NEWS

EU pressure on foreign degrees

As Greece braces for a European Court ruling next week, expected to oblige it to recognize degrees obtained from local «franchises» of foreign universities as equivalent to Greek university degrees, associations representing lawyers and other professionals are up in arms. According to European Union law, degrees gained from universities in any EU country should have the same status in all member states. This is not yet the case in Greece, where authorities rate degrees from foreign universities in a different category and where graduates from foreign institutions must often sit fresh examinations in order to gain a certificate deeming their qualifications equivalent to those of a Greek university. Groups representing lawyers, doctors and other professional groups fear that Greece’s adoption of the EU regulation rendering all European university degrees equal will lead to a swelling of their ranks, which, they say, are already too full. Some 35,000 lawyers alone practice in Greece, 22,000 of these in the Athens area. According to the Hellenic Colleges Association (HCA), which represents the colleges in Greece that have been set up in cooperation with foreign universities, some 15,000 students graduated from such institutions last year. Another 25,000 students who have acquired degrees from these franchise colleges over the past few years are also awaiting recognition of their qualifications as equivalent to Greek university degrees. «There is a real mistrust toward the graduates of these colleges,» Georgios Makryplidis, an HCA official, told Kathimerini. Professional groups insist that they will oppose any attempt to bring thousands more graduates into their ranks. The Athens Bar Association has said that it will only consider graduates from foreign colleges as potential members if they can also show that they have acquired a license to practice law in another EU country.