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Popular Party master’s degree scandal: An urgent need for clarity

Two cases involving conservative politicians who obtained suspect titles highlight the need for accountability

Pablo Casado, deputy secretary of communication and congressman for the PP.
Pablo Casado, deputy secretary of communication and congressman for the PP. EFE

Corruption scandals have undermined the credibility of several major institutions in Spain, yet neither the Popular Party (PP) nor other parties in power have made the slightest effort to end this period of decline. Now it is the turn of academia, and more specifically King Juan Carlos University, a public center created in the Madrid region under the leadership of Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón.

The university is currently at the heart of a large-scale crisis, one that is being handled abysmally. The case involves the confluence of influences from the PP and university circles, and it has unleashed a storm whose effects extend well beyond the future of current regional leader Cristina Cifuentes, who holds a master’s degree obtained through fraudulent and manipulated grades.

Spanish public universities should be focusing on one debate alone, and that is the debate over excellence

The situation has now worsened since EL PAÍS reported that Pablo Casado, the PP’s deputy secretary of communication and a potential replacement for Cifuentes as candidate to the regional premiership, holds a similar degree, one that he also obtained in murky circumstances.

The fact that Cifuentes, a leading figure who was promising to regenerate the PP, and Casado, one of the party’s most salient young promises, are both suspected of cheating on their academic records, begs the renewed question of whether this party is able to face the future with a clean slate.

The time has come for politicians to step up to the plate. The PP must answer Ciudadanos’ demands for Cifuentes’ resignation, and clear up the circumstances surrounding Pablo Casado’s own case. But the time has also come to clearly, urgently and carefully demand accountability from a public university that is displaying systemic corruption, of the kind that is impossible to accept in our education system.

This university is currently at the heart of a large-scale crisis that is being handled abysmally

Spanish public universities should be focusing on one debate alone, and that is the debate over excellence and quality in order to improve their own ability to play a leading role in our productive reality. Officials at King Juan Carlos University must assign responsibilities immediately and categorically, even if this means dealing with criminal proceedings.

The scandal over its previous president’s plagiarism, its reputation as a “job agency” for the Madrid branch of the PP, and the irregularities in connection with the Cifuentes case all evidence the existence of corrupt practices that need to be urgently cleared up, for the sake of all Spanish public universities.

English version by Susana Urra.

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