A solution for the University of Prishtina

Changing the UP’s management will not get us anywhere; above all else, we need to adopt the principles of transparency and accountability. And we have no time to waste.

Everyone agrees, whether they like it or not, about the vital role that the University of Prishtina has in Kosovar society. And whoever knows anything about the university, about its academic functioning and its management, knows that it has never been closer to collapsing than today.

The financial management of the UP is based on abuse of financial means to give staggering salaries to professors, which sometimes surpass the salaries of the country’s leaders. This would be somehow acceptable if their academic integrity were not as miserable as it is today.

As for its academic functioning, the University of Prishtina, as of right now, has hit rock bottom. In Rector Dema’s one year of management, the UP has had so many media scandals about different academic abuses that previous managements’ misdemeanors pale in comparison.

The rector himself has published in a dubious journal. Furthermore, he only has four papers as first or correspondent author, which does not match his rank as full professor, according to the UP’s rules and regulations. For this rank, he has to have at least five scientific papers published in international scientific journals. For illustration, one of his journals has the same editorial board as two other journals, one in pharmacy and the other in algebra. This, in the science and academic world, is considered scandalous. But Rector Dema has several times said publically: “This journal isn’t fraudulent.” According to him, the journal, which even has the same design and color scheme as the other dubious ‘journals’ in other fields, “isn’t fraudulent.”

Denial that the problem exists is the first sign that the problem will not be solved. Denying all the scandals that appear each day in broad daylight – so unabashedly that one is ashamed for the scammer who does not even know how to deceive you properly – leaves us no other option as as a society except for starting to organize similarly to how we did in 2014, when protests and civil society pressure led to the resignation of Ibrahim Gashi.

But what other changes have the changes in management created at the UP? Forgoing Rector Zejnullahu’s management, who for well-known reasons, did not manage to conjure miracles, the other managers could honestly be short-listed for the “Doctor Corupsionis Causa” award given originally to Rector Muje Rugova by the student organization Study Criticism Action, SKV.  

This shows that changing management, without systematically adopting the principles of transparency and accountability once and for all, is worthless.

A concession in exchange of urgent measures

It seems that the current management will go down before the end of this year, but we need immediate and lasting improvements to the system. For this reason, I believe, our focus should not be on changing the management. As active citizens, we should concede this point in exchange for fast actions that would get out of this situation.

Rector Dema could step away from his title as full professor. He should lead by example and give up the illegitimate title he currently holds. This would be his best weapon to prevent all the irregular advancements that are allegedly occurring through the current advancement procedures.

Additionally, Rector Dema should remain faithful to his words and functionalize the Ethics Council of the UP by drafting the regulation through a public consultation with civil society and other stakeholders in Kosovo’s higher education system.

This Council should investigate all cases of unjustified academic titles. Those academics suspected of holding titles illegitimately (until the Ethics Council has the final say) and who hold management positions should leave through temporary suspension as soon as the ethical investigation procedures begin. This way, there will be enough space for the Council to make uninfluenced investigations and decisions.

This should be Rector Dema’s first step, which would assure us that he truly wants to work towards the wellbeing of the UP. In addition to this, he should make every Senate meeting open to everyone, especially the media, urgently – just like the civil society organizations and students requested through a letter sent to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Senate, and the UP Directing Council.

Advancements in process should be scrutinized in detail. Any candidate that does not fulfil the criteria in the statute should not pass, regardless of the Senate’s opinion. As the person responsible to ensure the implementation of the Statute of the University of Prishtina, the rector should not sign any illegal contracts, which has apparently happened in the past, even if the Senate gives a positive decision for advancement or recruitment of incompetent people. After all, what is the function of the rector? He should not see himself as the object that signs every Senate decision, but as a subject who exercises statutory function by protecting the Statute, approved by the Republic’s Assembly, itself.

All of these steps should be taken in March, along with the organization of civil society and  students, who should be prepared to demand a concrete answer in case there are no positive signs from the rector’s office.

The deadline has passed. There is no more time. The time to act has come and gone. A  marathon awaits us to come to a point in which PISA results don’t place Kosovo third from last. We should make haste with the tempo of a 100-meter dash, and the word ‘tired’ should not come out of anyone’s mouth. The University of Prishtina is the only hope and opportunity that our society has to come out of the 17-year-old political, economic, and societal crisis that has transformed our society into one without any moral values. We have no other choice.

Rron Gjinovci is founder and Executive Director at The Organization for Increasing Quality in Education, ORCA.

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