E-entry University Submission (EEUS)
Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs

The Problem

According to the Greek Constitution, all Greek citizens are entitled to free and public education. The Greek educational system is mainly divided into three levels, namely primary, secondary and tertiary, with an additional post-secondary level providing vocational training. Graduates of Greek High Schools have access to Greek Universities through competitive nation-wide university-entry exams. The number of students admitted is determined by the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs on an annual basis. Part of this process requires the candidates to declare their preferences to attend certain university departments, if they are successful in the exams. Essentially, each preference form is an ordered list of departments; the candidate’s most preferred department is the first in the list, followed by the second most preferred and so on, until the candidates’ preferred departments are exhausted. Eventually, assigning candidates to university departments, up to the departments’ capacity, depends on the candidates’ exams scores (how good a candidate is), their preferences (what does the candidate want) and the number of seats allocated to each university. Consequently, filling in the preference form is a crucial factor for a candidate’s admission, so the candidate should have all the information and time needed to decide.
Up until now, interested candidates had ten days to fill in their preference-forms in hard copy and personally submit them in one of the 200 special offices established throughout the country for this purpose. The submission period was usually at the beginning of July, after the end of the exams.
This bureaucratic procedure had a number of inherent deficiencies:
Applicants formed large queues outside the special offices, especially during the last two days before the submission deadline. This was a rather exhausting experience for everyone.
Moreover, family schedules were disturbed, potentially people could not plan their summer holidays etc.
Also, the candidate was unable to modify his/her preference-form after submitting it even in cases when the deadline had not expired.
Finally, the total cost of the preferences collection procedure was approximately two million euros, which is rather high considering the low quality of service offered to the public.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The submission of candidates’ preference forms is completely automated via a web application and enriched with all information that a candidate needs to choose among university departments.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The vice-minister of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs assigned to the IT Department to identify possible ways of overcoming bureaucracy and reducing costs of the preference gathering procedure. The decision was not easy, as the procedure concerned a large number of stakeholders; 200,000 candidates, their families, their schools and teachers who would have to help candidates with no accessibility to computers, more than 50 civil servants from the ministry’s headquarters who would have to co-operate, some of them for the first time, etc.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The main objective of the initiative was to completely change the procedure in such a way that the end-users would enjoy better quality service and the ministry would gather all the necessary data safely, correctly and without delay.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The first meeting about e-submission of preference-forms took place at the end of last January. It was decided that there would be co-operating teams, each one having to fulfill a small target, so that the next team can continue and so on. All teams were guided by a project-manager, an experienced director from the ministry’s headquarters. Within one month, specifications were ready, so the design phase began and was completed by the middle of March. The phase of implementation was in progress when a necessary change to the design was decided affecting the already squashed time schedule during April. In parallel, all the necessary procedures were made in order to find the appropriate hardware equipment to host the information system. That was not as easy as it looks because there was no budget for buying brand new equipment, so it was necessary to search among other public organizations and institutions having idle equipment in order to estimate whether it can be useful for our case even with minor upgrades. Finally, the information system was completed by the middle of May and it was the turn of stress-tests and security-tests to take place. Fortunately, the tests’ results led to minor changes to the system implementation, so the system was ready online at the beginning of June, a month earlier than expected.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The main obstacle encountered was finding the necessary hardware equipment to host the information system because the available budget was extremely low. However, it was a chance for public organizations and institutions to begin checking their own hardware equipment, registering it analytically and finding out which is in use and which is idle, thus can be available to other needs.
Furthermore, another obstacle was the authentication mechanism, as the procedure of selecting candidates for admission to higher education is very competitive and thus, it should be transparent and leave no room for challenge. The authentication mechanism consisted of passwords which were delivered to candidates, so that they had initial access to the system. Subsequently, the candidates were asked to change it, otherwise their preference form could not be submitted, only temporarily saved. For this reason, password changes were permitted only through schools’ interface. That is, a candidate who wanted to change his/her password had to go to the nearest high school with his/her identity and enter the old and the new password twice. The candidate’s physical move is minor as such schools are almost in every neighborhood and they are so many that no queues were formed. Consequently, nobody could change the password of another candidate and prevent him/her from submitting his/her preference form, even if he/she knew the initial password.
Another obstacle encountered was how to service candidates not being familiarized with computers and internet. This was overcome with a good help-desk team. That is, any candidate having difficulties could ask our help-desk either via telephone or via email. In case a candidate did not have any access to the internet, he/she could use school computer labs.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The human resources used for the initiative consist of 20 full-time civil servants working for approximately 6 months and 30 more working part-time. The total financial resources were only 8,000 euros for hardware upgrades and software licenses.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Absolutely. The overall system ran almost perfectly the first time, serving 200,000 thousand candidates. It does not need scaling up, since this is approximately the candidate population size every year. It can be used every year, with potential minor modifications to reflect changes in the regulatory environment. It can be transferred whenever there is a need for large scale and secure data submission to public sector agencies (for example, taxation). It can be used by everyone, even without internet access, by utilizing a small part of existing infrastructure of an interested agency.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Because e-governance practice is relatively limited, there is great room for improving public sector services and lowering costs at the same time. What is needed is a clear strategy and commitment from both top management and implementation teams. Most important lesson: it does not have to cost a fortune.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Vassilios Koulaidis
Title:   Professor  
Telephone/ Fax:   +302103443534
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.minedu.gov.gr
E-mail:   gengram@minedu.gov.gr  
Address:   Andrea Papandreou 37
Postal Code:   15180
City:   Maroussi
State/Province:   Attiki
Country:   Greece

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