Politicians quit as transfer scandal erupts

November 5, 2004

Two Greek politicians were forced to resign within days of each other for seeking special treatment for their student children.

The children of a minister and and an opposition spokesperson were granted transfers from regional universities to metropolitan ones nearer home.

The scandal broke when Savas Tsitouridis, Secretary of State for Agriculture and Food, was named in Parliament for using his influence earlier this year to move his son from Crete to Athens for security reasons.

In retaliation, MPs outed Spyros Vougias, press spokesperson for the leader of the Opposition, for enabling the transfer of his daughter from a far-flung college to Thessaloniki University.

Mr Vougias, a professor at Thessaloniki, claimed his daughter was entitled to the transfer under an informal agreement that allows the children of academics to transfer to the university where their parent holds a chair.

George Kalos, Under-Secretary for Education, is also being investigated for allegedly helping his colleague to achieve the transfer. During the debate, university principals were accused of dereliction of duty; political parties and trade unions talked about a witch-hunt and Marrieta Giannakou, Education Secretary, was forced to bring in new legislation to plug gaps in the transfer law.

She hinted that illegal transfers were a widespread practice involving academics and politicians whose names, if revealed, "would shake the foundations of the Greek Parliament".

The law allows students to transfer after the first year from one university to another if they are disabled and studying away from home or if they have health and psychological problems. Students of families with four or more children and where two children of the same family study in different towns may also qualify if the family's income is below a certain amount.

University places are allocated centrally by the Education Ministry on the basis of a candidate's results in the Panhellenic Examinations, so students often end up on courses and at universities they have not chosen.

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