Turkey Agrees on Accepting Some Bulgarian College Diplomas
Turkey will resume recognizing Bulgarian college diplomas, but only from schools which don't use intermediaries in attracting students.
The information was reported Friday by Bulgaria's Education Minister, Sergey Ignatov, cited by the BTA news agency.
The Minister just returned from Turkey where he was part of the delegation of President, Rosen Plevneliev, who went on a two-day official visit to Ankara.
Ignatov says the negotiations with Turkey on the issue have been tough, but very successful, and included all possible levels – the Turkish President, Prime Minister, Education Minister, and the Council for Higher Education.
"After these talks, I believe the requests of the Turkish Ambassador for our College Presidents were lifted. The only issue to iron out is the intermediary companies. Turkey stated they would recognize diplomas from universities that don't use such intermediaries. These companies are not involved in academic activities, and if they could be linked to illegal activities, these will be in the category of general crime," he noted.
The Minister stressed that the most important outcome was the fact that doubts in the quality of Bulgaria's education have been dissipated.
The issue with the intermediaries will be debated further in Sofia with the President of the Turkish Council for Higher Education, his Deputy, and the Turkish Education Minister, who will be invited for a meeting with the Bulgarian Council of College Presidents.
At the end of July, on grounds that forgery of exam marks and college diplomas has reached the dimensions of organized crime in Bulgaria, Turkey advised all of its aspiring university students to refrain from applying for Bulgarian schools.
The decision was made by the Turkish Council for Higher Education, the institution accrediting foreign diplomas.
Its official site noted that documents of students from Bulgaria will no longer be legalized. It further warned transfers from Bulgarian colleges to Turkish ones are no longer accepted, while the documents of those who have applied for accreditation will be put on hold.
In August, Ignatov assuaged "things will return to normal as soon as the enrollment process is over." He explained that he has sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, listing all facts surrounding the fake diploma scandal.
The Council of College Presidents declared they were prepared to fully assist the authorities in probing the case.
When the news emerged in July, Bulgarian university and college presidents asked Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry to send a protest note to Turkey, and to refer the issue to the EU institutions since, in their words, the suspended recognition of Bulgarian diplomas by Turkey is a "violation of the European educational space".
At the time, the Education Minister also announced that he has sent an envoy to the Turkish Education Minister but refused to reveal their identity, saying only that they are "a very high-ranking person in Bulgaria."
Ignatov did not rule out Bulgarians' involvement in the forgery of university diplomas, and promised that those responsible for the crime will be punished. He, however, stressed he had official information from Turkey about just one problematic Bulgarian-issued diploma.
The Bulgarian Education Ministry stated intents to send a delegation of experts to Turkey in order to convince the Turkish authorities that it has a mechanism for verifying the authenticity of Bulgarian university diplomas, and that Turkey does not need to suspend their recognition.
Ignatov has claimed that the Bulgarian authorities have very little official information about the Turkish decision.
Meanwhile, new measures were recently introduced to better protect Bulgarian diplomas such as special stickers and scanning and uploading the documents on the site of the Education Ministry.
In October, the Council of Bulgarian College Presidents demanded the recall of Turkish Ambassador to Bulgaria, Ismail Aramaz, after they received from him a letter, asking them to admit "10 facts about education," by declaring publically the existence of substantial and structural problems in Bulgaria's college education, the low level of studies, and the fact that exams are only oral and held only between the student and the educator.
The College Presidents say the attack on Bulgarian diplomas stems from interests of the increasing number of private colleges in Turkey, which the Turkish State has helped with free land, interest free loans, and tax free import of equipment, but nevertheless these schools struggle for enough enrollment.
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