BIRN has discovered that AAK-nominated education minister Rame Likaj has appointed a member of his own party to the State Quality Council of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency, which has previously been expelled from European associations due to a lack of independence.
BIRN has learned that Binak Beqaj, a member of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, has been appointed to the State Quality Council of the Kosovo Accreditation Agency. Beqaj was appointed by AAK-nominated Minister of Education, Rame Likaj, who announced the decision to other members of the Council on Wednesday night.
Beqaj has confirmed his new position on the Council to BIRN, as well as the fact that he is a member of AAK. However, Beqaj insisted that he holds no function within the party and is simply a member, adding that politics has played no influence in his appointment.
“I cannot evaluate it as I did not participate in the verification or selection,” he said. “You could make that connection but I think that the facts and arguments were different. This is not the reason, it should not be the reason.”
The State Quality Council is the board which oversees the Kosovo Accreditation Agency, and is tasked with guaranteeing the quality of education and scientific research in higher education institutions in the country. Beqaj, its latest member representing private universities, is a professor at UBT in Kosovo and also works part time at the Polytechnic University of Tirana.
He told BIRN that he wishes to ensure quality and international standards in Kosovo’s higher education, and to help the accreditation process by reinstating the Accreditation Agency to the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, ENQA.
The Kosovo Accreditation Agency’s membership to the ENQA was revoked in September 2019 for failing to adhere to the organisation’s standards. At the time, the State Quality Council pointed to political interference as the key reason for the agency’s failures.
A year earlier, the Accreditation Agency was kicked off the European Quality Assurance Register, who cited concerns over independence following the dismissal of the Agency’s board by former education minister Shyqyri Bytyci at the instruction of former prime minister and AAK leader Ramush Haradinaj.
Previous members of the Council have resigned following confirmation of their existing political connections. In May 2019, Xhavit Rexhaj resigned from his position following a Facebook post in which he endorsed the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, a party he was also a member of.
BIRN contacted Minister Likaj seeking comment on the appointment of Beqaj and political influence on the Agency but received no response.
Likaj himself has been the subject of harsh opposition from civil society members, with a coalition of 13 civil society organisations sending a letter to the Office of the Prime Minister in June requesting his removal from the position of education minister. According to the letter, allegations of plagiarism are the primary reason behind civil society seeking his removal.
In a statement on Thursday, the Organisation for Quality Enhancement in Education, ORCA, condemned Beqaj’s appointment and the ease with which he declared his membership of AAK to the press.
“ORCA calls on the Kosovar society for mobilization, especially NGOs and activists, to stop further degradation of education,” the statement reads. “Otherwise our society will face social catastrophes in the future which will be incomparable with the situation of natural catastrophe through which we are passing today.”
06 August 2020 - 12:17
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