- • City Unity College provided study programs in collaboration with the Swiss educational institution E.H.E. Europa Hochschule EurAKA CH from 2018 to 2022; however, graduates allege that the diplomas they received are not ‘recognized’.
- • According to a Swiss document, E.H.E. Europa Hochschule EurAka is a private university recognized only in the canton of Basel and not throughout Switzerland.
by Vangelis Triantis
Data Journalists revealed a new case of “invalid” degrees issued to college graduates in collaboration with a foreign university today, following the incidents involving graduates from the Nursing Department of Metropolitan College of Athens and the Obstetrics Department of Aegean College. This concerns City Unity College, which, from 2018 to 2022, offered study programs in collaboration with the Swiss educational institution E.H.E. Europa Hochschule EurAKA CH. However, as alleged by City Unity College graduates, the degrees they received are not “recognized”, as Europa Hochschule EurAKA CH was only recognized in the canton of Basel in Switzerland and not throughout the entire country. This was a requirement for the degrees to be recognized. It’s noted that in 2022, the Ministry of Education revoked the operating license of City Unity College in collaboration with the Swiss institution, which the ministry itself granted in 2018. An understandable question arises regarding how the Ministry of Education allowed City Unity College to provide educational programs in collaboration with an educational institution that did not meet the requirements set by relevant legislation for four years. All these raise more and more questions for the Mitsotakis government, especially in light of the reform of Article 16 of the Constitution aimed at establishing private universities. This applies to both the criteria that will be introduced and the body responsible for ensuring their compliance for the smooth operation of private education.
City Unity College has been operating as a College since 2010 and is recognized by the Ministry of Education, from which it has obtained the relevant license. If one refers to its website, one will notice that it offers a range of study programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. As highlighted, “the programs are offered in collaboration with top Universities that have received international honors for their rigorous academic standards, innovative research activities, and high employment rates of their graduates”. The recognition of graduates’ academic titles is carried out by the Independent Unit for Compatibility with EU law of the Ministry of Education, responsible for examining applications for professional equivalence of diplomas, as well as requests for the recognition of professional qualifications.
The licensing by the Ministry of Education in 2018
In September 2018, with a decision by the Head of the College Department of the Directorate for Lifelong Learning of the General Secretariat for Lifelong Learning, the modification of the City Unity College’s license was approved. This was the “7th Amendment”, through which eight study programs were attached to the City Unity College’s license within the framework of collaboration with the ‘European University EurAka Switzerland.
These were programs of study such as Law, Psychology, etc., which, as their graduates complain, were supposed to lead to the acquisition of a degree recognized in Greece. However, the reality turned out to be different from what they had invested in paying tuition fees of tens of thousands of euros. In 2021, a third-year student of the Law Department called the Independent Unit for Compatibility with EU law to find out whether the degrees they would receive after graduation were recognized in Greece. The answer was disappointing. The Independent Unit for Compatibility with EU law officials informed him that qualifications awarded by EurAka could not be recognized, as this institution was not an “official Swiss state institution of higher education”. This is a prerequisite for the granting of professional recognition of its qualifications.
The student turned to lawyer Maria Moschopoulou who started investigating the case. During the investigation and based on the material she gathered, she found that Europa Hochschule EurAKA CH was not even recognized in the whole of Switzerland, only in Basel. That is to say in a canton, as the administrative subdivisions are called in Switzerland, and not in the whole country. Of course, no one mentioned this to the students of City Unity College, as they complained, who thought that the qualifications they were obtaining were recognized.
Recognized only in the canton of Basel and not in the whole of Switzerland (pdf )
The license was revoked by the Ministry of Education
In August 2022, a formal complaint from citizens was sent to the Directorate for the Supervision of Professional Training Bodies and Lifelong Learning of the General Secretariat for Vocational Education, Training, Lifelong Learning, and Youth of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. Shortly after, the Directorate sent a document to the Swiss Accreditation Council, Schweizerischer Akkreditierungsrat. This requested information “regarding the recognition and certification of the private higher school EurAka as a University in Switzerland”. Indeed, on October 21, 2021, the Swiss Accreditation Council, Schweizerischer Akkreditierungsrat, responded in writing.
As mentioned, “the private institution E.H.E. Europa Hochschule EurAka is neither accredited nor recognized according to Swiss law (HFKG)”. Finally, in December 2022, following numerous requests from Ms. Moschopoulou and citizens, the Head of the College Department of the Directorate for Lifelong Learning of the General Secretariat for Lifelong Learning revoked the license that had been granted in 2018 to City Unity College to offer study programs in collaboration with EurAka.
The decision for revocation (pdf )
“We DECIDE to revoke decision no. 150681/K1/12.09.2018 by the Head of the College Department of the Directorate for Lifelong Learning of the General Secretariat for Lifelong Learning, regarding the ‘7th Amendment to Annex of License no. 199179/27-12-2013 attached to License no. 108276/IA/05-8-2013 (B’ 2019) of the College “CITY UNITY COLLEGE”, as the legal entity “CITY U EKPEDEFTIKI EPE” fails to meet the requirements for the lawful provision of Study Programs by the College with the distinctive title “CITY UNITY COLLEGE” in collaboration with E.H.E Europa Hochschule EurAka of Switzerland,” states, among other things, the relevant decision of license revocation posted on Diavgeia (transparency portal), bearing the signature of the then Minister of Education, Niki Kerameos. In other words, four years after the licensing by the Ministry of Education, the same ministry revoked the granted license. The question raised is, based on what criteria was the license granted in 2018? Did anyone verify if EurAka met the requirements stipulated by the relevant legislation?
The document was ignored by the Ministry of Education
The Data Journalists investigation has come up with a particularly significant finding. It is a Swiss document from the Commercial Registry of the Canton of Basel, dated May 22, 2018, concerning the E.H.E. Europa Hochschule EurAka. As the Swiss document shows, EurAka is a “private university for medical technology and economics”. However, this educational institution is only recognized in the canton of Basel and not in the whole of Switzerland.
According to lawyer Maria Moschopoulou’s claims, this document was submitted to the Ministry of Education by City Unity College to obtain the license for providing study programs in collaboration with the Swiss educational institution, as it indeed happened. Therefore, a significant issue arises regarding the granting of a license by the Ministry of Education’s authorities.
“The document that the college itself presented to the Ministry of Education proves that the Swiss institution in question was recognized only in the canton of Basel”, underlines to Data Journalists the lawyer Maria Moschopoulou.
For its part, however, the College claims, as the alumni informed us, that it was not aware that the Swiss private university was only recognized in Basel and not in the whole of Switzerland.
Appeals to Justice by graduates
The case has now taken on legal dimensions. Dozens of alumni from that period have already taken legal action against City Unity College, seeking compensation.
“After almost two years of investigation, the collected evidence is substantial. Dozens of students have filed lawsuits to reclaim their tuition fees. Naturally, they also claim moral damages and, in many cases, lost profits. However, the years of their lives that they lost dedicating themselves to courses without any real benefit and without receiving the level of education they were entitled to cannot be reversed”, stated lawyer Maria Moschopoulou, representing the students and their families.
In fact, Ms.Moschopoulou points out to Data Journalists that “a request has already been submitted for the transmission of the file that has been formed to the Prosecutor under Article 39 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, for the investigation of any criminal acts against those in charge”.
She generally addresses the issue of granting academic degrees by colleges in collaboration with foreign universities, citing a “lack of transparency” in their operation.
As she emphasizes, “The main problem is much broader and is evidenced by the recent revelation with the Metropolitan College case. There is opacity in the way Colleges operate, in the way they are regulated, if they are indeed regulated, and of course, in ensuring the minimum level of education”.
“Every day we receive phone calls from parents and students facing similar cases and due to the difficult legislative regime concerning the Colleges, we make an effort to guide them and assert their rights”, Ms Moschopoulou adds.
The Revealing Investigation by Data Journalists
Data Journalists recently started unraveling the issue of “invalid” degrees. According to their journalistic investigation, graduates from the Metropolitan College of Athens are preparing to take legal action as they discovered that the degrees they received after four years of study in collaboration with a foreign university are not “recognized” in our country. These are graduates of the Nursing Department of the Metropolitan College of Athens who are alleging, through extrajudicial documents sent to the College and disclosed to Data Journalists, that they were never informed by the authorities of the Metropolitan College that their degrees were not recognized, therefore lacking validity in the job market. The Metropolitan College is one of the most renowned private educational institutions in our country, operating for over 40 years and with tens of thousands of graduates. Last April, the Metropolitan College and the AKMI Institute were acquired by BC Partners through BC Partners GR Investment LP (BCPGR). The acquisition cost for 85% – 90% of the Metropolitan College amounted to approximately 250 million euros, and many have linked the acquisition to Mitsotakis’ announcements regarding the operation of private universities in our country.
The nursing curriculum offered by Metropolitan College is in collaboration with Queen Margaret University of the United Kingdom. Some of the graduates have appealed to the Independent Unit for Compatibility with EU law of the Ministry of Education. However, the responses they received were disappointing. The degrees they had obtained were neither equivalent to a Greek degree nor equivalent to a European degree, according to official documents published by Data Journalists.
The graduates of the Midwifery Department at Aegean College
A similar issue has arisen concerning Aegean College, specifically regarding graduates of the Midwifery Studies department that was previously offered in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom. The Independent Unit for Compatibility with EU law ruled in October 2021 that “Degrees in Midwifery from foreign countries, such as the BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN MIDWIFERY from the Canterbury Christ Church University, a recognized institution of higher education in the United Kingdom, do not meet the requirements of Presidential Decree 38/2010 as amended and apply to the recognition of professional equivalence”.
The response letter from the Metropolitan College
Following the revealing investigation by the Data Journalists, the President of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan College, Konstantinos Rodopoulos, sent a relevant response letter, which was subsequently published verbatim. In it, Mr. Rodopoulos admits that there is an issue with the recognition of academic titles, attributing it to “the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (Brexit)”. However, as emphasized, the issue does not concern only the Nursing degrees provided to graduates of the Metropolitan College of Athens but to “all colleges that offer this specialization”.
The letter: Confession from the Metropolitan College of Athens for the “invalid” degrees
What is being reported by college graduates raises many questions regarding the operation of private universities, especially at this particular time when the Mitsotakis government has announced the revision of Article 16 to establish private universities and the parallel use of Article 28 of the Constitution. In particular, the government is oriented towards transnational agreements with countries whose universities are interested in establishing branches in Greece. As Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had noted, the National Authority for Higher Education is expected to establish criteria for the conditions that the university under establishment should meet, which are expected to relate both to the staff that will work in them and the infrastructure they will have. Here, however, a big question arises: Who will control the observance of these criteria while protecting students and their families, as it seems that there is already an issue with the services of the Ministry of Education?