University of Prishtina. | Photo: Atdhe Mulla.

Debate sparks after three public universities lose accreditation

Local and international actors clashed over the decision to withdraw accreditation of three public universities in Kosovo on Tuesday, which left thousands of students uncertain about their enrollment plans for the next academic year.

Government officials condemned the decision of the National Quality Council, NCQ, to withdraw the accreditation of public universities of Peja, Mitrovica and Prizren for the upcoming academic year due to inaccuracies in documentation during their evaluation. 

According to the expert report published following the evaluation, the universities failed to provide adequate documentation to the NCQ throughout the evaluation process, with some “so preoccupied to present institutional practices in a positive light, they copy and pasted from a different Kosovar higher education institution, and forgot to correct the name from the original document.”

However, the decision was objected to by government officials.

“The decision of the National Quality Council to close the three public universities in Peja, Mitrovica and Prizren is unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on Monday, warning that “measures will be taken” in response. 

On Tuesday, the prime minister went further, labelling the NCQ as a “mafia” organization.

Haradinaj was not alone among government officials condemning the decision of the NCQ. 

“The decision of the National Quality Council is hasty and not at all acceptable,” said Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj.

“It was a big challenge to establish these universities years ago, and in no way should the rights of young people to study in these universities be denied,” added Hoxhaj, who served as Minister of Education when the University of Prizren was founded in 2009. 

However, education officials have condemned the response of the prime minister towards the assessment of the NCQ.

The Prishtina-based Organization for Improving the Quality of Education, ORCA, called for the support of international partners in stopping any interference from politicians in expert decisions on education.

“ORCA calls upon international organizations that work in Kosovo to support the protection of independent agencies from political interference,” said ORCA representatives.

On Tuesday, the European Union Office in Kosovo was clear in their support of the decision of the NCQ. “This decision was difficult but fair, and in line with the mandate of the Agency to secure the best quality education. The EU strongly supports the role and independence of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency. Its decisions must be respected by all concerned actors, in particular at the political level,” reads the EU’s statement.

The NCQ decision will only close faculties of these universities for the upcoming year, stopping students from enrolling in their studies for 2019/2020. Next year, the NCQ will have the opportunity to conduct another assessment.

“We understand that these universities will continue to operate, and that already enrolled students will continue without interruption into their next academic year,” continues the EU’s response.

The NCQ said it is concerned by potential political games being played surrounding the issue, as well as the manipulation of public opinion by politics. “Any unlawful interference from politics will be denounced by the judiciary,” reads its statement published on Tuesday afternoon.

Alongside the three public universities, several private colleges were also affected, losing their accreditation for the academic year. College Fama, Illyria College, Tempulli and the Kosovo Art Academy all had their accreditation withdrawn.

The three public education institutions were all formed between 2009 and 2011 through a governmental proposal which was pushed for by Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s prime minister at the time and the current president of Kosovo.

The three universities have been continually subject to criticism due to promotion of politically affiliated staff members. 

At bachelor’s level in Kosovo, there are around 40,000 students registered at the University of Prishtina, and around 28,000 in other public universities. Besides, Prizren, Mitrovica and Peja, public universities are also operating in Ferizaj, Gjakova and Gjilan.

16/07/2019 - 16:23

16 July 2019 - 16:23

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.