College license decision fuels ire

Outgoing Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos approved a batch of licenses allowing the operation of 40 private colleges just before Sunday’s general elections, it emerged yesterday as the union representing state university professors threatened legal action over the move. «This is a fait accompli which turns the higher education sector upside down,» the president of the Panhellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP), Nikolaos Stavrakakis, told Kathimerini. He said that his union would take legal action to block the licensing procedure. The development was described as a «scandal» by Theodoros Fortsakis, the president of the Athens Law School, who is leading the state university professors’ suit against a new law allowing the operation of private colleges in Greece as franchises of foreign universities, in accordance with European Union legislation. The development was welcomed by the Hellenic Colleges’ Association. «This marks the end of a long period of doubt about the place of [private] colleges in the Greek education sector,» HCA Chairman Constantinos Karkanias told Kathimerini. «At last there will be order,» Karkanias said, noting that some institutions had exploited the ambiguity regarding college status to operate without a license. According to sources, the 33 operating licenses – allowing the operation of 40 private colleges – were signed last Wednesday by Spiliotopoulos, a development that became public only yesterday. Licenses for the establishment of these same colleges were issued in August but the permits authorizing their operation were not issued until now. Kathimerini has learned that the approval of these operating licenses was discussed yesterday by Anna Diamantopoulou, who had been PASOK’s spokesperson for education issues when the party was in opposition, and her aides. But no official statement was made on the issue in anticipation of the announcement today of the composition of the new Socialist Cabinet. In the countdown to elections PASOK had called for stricter evaluation of state universities, complaining that existing procedures for monitoring institutions lack transparency.