MEPs pass bill on private colleges

In what threatens to prove a considerable embarrassment to Athens, the European Parliament yesterday approved amendments by two opposition New Democracy MEPs that recognizes as valid degrees issued by Greek private colleges collaborating with European universities. Greece has for years refused to recognize such degrees as equal to those issued by the Greek State or European universities, arguing that the country’s constitution only allows for the existence of state universities which do not charge fees. Strong competition for places in state universities has led thousands of Greek school-leavers to study abroad. Those who cannot afford the cost of foreign studies resort to enrolling at private colleges that have franchising deals with European universities. If the amendments tabled by Costis Hadzidakis and Antonis Trakatellis at the Strasbourg-based parliament are approved by the EU Council of Ministers, Greece will be forced to recognize degrees issued by private colleges as equal to university diplomas. At the same time, the State will be able to monitor the level of education offered by the private colleges. Some 3,500 young Greeks enroll at such colleges every year, while the total number of graduates exceeds 25,000. Greece’s refusal to recognize their degrees has prompted litigation at the European Court. The chairman of the Association of Greek Colleges, Constantinos Karkanias, hailed the European Parliament vote. «What we now expect is for the government to make all necessary adjustments to the process for those who want their professional rights recognized,» he told Kathimerini. But PASOK MEP Ioannis Koukiadis told Kathimerini that approval of the amendments «is detrimental to the quality of recognized studies.»