minister of the Environment and Energy, Mr Theodoros Skylakakis, the Minister of Labour and Social Security, Ms Domna Michailidou, the Minister of Social Cohesion and Family, Ms Sofia Zacharaki, the Minister of Tourism, Ms Olga Kefalogianni, the Minister of State, Mr Makis Voridis, the Alternate Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr Nikos Papathanasis, the Deputy Ministers of Education, Religious Affairs, and Sports, Mses Zetta Makri and Ioanna Litrivi, the Deputy Ministers of Health, Messrs Dimitrios Vartzopoulos and Marios Themistocleous, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Georgios Kotsiras, the Deputy Ministers of Development, Mr Maximos Senetakis and Ms Anna-Mani Papadimitriou, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security, Mr Vasilis Spanakis, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr Giannis Bougas, the Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Food, Mr Dionysis Stamenitis, the Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister and Government Spokesperson, Mr Pavlos Marinakis, the Vice-Presidents of the Hellenic Government, Deputy Speakers, Mr Thanasis Bouras and Ms Olga Gerovasili, the Dean of the Hellenic Parliament, Mr Vasilis Ypsilantis, the Members of the Hellenic Parliament, Mr Stavros Kalafatis, Mr Giannis Adrianos, Ms Dionysia Avgerinopoulou, Mr Apostolos Vesyropoulos, Mr Kostas Vlasis, Mr Giorgos Vrettakos, Mr Ioannis Giatsios, Mr Vasilis Giogakas, Mr Kostas Gioulekas, Mr Thanasis Kavvadas, Mr Christos Kapetanos, Ms Konstantina Karabatsoli, Mr Michalis Katrinis, Mr Andreas Katsaniotis, Mr Kostas Katsafados, Mr Christos Kellas, Mr Emmanouil Konsolas, Mr Michalis Livanos, Ms Athina Linou, Mr Giannis Loverdos, Ms Katerina Papakosta, Mr Giannis Paschalidis, Ms Zoe Rapti, Mr Marios Salmas, Mr Giorgos Stylios, Mr Lazaros Tsavdaridis, Mr Kostas Tsiaras, Mr Maximos Charakopoulos, and Mr Miltiadis Chrysomallis. Also gracing the event with their presence were the President of the State of Council, Ms Evangelia Nika, the President of the Supreme Court of Greece, Ms Ioanna Klapa, the representative of the General Commissioner of State, the Commissioner of State for Administrative Justice, Ms Dimitra Galani, the President of the Legal Council of the State, Ms Niki Marioli, the Rector of the National Technical University of Athens, Professor Ioannis Chatzigeorgiou, the Rector of the Agricultural University of Athens, Professor Spyros Kintzios, the Rector of Athens University of Economics and Business, Professor Dimitris Bourantonis, the Rector of the University of Piraeus, Professor Michail Sfakianakis, the Rector of Athens School of Fine Arts, Professor Erato Chatzisavva, the Rector of the University of Ioannina, Professor Anna Batistatou, the Rector of the University of Thessaly, Professor Charalambos Billinis, the Rector of Harokopio University of Athens, Professor Maria Nikolaidi, the Rector of the University of West Attica, Professor Panagiotis Kaldis, the Secretary General of the Academy of Athens, Professor Emeritus Christos Zerefos and Members of the Academy of Athens, the former Vice-President of the Hellenic Government and former Minister, Professor Evaggelos Venizelos, the President of the Body of Emeritus Professors of NKUA, Ms Stella Priovolou, the representative of the Governor of the Attica Region, Regional Governor of the Northern Sector of Athens, Ms Loukia Kefalogianni, HE the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Andreas Kildl, HE the Ambassador of the United Kingdom, Mr Matthew Lodge, the representative of the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Syria, Secretary of the Embassy, Mr Ghadir Salman, the representative of the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus, Cultural Attaché, Mr Loucas Xenophontos, the representative of the Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff, Lieutenant General Spyridon Alfantakis, Army Inspector General, the representative of the Chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff, Commander Dimitrios Tzafos, the representative of the Chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff, Commander (Ι) Marios Bantouvas, the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Hellenic Republic, Ambassador a.h., Ms Aliki Chatzi, the Secretary General for Higher Education, Professor Odysseus Zoras, the Secretary General for Vocational Education, Training, and Lifelong Learning, Mr Giorgos Voutsinos, the Secretary General for Health Services, Ms Lilian Vildiridi, the Secretary General for Public Health, Ms Fofo Kalyva, the Secretary General for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy, Mr Giannis Chrysoulakis, representatives from the business community and the media, the Legal Advisor of the State, Head of the NKUA’s Legal Advisor’s Office, Mr Dimitrios Katopodis, and the Director of the Attica Traffic Police, Brigadier Christos Papafilippou.
Below is the speech delivered by the Rector of NKUA, Professor Gerasimos Siasos.
‘Your Excellency, the President of the Hellenic Republic,
It is with great honour that we welcome you today to the inaugural event for the assumption of office by the new Rectorial Authorities of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the largest and most historic Higher Educational Institution in Greece. We feel proud that the first citizen of our country, the President of the Hellenic Republic, is a graduate of our University.
The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens was founded in 1837, almost in parallel with the modern Greek State, and has since served as the main Institution promoting scientific knowledge in our country.
After nearly two centuries of active participation in our country’s most significant historical events, it has established a worldwide reputation among the world’s most prestigious Institutions. During its two-hundred-year history, it educated hundreds of thousands of Greek citizens, thus contributing to their upward social mobility and improving our country’s social stratification, particularly after the War.
Our University admitted the first female students in our country, broadening the scope of education to encompass the other “half of the sky” and promoting women’s equality and empowerment.
The notion of contemporary science and scientific fields appeared for the first time in our country at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, which, by its educational mission, has become an engine of cultural development and education.
Today, NKUA is a dynamic research and education community that leads the way in Southeastern Europe according to international University rankings. We attribute these top positions to the support of the Greek society and the Greek State, but mainly to the trailblazers of teaching and research, our highly-qualified and internationally renowned academics, and our excellent student community.
Teachers, in the true sense of the word, our academics, have opened up, especially in recent years, new pioneering scientific fields and have created job prospects in new, challenging directions, contributing to our country’s overall technological and economic development. Their creative zeal, in conjunction with significant international collaborations, the operation of organized exchange programmes, and bilateral agreements with educational and research Institutions worldwide, distinguishes us as a highly extroverted public Higher Educational Institution. Our active involvement in the European exchange programme Erasmus as well as the European Civic University CIVIS, and, recently, the successful launch of two English-taught Undergraduate Programmes, one in the School of Philosophy and the other in the School of Medicine, have helped strengthen the position of our University on the global map of Higher Education. Equally important are the strong ties between NKUA and the outstanding Greek diaspora—one of the most vibrant aspects of Hellenism internationally.
In all the above achievements, the support of the Greek State over time has played an important role despite the difficulties, especially during the recent economic crisis. Given that over the past 14 years, there has been a significant reduction in State subsidies to NKUA, and in a direction inversely proportional to its scientific and educational contribution, the new Rectorial Authorities aim to secure extra financing from sources other than State support. In addition, retirements have resulted in a 25% reduction in the University’s personnel since 2010. It is critical to substitute for the 600 academic and administrative posts that our Institution has lost in the past 14 years to enable it to continue unhindered the provision of quality teaching and research services, matching in size the prestige and history of NKUA.
The new Administration of our University, in collaboration with the leadership of the Ministry of Education, is already implementing its strategic plan, which will propel our University into the next decade with more autonomy. This will go hand in hand with our internationalization policies, the launch of more Undergraduate and Postgraduate Programmes taught in languages other than Greek, the targeted use of our University’s assets, the support of spin-off companies operating within our Institution, and our recent initiative to establish branch campuses abroad.
Our primary goal is to assist our students and young scientists by offering them top-notch instruction, ideal circumstances for scientific progress, and a cutting-edge infrastructure. For only in an appropriate and contemporary atmosphere can pioneering knowledge and innovation be developed, resulting in riches for all: the students, the University, and the country itself.
With the participation of our academics in competitive national and international programmes and the provision of specialized services to the Government in areas like the economy, health, and education, our Institution maintains a continuous two-way relationship with the Greek State for the benefit of society at large. And it is precisely this long-standing relationship of our Institution with society that inspires and shapes young scientists with academic principles and social sensitivities. Of course, the courses in Humanities offered by the NKUA’s Schools and Departments play a crucial role in this respect.
Today, in the presence of the Head of State, the new administration of NKUA—the Rectorial Authorities, the Administration Council, and the Senate—commit ourselves to continue contributing towards the decisive role of our University to the educational excellence of our Nation. We commit ourselves to a modern and independent public University, that is sensitive to the challenges and shocks faced by modern society, opening up broad horizons while remaining true to tradition, where meritocracy, the free flow of ideas, extroversion, solidarity, team spirit, and inclusion will always be present. All of the above show our respect in practice to the principles and values that lie in the core of Greek civilization.
I would like to thank all my fellows—members of faculty, students, and administrative staff. We also thank all those who have come to honour us today: The former Prime Ministers, Messrs Antonis Samaras and Lucas Papademos, the representative of the Prime Minister, Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, Mr Kyriakos Pierrakakis, the representative of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, the representative of His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, the members of the Hellenic Government and the Hellenic Parliament, the representatives of the political parties, the benefactors and donors of our University, the former Rectors of NKUA and the Rectors of other Greek Higher Educational Institutions, the members of the Academy of Athens, the Presidents of the Supreme Courts of Justice, the representatives of the armed and security forces, the Ambassadors, the representatives from the business community and the media.
I dedicate this day to all those hundreds of friends who selflessly supported our vision for a democratic and extroverted University, to all of you who filled this historic hall today.
I dedicate this day to my family—my parents, my wife Eleni, and my two sons, a bright light in my life, Dimitris and Stavros.
I would like to thank the Members of the NKUA’s Administration Council, the prominent Professors Nikos Thomaidis, Spyros Vlachopoulos, Dimitris Kenourgios, Nasia Smirniotou, and Achilleas Chaldaeakes. Their feeling of duty and genuine enthusiasm for our University lead our Institution into the next day with vision and harmony.
I would also like to thank the acclaimed External Members of the Administration Council, who grace NKUA and offer it their invaluable services, namely the Professor at Yale University, USA, Vasilis Vasiliou, the Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Anastasios Germenis, the Honorary President of the Council of State, Irene Sharp, the President of the Technical Chamber of Greece, Georgios Stasinos, and the Executive Vice-President of the Hellenic Development Bank, Pantelis Tzortzakis.
I believe that Higher Education is not a place for controversy but rather one for convergence and consent. In all of the elective administrative posts I have had up to date, I have advocated for participation and commonly accepted solutions. I will do the same from my current position.
From the time I enrolled at the University of Athens’ School of Medicine until now that I serve as Rector of NKUA, this Institution has always represented effort, initiative, and commitment for me. I have always advocated for the acknowledgment of academic work generated by everyone, regardless of origin or socioeconomic standing, and, eventually, for everyone to be recognized on the basis of their own effort and commitment to excellence. I will continue to fight for these values: a public University based on Democracy, Meritocracy, Openness, Transparency, and Participation. Far away from shadows, nepotism, and closed groups.
Today, we, the new Administration, invite all of you to work hard with us for the NKUA of tomorrow, which will play a leading role in education, research, and innovation and will contribute to the prosperity and progress of the country. An Institution that will provide high-level services to the Greek people and represent as a worthy ambassador modern Greece to the world.
A beacon of culture and values in our society and a tree of everlasting knowledge.
Allow me, in closing, to paraphrase Pablo Neruda and recite a few lines from his ecumenical work, Canto General*:
“Here comes the tree, the tree whose roots are alive, it fed on knowledge…
and it extracted knowledge from the soil…
there were invisible flowers…
and sometimes they illuminated their petals, like planets…
And in the branches mankind harvested the hard corollas,
passed them from hand to hand and grew up to the stars.
The fist tree, the fire tree…
Guard the cycle of the dawn,
sustain the tree, the tree that grows in the middle of the earth to keep it growing.”
This tree of strength and knowledge, this NKUA we are committed to serve so that it keeps growing…
Thank you very much!’
See the video on the history of NKUA:
See the event on our YouTube channel:
See the photos: Assumption of office
*From the Canto General by Pablo Neruda. Translated by Jack Schmitt.