University transfers chopped

A parliamentary bill seriously restricting students’ chances to transfer between universities was made public yesterday by Education Minister Marietta Giannakou in the wake of last week’s scandal that forced a government minister and the opposition spokesman to resign. The new bill, which will come into force almost immediately, sets out three specific cases in regard to a student’s family and financial status for allowing a university transfer. It also seeks to eliminate the use of reasons which were seen as loopholes in the system, such as health problems and social concerns. Giannakou’s move has been provoked by public and media pressure as well as the political embarrassment felt by the government and opposition when two key figures were embroiled in a scandal involving the transfer of their children to more prestigious universities. Agriculture Minister Savvas Tsitouridis resigned last Wednesday when details of his son’s move from the University of Crete to the Athens Panteion University were made public. On Monday, Spyros Vougias resigned as press spokesman for opposition party PASOK after it was revealed that his daughter had secured a preferential transfer from a provincial university to her hometown of Thessaloniki. The new bill allows students to transfer if their parents have at least three children all under the age of 24. It also permits children of the victims of terrorism, as defined by a 1990 law, to change universities. And students whose families face financial hardship can ask for a transfer. Specifically, the family’s combined annual income must not exceed 35,000 euros. Under the proposed law, these categories of students will only be allowed to make up a maximum of 8 percent of newcomers at a particular university. For universities in Attica and Thessaloniki, the limit is 5 percent. Students who provide misleading or false information will have their transfer rescinded and may be expelled or permanently excluded from all Greek universities, Giannakou said. PASOK accused the government of overreacting. The Panteion University Senate, meanwhile, decided yesterday not to re-examine the transfer of Tsitouridis’s son.