The controversy surrounding the university qualifications of politicians in Spain, which claimed the scalp of the head of Madrid’s regional government, Cristina Cifuentes, in April, has ended a second political career, with the resignation of Minister of Health Carmen Montón in September.

It is not just about false careers of politicans

Corruption at Spanish university goes much beyond the current cases of false Master titles of politicans. The controversy, which revolves around accusations of alleged ‘favourable treatment’ of politicians by universities, is also continuing to put both Leader of the Opposition Pablo Casado and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez under pressure to answer questions being raised about their qualifications. Spanish universities are not transparent which is also due to a not working audit court.

Montón, who faced accusations that she had plagiarised her thesis, had resisted calls for her resignation when it was first suggested that there were ‘irregularities’ in her masters degree and then that marks had been altered a posteriori in her favour. But she eventually resigned when the television channel La Sexta revealed that “a good part” of her thesis had been copied from sources such as Wikipedia and other authors. While a number of issues remain to be clarified, Montón maintained in her departure speech: “I have been transparent and honest. I have not committed any irregularity. [My] conscience is clear.”

Money makes the university staff turn around

The so called ‘fake masters’ case in April 2018 contributed to the fall of the PP (Partido Popular, a conservative party) in the Community of Madrid, then to the PP losing a motion of confidence at national level and finally a change of government from the PP to the PSOE (a socialist party) in June. But there is much more to worry about. In some universities up in the North of Spain they use public infraestructure to employ their family member instead of trying to attract the biggest talent. In Andalucia’s universities docents report abuse of public money and discrimination if someone brings up the matter publicly. That explains probably why are there so few Spanish universities in international rankings.


Casado, the national leader of the PP, initially told the Spanish national newspaper El Pais that he “couldn’t recall attending classes and the exams”. Last week he argued that his course, which he undertook at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC) – the same university as Carmen Montón – was different to that of Montón. Further he argued that, unlike Montón, he had “no personal relationship” with the director of the masters, which he says has been confirmed by emails between them. For the moment Casado is safe, because the court gave up the case for a lack of proofs, but there is still some strange impression left about the whole affair. The same thing happens to the case of Pedro Sánchez.

Doubts about the qualitiy of PhDs in Spain

The PSOE Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchéz, has come under growing pressure from the Citizens party to make his doctoral thesis public. Unlike many other doctorates, Sanchéz’s thesis is not available online but only at the university, Universidad Camilo José Cela. Today so many people sought to see and read the thesis, entitled “Innovaciones de la Diplomacia Económica Española: Análisis del Sector Público (2000-2012)”, which is available at the university campus on the outskirts of Madrid, that the university had to say it was no longer available and that they would have to return another day.



According to Alberto Rivera, the leader of the (centre-right) Citizens party, the prime minister’s thesis should be published and made publicly available because there are “reasonable doubts” and it is necessary to “finish with those suspicions”. Cifuentes resigned in April after the online newspaper, eldiario.es, revealed that she had not attended classes or written a dissertation to complete her masters at URJC. She denied any wrongdoing. But these political matters just distract from the real problem: the uncontrolled management of public universities in Spain.