OPINION

‘Degree traders’

An odor of corruption surrounds what was already considered to be a rotten system for the recognition of foreign degrees. It is so strong an odor that it forced Education Minister Petros Efthymiou to file a complaint against the notorious committee for the recognition of foreign degrees (DIKATSA). There was high farce when rings linked to DIKATSA reacted last year to a reform of the examination procedures that reduced the selective leaking of questions to candidates who were willing to pay up to tens of millions of drachmas in bribes. More than 700 examination papers were destroyed last year after the DIKATSA offices were broken into on August 8. Also, 32 of the 400 papers that scored a pass were found to have been fabricated. Dozens of papers were discovered in the most unlikely places, even behind the filing cabinet in a chairman’s office. In other words, a racket replaced candidates’ «fail» papers with others that had scored a pass as these were transferred from the examination to the assessment centers. The social repercussions of this phenomenon are far worse than one would assume at first glance. It is not only that some unqualified people are illicitly receiving an academic degree – itself a disgrace for a developed European state. Most crucially, the overwhelming majority of fraud cases concerns the highly sensitive medical sector. The danger is obvious: Human lives could be left to the mercy of ill-trained doctors. The numbers are alarming. About 3,000 foreign university graduates applying for a medical degree take the DIKATSA examination, at a time when the total number of enrolments in all Greek university medical schools is no more than 975 students. What is more, only 10 percent of foreign university graduates manage to pass in each DIKATSA examination. Most of them have attended universities in former communist countries whose troubled transition to a free market economy has fostered corruption and bribery in higher education. The result is that a high percentage of graduates are, in fact, poorly educated. If the rackets of the relentless «degree traders» manage to award recognized degrees to these people, then we’re in trouble. Greece will be filled with walking dangers to public health. The government must protect citizens against such peril. But how effective can it be when the corrupt DIKATSA is only an expression of the broader crisis in all sectors of the body politic?