Masters of the Week: Professor Dimitris Karlis on the MSc in Statistics at AUEB

The web portal Study in Greece is campaigning for the promotion and international visibility of Greek Universities and the comparative educational advantages of our country. In particular, the campaign focuses on the foreign language study programs that Greek Universities offer to Greek and international students. The initiative is supported by the General Secretariat of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In this context, a number of educational programs and actions are presented in detail on a regular basis, such as undergraduate and postgraduate programs, summer schools etc, to inform international students about the many foreign language options offered by Greek Universities.

Study in Greece interviewed Professor Dimitris Karlis, Director of the MSc in Statistics offered at the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) on the program, its features and what it has to offer to international students.

Dimitris Karlis is Professor at the Department of Statistics of AUEB, and also the Director of the MSc in Statistics. He has been elected as assistant professor since 2004. He has almost 80 publications published in peer-reviewed statistical journals to his credit. His areas of interest in research include mixture models, multivariate count data analysis, copula-based modeling of dependent data, computational statistics, and stochastic algorithms in particular.

The international relations of the Statistics’ Department are administered by its current Head, Professor Ioannis Ntzoufras, whose research interests focus on topics of Bayesian and computational statistics, categorical data analysis, statistical modeling, model and variable selection methodology. He is also highly motivated by applications of sophisticated models in problems related with Medical research, Psychometrics, and sport analytics.

Professor Karlis, please describe to us briefly the content, the teaching objectives and the future plans of MSc in Statistics, offered by the Athens University of Economics and Business.

The MSc in Statistics in AUEB is a cutting-edge program that integrates both the theory and the practical implantation of Statistics and Data Science. It covers the latest developments and applications of statistical methods in various fields. Our goal is to produce graduates who are ready for the market.  Hence, our MSc course is designed in such way that it can equip graduates with all the necessary methodological tools. At the same time, we also aim to prepare our graduates for further studies at the PhD level. Thus, there are courses that offer the chance to go further into particular subjects and get ready to pursue doctoral study at the highest level. The MSc in Statistics does not only equip students with all the tools and ingredients to keep up with the latest developments in statistics, but also prepares them for a diverse spectrum of careers in data science and statistics. Unlike other postgraduate programs in Greece, the MSc in Statistics offers a rich international experience, as it is delivered in English, it offers three different Double MSc Degree opportunities and has established partnerships with various Greek and International companies that provide scholarships, seminars, job opportunities, data analytics competitions and much more.

Overall, we would say that the program is not a typical MSc program which comprises only by taught courses, but it is a holistic program which integrates different teaching approaches and opportunities for its students.

Which are the educational and professional opportunities for the students entering such a demanding field of labor market?

The MSc in Statistics opens up a wide range of opportunities for our students. For instance, we have been offering a series of internships that allow the students to gain practical experience in highly esteemed companies while working, in parallel, on their master thesis in the same field. We partner with various companies from diverse domains such as biostatistics, health economics, financial modelling, consulting services, data journalism and more. This allows the students to acquire working experience, to get involved in solving real problems in actual working settings. From the educational perspective, the students benefit from a very modern syllabus that reflects the latest advances and trends in statistics and data science.

The courses are closely aligned with the data science curriculum and offer many learning opportunities about data analysis. Our program is unique in Greece for providing such a variety of options for data analysis in different fields of application.

By joining our program, our students have the opportunity to gain working experience and tackle real problems in real working settings. Our students also have the opportunity to follow a very modern syllabus that reflects the latest developments in statistical data science.

Our courses are closely aligned with the data science curriculum and offer you many options to learn about data analysis in various application areas. I believe that our program is unique in Greece for providing such a diverse and comprehensive education in statistics and data science.

In addition, we offer 2-3 short courses every year on topics of interest that will introduce you to new and exciting fields of applications. These short courses are usually delivered by invited lecturers from well-established foreign universities or collaborative organizations.

Students are also invited to attend the research seminar series of the Department of Statistics, where they can learn from the research conducted by our faculty, postgraduate and Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers. By the end of the postgraduate program, the student is well prepared for the market. All our graduate students are in high demand by companies in the field of data analytics and this is confirmed by the fact that almost all students find a job before completing their MSc thesis.

Please tell us, how do you believe that this postgraduate program could be more attractive for them?

As I mentioned, our program stands out because it integrates both theoretical and practical aspects of Statistics and Data Analytics. Unlike many other programs that focus mainly on programming tools and skills, we also offer a fascinating and strong theoretical component. I want to stress that statistics and data science are evolving and expanding very fast since these are two rapidly evolving fields, where the current topics may become outdated in a few years. Therefore, one needs to have all the necessary skills and tools to adapt and develop new methods. This is our vision for the MSc program and what we try to provide with the current program. I believe this is very crucial and appealing to anyone who wants to pursue this discipline.

Why should an international student prefer Athens, and Greece in general, as an educational destination among other European cities or countries?

I think that Athens is a great city for international students, as it is lively, friendly, and rich in culture. Athens has a pleasant weather all year round and the locals and Greek students are very welcoming and friendly. European students will have no trouble fitting in with the Greek student community or communicating in Athens, as most Greeks speak English fluently. In addition, Athens is ideal for short trips to the nearby Greek islands or the beaches of Attica, which are only 40-60 minutes away from the city center or the port of Piraeus. Thus, international students can enjoy both the academic and social aspects of our MSc program, which offers a variety of diverse activities. Moreover, our program is very modern and competitive, as it compares well with other International MSc programs in statistics programs. Therefore, I believe that our program is an excellent choice, as it combines high-quality education with a rich social life. Lastly, I would also like to mention that our tuition fees are very competitive when compared to other countries, taking into account all the extra activities and actions that it offers.

AUEB in general, is a very active university in terms of international initiatives and collaborations, so how do you consider that these strategies would benefit Greek Universities?

We have indeed been working hard in the past few years to establish and sustain international partnerships. We already offer double degrees with the University of Pavia, (Italy), the University of Naples (Italy) and Stevens University in New Jersey (USA). We are also in negotiations with other postgraduate programs that we hope to be able to announce soon. I believe that this extrovert approach is vital for Greek universities. Athens is a wonderful city for studying and I think we can attract many international students. That is why we need to be active in all the international forums that showcase educational programs. Moreover, our department, Department of Statistics at AUEB, is very productive in terms of academic research. This can help us to attract new collaborators and create a lot of opportunities for the incoming students.

I know that the Department of Statistics and Professor Ioannis Ntzoufras, who is also the Head of the Department, has made many efforts in the field of internationalization and there are already two double MSc degrees with the University of Pavia in Italy and with the Stevens Institute of Technology in the USA. Please tell us more about these collaborations and their prospects.

Indeed, Professor Ntzoufras is a key person for the international relations of AUEB, especially for the MSc in Statistics. He initiated the first double degree with the University of Pavia, one of the oldest in Europe, and handled all the required steps, bureaucracy and paperwork for that. He also contributed to a variety of international collaborations and agreements that we have established as a Department of Statistics over the last years.

I want to point out that the double degree with Pavia has been running for three years now, and we have already welcomed the first Italian student at AUEB. There are also students from our master program who are currently studying in Pavia as part of our Double Degree program. I think the partnership is already successful, although it is still at its beginning, and it had to face the difficulties of the pandemic. Regarding the Stevens Institute, we will accept the first students in September 2024, and I think this will be an exciting collaboration as well. Finally, this year we have signed our third Double Degree agreement with the University of Naples from which we expect students to start visiting our program in September 2024.

A brief overview of the double degrees is that a student can obtain two different but complementary postgraduate degrees in two year: the MSc Statistics from AUEB and the MSc offered by the collaborative university, which is Finance for Pavia and Financial Analytics for Stevens. Regarding University of Naples, their MSc program is on Statistical Learning & Intelligent Data Analysis or Statistics for Human and Social Sciences.

Some of the MSc courses taken in the MSc in Statistics at AUEB will be accredited to the collaborative program by transferring ECTS units. Hence, this reduces both the time and the effort required to complete the second complementary postgraduate program. Moreover, the MSc thesis is completed is shared between the two universities under collaborative supervision. This is an exceptional feature since it boosts research collaboration between the universities and opens opportunities for joint academic research and PhD programs.

Regarding the fees, there is a waiver or discount of fees depending on the agreement. Therefore, there are no fees for AUEB-Stats students when moving to the Pavia program (with extra financial support from ERASMUS+) and a 25% discount for Stevens Institute postgraduate program. This makes our double degree programs extremely attractive since fees will be much higher if you apply directly for the MSc in Financial Analytics at Stevens.

As I said before, we intend to offer additional double degrees with other universities worldwide in the near future. The Department of Statistics and AUEB are part of the HERMES network, which creates opportunities for collaborative degrees in this manner and we will soon be able to announce more programs in the field of Data Science and Analytics.

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