New system to offer swifter recognition of foreign degrees

The Education Ministry on Tuesday presented legislation aimed at replacing the controversial DIKATSA committee, which evaluated degrees awarded by foreign universities, with a new organization called the Organization for the Recognition of Academic Degrees and Information (OATAP). The purpose is to establish a credible system that will evaluate degrees and recognize them as equal to those awarded by Greek institutions and do away with the previous system and its many problems. The aim of the new system is to hold objective and credible examinations, to deal with applications quickly and to inform students fully regarding which universities abroad are considered of good standing. «We want a committee that is credible. That is what the European Union also wants. I want to note that for years the European Commission has been issuing warnings of sending (Greece) to the European Court because of the delays, which are to the detriment of European citizens, but also due to the scandals that were discovered,» Education Minister Marietta Giannakou said. «There were instances of exam results being faked, of bribery and other incredible things which took place and for which we are sorry because action was not taken earlier to clear the air by providing details regarding what occured in previous years,» she added. The legislation stipulates that the examination of applications will be swift, with a certificate proclaiming that the degree is equal to a degree awarded by a Greek university being granted within a month (by checking whether the foreign university that awarded it has the right academic credentials). Within two months, applicants will be given a certificate proclaiming that the subjects studied were at least two-thirds equivalent to the content of the educational programs of Greek universities. In order to speed things up, degrees that are the same as those that have already been recognized as equivalent to the Greek ones will either be certified automatically or will be examined by a small committee. Furthermore, OATAP will publish and update a catalog of foreign universities (both in the EU and outside the bloc) that are recognized by Greece and fulfill the necessary academic criteria. Deputy Education Minister Spyros Taliadouros said that «the bill makes clear that degrees awarded by Free Studies Centers will not be recognized as this is prohibited by our constitution.» [This is a sensitive issue in Greece’s education system, as students who did not score high enough marks to get into state universities often enroll at private colleges (known as Free Studies Centers) that are not recognized by the Greek State but may have made deals with foreign universities whose degrees are recognized by Greece.] Among other provisions of the bill, for a degree to be seen as equal to a Greek one, the applicant may be required to be examined on a maximum of six subjects. If more subjects are needed, the foreign degree will be granted «isotimia» only, in which case it will be recognized as a degree but will not be seen as being equal to that awarded by a Greek university.