Bulgarian College Heads to Ask Turkish Ambassador Recall over Diploma Scandal
The Turkish ambassador to Bulgaria, Ismail Aramaz, must be recalled, according to the President of the Technical University in the Black Sea city of Varna, Prof. Ovid Farhi.
The news was reported by a number of Bulgarian media, including Radio Varna and the online news agency Dnevnik.
The Council of College Presidents has a meeting, scheduled for next Wednesday, where the scandal with Turkey suspending the recognition of Bulgarian-issued college diplomas for an indefinite period of time over forgery suspicions will be discussed again and the Ambassador's recall will be demanded.
The latest development was provoked by a letter from Aramaz, received Friday morning by Farhi, asking him to admit "10 facts about education in Varna's Technical University."
He says a number of his colleagues have received them same letter, calling on them to publically declare the existence of substantial and structural problems in Bulgaria's college education, of the low level of studies, of just oral exams, held only between the student and the educator.
Farhi believes these are groundless accusations and the now-two-year-old attack on Bulgarian diplomas stems from interests of the increasing number of private colleges in Turkey.
"In recent years, the Turkish State helped with free land, interest free loans, and tax free import of equipment, but these schools struggle for enough enrollment. Meanwhile Bulgaria gets EUR 70-80 M every year from taxes from Turkish students along with money for rent, food, and services. Bulgaria's National Information Center has received 57 inquiries about Turkish students, who have graduated in 2011, and none of their diplomas has been forged," says he.
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 University Education Council, the institution accrediting foreign diplomas.
Its official site notes that documents of students from Bulgaria will no longer be legalized. It further warns transfers from Bulgarian colleges to Turkish ones are not being accepted, while the documents of those who have applied for accreditation will be put on hold.
In August, Bulgaria Education Minister, Sergey 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.
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