Court champions private degrees

Greece has until the end of next year to change its legislation to ensure that qualifications obtained from private colleges are recognized fully or it could face a large fine, according to a European Court of Justice ruling made public yesterday. The court found that Greece acted against European Union legislation by not putting the degrees from private colleges on a par with those obtained from state-run institutions. This has a knock-on effect on the types of jobs that thousands of graduates can apply for as well as the salaries that they can command. Yesterday’s ruling had been expected but Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said that he would examine it before deciding what changes to make. «We will confront the issue after studying it and I think that the appropriate change in the law will be made next year,» he said. The court ruling means that the government’s plans to regulate the private college industry, which is worth about 112 million euros per year in Greece, are now unlikely to be applied. The ruling conservatives had hoped to ensure that private colleges have certain resources before the degrees they offer can be fully recognized. The colleges, some of which operate as franchises of British or American institutions, sprang up in the 1990s but had fallen into a legal no-man’s land and have been operating under the supervision of the Development Ministry. The head of the Hellenic Colleges Association, Constantinos Karkanias, said that the ruling should lead to immediate action. «Greece is now obliged to straight away fully recognize the degrees obtained by some 25,000 students over the last 20 years,» he said. However, the EU ruling did not please everyone in the education sector. «This decision harms public education,» the rector of the National Technical University of Athens, Constantinos Moutzouris, told Kathimerini. «We believe that every country should set preconditions for the degrees to be awarded and we think that the Education Ministry should act in the interests of the country and common sense.»

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