OPINION

Editorial

Education Minister Petros Efthymiou’s decision to abolish the right of Greek students studying at foreign universities to get a transfer to Greece’s higher institutions – after he consults with the prefects of local universities, who have long pressed in that direction – was no doubt the right one. First, its implementation will, at last, redress a major injustice, and a violation of meritocratic principles at the direct expense of students who worked hard to pass the national examinations, often in their second or even third attempt for more difficult schools. These students suddenly found themselves classified the same as those who failed to pass the examinations and who, after staying for a couple of years at a foreign institution – most often of low standard – entered Greek universities from the back door, through an exam-free transfer from abroad. It is time to put an end to such student tourism which is based on an ignominious trade. In host countries, usually in the former Eastern bloc, the dire economic situation has also affected university professors; thus bribery is the norm, if not the precondition, for achieving good grades. In Greece, occasional favorable decrees that were open to dubious interpretation (such as transfers for health reasons in the electoral year of 1999-2000, which in one notable case led a student to invoke the fear of volcanoes in order to obtain a transfer from Naples, Italy), examinations of questionable transparency, and occasional cases of bribery among the ranks of administrative officials have discredited the institution of transfers in the public conscience. No doubt, the abolition of transfers is in line with public sentiment. Allowing for a two-year transitional period before the measure is abolished comprises a genuine offer by the State to those who have planned plausible excuses to avoid sitting examinations for university entry. However, the authorities should make sure that this display of social generosity will not be exploited against its overall spirit and goals, a fact which would cause a precipitous rise in illegal transfers. It should be noted that the new system for university entry ensures that almost all pupils manage to enter the university, which in turn reduces the outflow of Greek students to foreign universities. It would be useful for students who genuinely wish to study abroad on a course which does not exist here to opt for quality institutions that will grant them the degrees they seek.