A landmark bill envisioning the recognition by the Greek state of non-state, non-profit affiliates of foreign universities operating in the country was passed by a Parliament majority in a midnight vote on Friday.

As expected, all 158 deputies belonging to ruling New Democracy (ND) voted in favor, along with an independent MP. Opposing where 129 deputies, while 11 MPs in the 300-deputy Parliament declared themselves “present”.

The legislation essentially bypasses a constitutional provision (Article 16) in place for nearly a half century that foresees only public higher education institutions in the country. The center-right Mitsotakis government has pledged to adhere closely to a strict institutional framework stipulated in the law.

The legal solution allowing the establishment and recognition of non-state tertiary institutions, as affiliates of foreign universities of good standing, emanates from a 2020 decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union, by which “…the conditions introduced by Hungary to enable foreign higher education institutions to carry out their activities in its territory are incompatible with EU law.”

According to Article 16 of Greece’s constitution, “…Education at (the) university level shall be provided exclusively by institutions which are fully self-governed public law legal {entities}… The establishment of university-level institutions by private persons is prohibited.”

The constitutional ban had prevented all but state-run institutions from offering recognized – by the Greek state, at least – degrees and diplomas. This regime rendered the east Mediterranean country as among the very few countries around the world where non-state universities operating on their territory could not be recognized, regardless of whether the latter are non-profit or private for-profit universities and colleges.