NEWS

New decree on tertiary degrees from EU states

University degrees from European Union member states have always been sought after by Greek students, but were often not recognized in Greece. This obstacle will soon be a thing of the past, say reliable sources, after the implementation of a presidential decree already passed by the Council of State and ready for approval by the relevant ministries. It means that graduates who have work experience in an EU member state in their field of study will be able to have their degrees recognized in Greece. The decree affects thousands of Greeks who decide to study at universities across the EU (as well as in Norway and Iceland, which are associated with the EU), mainly in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain and particularly Britain. In 2001, Greece had the fourth-largest population of students abroad. According to OECD figures, 57,825 Greeks were studying abroad last year, nearly half of these in Britain, with Italy and Germany next in preference. Until now, obtaining recognition of degrees earned in these countries was a drawn-out, complicated procedure, not only in Greece but in the other EU member states. Under the existing system, graduates of EU universities who return to Greece may apply for recognition of degrees obtained over the past two years. The draft presidential decree concerns, not academic recognition, but professional recognition of degrees, the simplest avenue for those who do not want to continue their studies but simply to work. In Greece, academic recognition is granted by the Inter-University Center for the Recognition of Foreign Academic Degrees (DIKATSA). Professional recognition is granted by the Council for the Recognition of Tertiary Degrees as Professional Qualifications, for all professions apart from those covered by relevant associations or the State, such as the Athens Bar Association (for lawyers), Technical Chamber of Greece (for architects) and the Health Ministry (doctors, veterinary surgeons, dentists, pharmacists, midwives and nurses). In the two years since it was founded, this council has awarded recognition mainly to secondary school teachers, civil and electrical engineers, psychologists and computer scientists who obtained their qualifications in countries such as Britain, Germany, Italy and France. According to the existing Presidential Decree 165/2000: «If the applicant’s profession is not covered by legislation in the state in which the degree was issued, the applicant has to provide proof that he/she has worked in this profession for at least two years during the previous decade.» Despina Andritsou, head of the council’s relevant department, told Kathimerini that a profession is covered by legislation if the law specifies the professional rights accorded by the degree, the institutions offering approved courses and the conditions for obtaining a permit to exercise the profession. Proposed changes The new decree states that two years of professional experience are not compulsory when the degree obtained by the applicant is from a legally recognized institution. The State will no longer demand proof of professional experience. For example, someone who has studied for four years in France at an officially recognized institution that includes practical experience may exercise this profession in Greece without an extra two years of professional experience. This also applies to someone who has studied economics, for example in an EU member state where there is no legislation determining the institutions qualified to teach these professions (this legislation only exists in Greece and Spain). However, work experience is still required for three-year degree courses, offered by many institutions in Britain, for example. The new decree does not apply to graduates of universities outside the EU, unless they have relevant work experience in another EU member state where their degree has been recognized. Otherwise, in order to work in Greece, they have to have their degrees recognized here.