Photo: Kallxo

Education Minister fires Accreditation Agency board upon Haradinaj’s request

Education watchdog organization and former board member react against the Kosovo government’s decision to dismiss the Kosovo Accreditation Agency State Council of Quality.

Shyqiri Bytyqi, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, MEST, has issued a decision to fire the board of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency and the acting director of the agency.

The decision was taken on Monday, after Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj sent a letter to Minister Bytyqi requesting the board’s removal.

The Prime Minister argued that the process of accrediting higher education institutions had been accompanied by “serious irregularities.” He demanded that the minister ensure that the new process result in the selection of people with the appropriate expertise in education, ethics and professionalism.

In a press statement, MEST said that Minister Bytyqi took this decision following the request of Prime Minister Haradinaj.

“[Haradinaj] requested that the procedures for appointing the new board and director of the Agency begin immediately,” the statement reads.

Higher education watchdog organization ORCA immediately reacted, saying that the reasons behind Prime Minister Haradinaj’s request are concerning.

“ORCA notes that higher education providers have conducted major irregularities, mainly private ones that have endangered and continue to jeopardize the quality of higher education. Recent Accreditation Agency and State Council of Quality decisions have been against these irregularities and in favor of increasing the quality of higher education in the country,” ORCA’s statement on Facebook read, referring to the suspension of 131 university programs in July.

ORCA requested a more detailed and transparent explanation of the decision to dismiss the Agency.

The Accreditation Agency said that they were only informed about the dismissals of eight members of the State Council of Quality of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency and the acting director through media reports.

“In order to explain it to the public, we would like to inform you that the Agency did not have any official communication with MEST, let alone with the Kosovo Prime Minister’s Office, about initiation of the dismissal procedures,” the Agency announced in a press statement, adding that no irregularities have occurred during the accreditation process and no court proceedings have been initiated against council members or the director.

Former board member Lul Raka reacted against the decision in a public letter addressed to Prime Minister Haradinaj, reported Insajderi.

In the letter, Raka said that he has been and continues to be categorically opposed to accrediting general medicine programs in private institutions of higher education in Kosovo, and that he had rejected applications from Rezonanca and the University of Business and Technology, UBT.

“During the period when I was in the Agency, 140 programs were closed in all public and private institutions in Kosovo… I continue to be calm about all of these ‘irregularities’ that I have conducted, and I will continue whenever I can with such ‘irregularities,’ because I disagree that higher education in health should operate like a kebab business,” Raka said.

Meanwhile, education expert Rinor Qehaja, the head of EdGuard Institute, criticized the agency for not maintaining criteria in the accreditation process, saying that they should have been even stricter.

“Even though the decision from the Prime Minster and its vague argument have come as a great surprise to the general public, it is very clear that the governing bodies of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency have failed in managing a proper and transparent accreditation process throughout the years,” said Qehaja, adding that based on EdGuard’s monitoring during the past six months, the Kosovo Accreditation Agency made “serious violations.”

“Most of the programs accredited throughout private institutions do not fulfill the legal requirements,” he explained, adding that 83 professors are registered as full-time faculty even though they teach elsewhere. Despite “serious concerns” about the agency, Qehaja too is worried that the Prime Minister’s decision might not have come as a result of proper assessment of their work.

“I just hope that the decision of the Prime Minister has taken into account those violations rather than based on close political interest.”

26/09/2017 - 13:38

26 September 2017 - 13:38

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.