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A recent judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against Greece on diploma recognition triggers unprecedented reactions in the Greek academic community. The ruling in itself is not an element of novelty – similar actions for the infringement of EU law, particularly on the recognition of academic qualifications, have been taken by the European Commission against Spain, France, Austria and other member states throughout the years.
Greece was condemned for failing to recognise diplomas obtained under a franchise agreement by a private body in Greece and an authority in another member state. The diplomas in question are awarded by foreign universities in Greece in a number of liberal studies centres (LSCs), which operate under a licence of the Ministry of Trade, without formally being part of the national higher education system.
Unlike in the other member states accused of similar infringements, the reaction of the academia in Greece was swift, the most renowned universities and the University Rectors’ Synod taking clear positions against the incorporation of the ECJ ruling into Greek law. The declarations were accompanied by demonstrations of lecturers and students, and by a one-day closure of the higher education institutions on 6 November, as a sign of protest. The reason behind the reactions: Greek lecturers fear that by giving the LSCs diplomas equal recognition to the degrees awarded by the official Greek universities, they would downgrade the quality of the national higher education system.
In essence, the Greeks are trying to walk a tight-rope, divided between letting foreign providers help cover the rising Greek demand for education, on the one hand, and maintaining control of what degrees may be awarded on Greek soil, on the other hand. But they seem to forget that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.