Colleges may be granted licenses

A process to grant proper operating licenses to private colleges in Greece that are affiliated with foreign universities is set to swing into motion after months of delays, it emerged yesterday. Sources told Kathimerini yesterday that officials from the relevant Education Ministry department have started contacting the owners of some 40 private colleges that have applied for licenses in order to ask them to submit any outstanding paperwork. The process had been put on hold since January when Aris Spiliotopoulos took over as Education Minister following a reshuffle. However, college owners have expressed satisfaction at the latest development, especially given that the licenses have to be issued by August so that the colleges can operate as normal in the new academic year. The process of granting the colleges licenses is one of the areas where Greece is at loggerheads with the European Commission when it comes to private education. A law on private colleges that was passed last year allows the state to evaluate the qualifications of the teachers at such institutions – something that the European Union does not allow and for which Greece has been penalized. Although Greece has failed to change the law, a committee set up last year to inspect colleges has not been in operation either. Sources said yesterday that Spiliotopoulos plans to appoint a close associate of his, Iraklis Valvis, to head the panel in a bid to ensure that the process does not hit any snags. Nevertheless, should the process of granting franchise colleges operating licenses get under way, it is expected that there will be protests from the state education sector, which largely opposes the private schools.