OPINION

Editorial

It is common knowledge that the phenomenon of student migration is not only generated by the shortage of places in Greek universities but also by the students’ search for third-rate universities. In this way, for each demanding school there is a whole list of undemanding foreign institutions that appeal to those who do not accept that their academic shortcomings will prevent them from acquiring the much-desired degree. The phenomenon is more notable in medical and pharmaceutical studies, where the lure of high incomes and social prestige has fostered an excess number of top students, which in turn has raised the entry threshold. In these streams, Greek pupils and their parents have discovered several institutions in countries of the former Soviet bloc that might once have been of decent quality but that have been forced due to economic straits to open up their doors to all applicants. Pupils who would stand no chance of entering any Greek university find it easy to enter and graduate from such universities and then return home, supposedly with the same qualifications as the top pupils who have entered the much more demanding Greek institutions. Equality is not the only issue. The threat to public health from the massive inflow of doctors of questionable quality is no less important. It should be reminded that last May, in his interview in Kathimerini, former Health Minister Dimitris Kremastinos referred to Pristina and Tehran degrees, thereby voicing his concerns over the qualifications of those who graduate from universities of academically exotic countries. Data released by the Inter-university Center for the Recognition of Foreign Academic Titles (DIKATSA) are indicative of this: A considerable number of those who come back with foreign degrees had graduated from school with an average certificate of 12 or 13 (out of 20) and, even today, 75 to 82 percent of them fail in examinations for recognition of their degree. There is no doubt that we have to safeguard both academic quality and public health. Last week, the Education Ministry took a first measure announcing the end of transfers so as to stop students entering Greek universities from the back door. DIKATSA seeks to include postgraduate students, assessing foreign institutions on the basis of specific data (for example, quality of professors and existence of labs). Both initiatives are in the right direction. The only danger is that the government may retreat in the face of the reactions and pressures that this will trigger – and such pressures often yield fruit when the government is faced with a difficult electoral battle. The government said today that it will speak the language of truth with farmers. The ruling party left it a bit late to remember what it considers the truth in the dispute. If the political elite is beset by an acute issue today then this is due largely to the fact that for more than a decade PASOK, first in opposition and subsequently as the governing party, has kept the truth from the rural population. Not only did it fail to prepare the ground for a gradual and smooth adaptation to the EU environment, but it also convinced farmers that Europe is an enemy to be fought.