GREECE: Private colleges want stricter controls

The Federation of Private Education Practitioners and Operators has appealed to the Greek government to strengthen the legal framework controlling the operation of liberal studies centres and European Union member states’ colleges operating under franchise.

The plea comes shortly before the expiry date of the EU’s directive 36/05 requiring Greece to recognise the professional rights of holders of degrees awarded by these institutions.

The federation released details regarding the practice, operation and status of the institutions which, although dominating the post-secondary pre-university phase, are not recognised by Greece as part of the tertiary level of education.

It said the institutions were being prevented from providing an acceptable level of higher education due to severe limitations, including an ambiguous legal status, lack of staff with appropriate academic qualifications, inadequate premises and lack of well-equipped laboratories. Only 10 out of 41 centres and colleges are providing any sort of certificate of attendance to their students.

Compliance with the EU directive is likely to cause considerable confusion to students seeking access to the labour market, since graduates of the centres and EU colleges will find their professional rights are recognised but their academic qualifications are not accepted as equivalent to those awarded by Greek state universities.

Another reason why the legal framework needs to be changed, according to the Federation, is that ever increasing numbers of students are turning to private education to secure qualifications. Last year, registrations in the centres increased by 15%, raising private institutions’ share of enrolments to 30%.

A federation spokesman said reform of the existing legal framework was long overdue. “It is absolutely necessary that the state lays down clear, concise and strict guidelines to safeguard the substance of higher education for the benefit of students, irrespective of whether it is provided by state or private institutions.”

The federation has asked the government to establish:

* Clear requirements for the establishment of a department, college or school for private post-secondary education.
* Clear specifications for the recruitment of students.
* Strict guidelines and requirements on the level of staff qualifications as well as staff promotion and further career development in line with other EU member states.
* A high level of quality control over study programmes.
* Introduction of specific procedures for internal and external assessment of institutions and their teaching staff.

Responding to the demands, Education Secretary Evripidis Stylianidis said the situation was extremely complex and the government was studying a number of options.

“Liberal studies centres, although providing education, have hitherto been operating under a licence from the Ministry of Commerce,” Stylianidis said. “But it is the government’s intention to bring them under the jurisdiction of the Education Ministry, ending an anomaly which has lasted for a long period of time.”