Recognition of foreign academic titles acquired by Greeks in educational institutes abroad is about to be reformed, offering improved and faster services, government officials note. According to sources who spoke to Kathimerini, during Monday’s meeting between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Education Minister Petros Efthimiou, the decision was taken to push through an initiative that would simplify the procedures for recognition of foreign academic diplomas by the Inter-university Center for the Recognition of Foreign Academic Titles (DIKATSA). The same sources also noted that the prime minister had asked the minister to hasten the process of finding solutions to the outstanding matters at his ministry. Talks also focused on the triple draft education law (on teacher assessment, the evaluation of teaching practice and the regional organization of education), information technology in education, as well as the draft law on postgraduate studies and academic research. The government regards DIKATSA as being on the point of collapse. Indicative of the situation is that the average time it takes agency officials to process one case is nine months, as their office receives as many as 9,000 applications each year. The chief reason for these delays is that the agency operates with a minimum staff that does not surpass 12 employees. DIKATSA Director Ioulia Efstathiou noted in an interview with Kathimerini that the new measures will provide for the coding of cases filed with the agency, supporting documents originally in English and French will no longer require translation, and DIKATSA will be able to respond to an applicant by mail – instead of the current practice of requiring an applicant to visit the agency several times during the processing of his or her case. The triple draft law dealing with the ministry’s other affairs is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week. At the same time, the ministry is expected to initiate a dialogue with the academic community on issues pertaining to the evaluation procedures for universities and technical colleges, as well as on the draft law on the organization of postgraduate studies and academic research. The issues are viewed as interrelated and thus are expected to be on the table from the outset. Finally, during Monday’s meeting, the prime minister was briefed extensively by Efthimiou on the progress his ministry has made for the introduction of new information technology into education, based on a six-year program (2001-2006), with an estimated budget of 120 billion drachmas. The government is laying particular emphasis on the success of the program as its plans focus on the introduction of information technology at all levels, and the hiring of more educators specialized in the application of information technology in school. So far, the authorities have recorded 131 children, 71 women and 11 men of Kurdish, Afghan and Iraqi origin. The UNHCR in Athens was expected to dispatch a team of agency officials to Zakynthos yesterday.