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As per the decision of the Greek Parliament for the enactment of Law 4610/2019 (“University and Technological Educational Institute Synergies and Other Provisions in regard to Higher Education”, Government Gazette 70/07-05-2019), the TEI of Crete is abolished (and therefore all its Schools and Departments are abolished as well), as stated in Chapter E and articles 23-34, with the Hellenic Mediterranean University being established in its place. More specifically, article 24 legislates the establishment of the School of Agricultural Sciences (abolishing the former School of Agricultural & Food Technology) based in Heraklion, and article 25 legislates the establishment of the following Departments: a) Department of Agriculture (formerly Technology of Agriculture), based in Heraklion, which is part of the School of Agricultural Sciences; and b) Department of Food Science and Technology, based in Heraklion, which also forms part of the School of Agricultural Sciences. The academic operation of the Department of Agriculture started in September 2019, whereas that of the Department of Food Science and Technology starts in September 2020 or 2021. Both Departments offer updated and high-quality five-year Undergraduate Study Programs (USP), comparable to all other Departments related to Agricultural Science.
Alongside the new 5-year USPs, the Vocational Training Center for Two-Year Study Programs (2yUSP) was also established and will start operating within the Academic Year 2019-2020. The School of Agricultural Sciences will participate in its activities by offering the following programs through the Department of Agriculture: a) 2-year SP in Heraklion called “Horticultural Crops” (in cooperation with the Farm – H.M.U. and the School of Agriculture in Ampelouzos/Messara); and b) 2-year SP in Ierapetra that is currently being developed and is called “Greenhouse Crops” (in collaboration with the Farm – H.M.U. and the ELGO-DIMITRA Agricultural Station of Ierapetra). It is expected that, within the framework of those 2yUSPs, collaboration will be established with the Institute of Olive Trees, Subtropical Crops, and Viticulture of ELGO-DIMITRA, the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the Institute of Technology and Research, as well as the Biology Department of the University of Crete, all of which are based in Heraklion.
Law 4610/2019 (Article 26) also founded the University Research Center of the new University (H.M.U.), which includes, among others, the Institute of Agri-Food and Life Sciences based in Heraklion. This Institute has a direct link to the School of Agricultural Sciences and its departments.
That same Law 4610/2019 (Article 33) founded the Model Agri-food Technology Park of Crete (MATePaC) in the wider region of the city of Heraklion. MATePaC constitutes a space where productive activities in the field of agriculture and ecology are developed and carried out, especially by the School of Agricultural Sciences. Said activities incorporate innovative scientific and technological data, thus maintaining a connection with the scientific community, the market, consumers, and society, both on a national and an international level. In fact, the following activities are carried out in MATePaC: a) systematic research, creation, and development of innovative applications in the field of agri-food and agroecology, with the cooperation of all academic institutions and research centers on the island; b) education of undergraduate and postgraduate students of the School of Agricultural Sciences or other Schools/Departments of the H.M.U., as well as education and training through the Center for Lifelong Learning or the Center for Vocational Education of the each Institute. This education and training focuses on cutting-edge topics concerning the primary sector of the economy, life sciences, and agri-food, and also includes the following: alternative production methods and new technologies for optimal agricultural production; ecological production systems (integrated and organic production) of Mediterranean crops; agroecology and agro-biodiversity of Mediterranean crops; management and protection of the agricultural environment; application of scientific discoveries to achieve production with reduced environmental footprint; c) development of actions focusing on informing and familiarizing people with the agri-food sector and the various activities of the primary sector of economy, which include leisure activities, such as thematic exhibitions and workshops, organized visits, demonstrations, and guided tours of the MATePaC.
Activities, Support Opportunities, and Prospects for Development and Cooperation offered by the School of Agricultural Sciences of the H.M.U.
The School of Agricultural Sciences of the H.M.U. is the only University School of Agriculture in the Region of Crete, and has a dynamic presence in the field of Agricultural Science, Agri-Food, and Food Science and Technology in terms of Research and Education. It aspires to become an even stronger and more indisputable point of reference than its predecessor (the School of Agriculture and Food Technology of the abolished TEI of Crete), to which the relevant bodies of the Region of Crete can turn when in need of expertise regarding any topic within the scope of the field of Agricultural Science and Agri-food. The School’s Teaching and Research Staff, along with the collaborating researchers and educational scientific partners, support the agricultural production and development of the Cretan countryside.
Furthermore, the research conducted at H.M.U. continues to be carried out in Institutionalized Research Laboratories (Government Gazette No. 2461/2015). Our School has created research teams that staff said Laboratories, each of which conducts basic and applied research focused on areas related to Agricultural Science. These teams also follow an interdisciplinary approach, developing original products and providing specialized services, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and cutting-edge technologies. The Labs have high-tech equipment and specialized scientific and technical staff.
In addition to the above, it is also important to have a strategic plan in regard to the further development of the School of Agricultural Sciences. This will contribute to the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge through research, which can also be achieved by establishing collaborations that facilitate the realization of research programs and doctoral dissertations, or help provide specialized services.
Moreover, further enhancing Postgraduate Programs in parallel with the preparation of Doctoral Dissertations can lead to the provision of high-quality Higher Education, which can in turn bring multiple benefits. Already in 2018, based on Government Gazette 4509/2018 of Ministerial Decision No. 165336/Ζ1, the Recommendation - Composition - Appointment of members of an unpaid Advisory Committee focusing on food and technological geotechnical sciences was established. Its goal was to have the former Technological Educational Institute Departments offer PhD study programs. This Committee, after examining and thoroughly evaluating the already completed file of the former Department of Technological Agriculture of the TEI of Crete, agreed that it fully met all requirements and procedures determined by the new legislation (Government Gazette 1390/2018). It also approved the preparation of independent Dissertations to obtain PhD Degrees in Agricultural Sciences.
Our Teaching and Research Staff, having identified the country’s need to improve its economy through rural development, is attempting to conduct innovative research that can be directly and immediately applied to support this effort. Our future goals are numerous and ambitious. One of our current short-term goals is the proper utilization of the new Model Agri-food Technology Park of Crete (MATePaC) for the promotion, exploitation, and showcasing of the potential of H.M.U.’s Farm, through already realized development projects (e.g. CretAgroTech: The Science-Environmental-Cultural Park of H.M.U.’s Farm).
Lastly, we believe it is crucial that the Region of Crete establish a University Research Center and an Institute of Agri-Food and Life Sciences based in Heraklion. Both of these organizations will greatly contribute to the research and educational activities of the School of Agricultural Sciences, as well as the creation of collaborations with other academic and research Institutes in Crete.