Albanian authorities are shutting down 18 private universities after an inspection found widespread awarding of dubious diplomas, according to Balkan Insight.
Prime Minister Edi Rama also suspended enrollment at 13 institutions in reaction to a report issued Monday that he said showed that a single school has granted half of 32,000 degrees generated from the private university system, Balkan Insight writes.
“We have issued 900 degrees for foreigners when there are no lectures in foreign languages,” Rama added.
One of the targeted institutions, Kristal University, was at the center of a scandal in 2012, when an investigation revealed that Renzo Bossi, the son of Italian politician Umberto Bossi, received a bachelor’s degree from the school allegedly without ever entering Albania or speaking Albanian. University officials denied that the younger Bossi’s diploma was phony.
Albania’s higher education system went through radical reforms in 2005, when university entrance exams were scrapped in favor of admitting anyone with a high school diploma. The change put a strain on the existing public universities and led to the mushrooming of private institutions. As many as 50 have opened in the country, according to Balkan Insight.
Lulzim Basha, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Albania decried the crackdown as too drastic. “The decision comes without warning, lacks transparency, will be a shock to many students and will have a financial cost for many families,” he told Balkan Insight.
This article was originally published by Transitions Online.