Madrid leader ‘must quit’ over degree favouritism claims

Head of Spanish capital's local government investigated over accusations related to her master’s degree

April 11, 2018
Almudena Catherdral Madrid
Source: iStock
Almudena Catherdral in Madrid

The leader of Madrid’s regional government is facing calls to quit over alleged “irregularities” in connection with her master’s degree.

Cristina Cifuentes has been forced to answer questions regarding the qualification she obtained from King Juan Carlos University in 2012, which has thrown her Popular Party (PP) administration into crisis, El Pais reported.

The controversy has also cast a shadow over one of Spain’s leading public universities amid claims that Ms Cifuentes received preferential treatment at a time when she was the central government’s representative in Madrid.

It follows media reports that Ms Cifuentes never completed her degree in public regional law and that her grades transcript was later altered to make it look as if she had.

The 53-year-old regional leader later admitted she did not attend classes or take exams with the other students, even though attendance was a requirement. She also claimed that she came to different arrangements with degree instructors, as this was an option for working students with busy schedules, El Pais said.

She has also failed to produce her final thesis, stating it had been lost, while the university has also failed to release a copy of the paper. Ms Cifuentes has also admitted that she enrolled in the degree three months after the start of classes, but called this “a regular practice”.

Ms Cifuentes has been urged to resign by the opposition socialist party (PSOE) following a 90-minute question and answer session on the issue.

“Your address has not cleared up our reasonable doubts regarding this matter,” said PSOE leader Angel Gabilondo, who was the head of Madrid Autonomous University between 2002 and 2009.

“Accept your responsibility and its consequences. This is not a minor issue, but a symptom of a way of exercising power,” he added.

The PP currently heads a minority government in the regional assembly. Its supporting partner, Ciudadanos, has made the fight against corruption one of its key policies both on the local and national level. The party has so far only said that it wants to create an investigative committee to explore the matter further.

Left-wing anti-austerity party Podemos, meanwhile, is calling for Ms Cifuentes’ immediate resignation, accusing the regional leader of “showing contempt for thousands of citizens” who were expecting “a sliver of honesty” from her.

Officials at the affected university have said they will comment after the conclusion of an internal investigation into the matter.

This is the second major scandal to hit the URJC, said El Pais. In December 2016, then-university president Fernando Suárez was forced to resign after being accused of plagiarism.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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