Photo: #StandwithIBCM Facebook.

Students fight to keep diverse Mitrovica business college running

The International Business College Mitrovica will close in July, forcing 174 students out of their studies, if the Kosovo Government does not deliver on its pledge to take over operational costs.

Kosovo’s only English language college running integrated programmes in both North and South Mitrovica is at risk of closing this July due to the Kosovo government’s failure to take on operational costs.

Everyone is worried, shocked, and scared. This college is a big part of our future plans, and the thought that it might close due to funding, and not because of quality or accreditation, is even worse,” International Business College Mitrovica, IBCM, student Rita Vidishiqi told Prishtina Insight.

The Kosovo government’s initiative to establish IBCM was realized in 2008 with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry for Development Cooperation, the Swiss Confederation, the UK Government Department for International Development, and the EU. The donors contributed a total of 13.5 million euros to fund the school through January 1, 2017.

The Kosovo government provided 1.5 million euros on construction for the college’s South Mitrovica campus and a written pledge to the international donors to cover future operational costs. However, the Kosovo government has not lived up to its promises.

“The international donors have been requesting over the last two years that the government of Kosovo lives up to its promises and takes on the operational costs of IBCM so that the college can stay open and the future of its students is secured and the investment of 15 million euros is not lost,” explained Yannick Du Pont, the director of SPARK, a Dutch NGO that has been managing IBCM on an interim-basis until becoming an independent international non-profit college.

The Kosovo and German-accredited college, which awards double diplomas in partnership with Denmark’s University College Lillebaelt and the Lillebaelt Academy for Professional Higher Education, offers programs in business marketing and environmental and agricultural management. The classes, taught by both international and diverse local staff, are offered in tandem with practical work and internships.

If the Kosovo government does not allocate its pledged funding, Du Pont said, 174 students will not be able to continue their studies.

Alarmed, the students have organized a social media campaign under the hashtag #StandWithIBCM, highlighting alumni and current IBCM student successes.

“I am now in my internship at the Danish Refugee Council, and when my contract finishes I will probably work here. Without IBCM I would not have had successes like this,” international sales and marketing student Belmin Jasarevic told Prishtina Insight.

Jasarevic, a Bosniak student, also emphasized the importance of the college’s diversity. Though ICBM has two campuses, one in North Mitrovica and one in South, the students have integrated classes and fieldtrips. Forty per cent of the student body are from ethnic minority groups.

“Students from minority communities would not be able to transfer to existing Kosovo higher education institutions, as they do not speak Albanian,” said Du Pont. Even Albanian students who are majoring in Environmental and Agricultural Management might have difficulties in transferring, since no other Kosovo school offers a similar program, explained Vidishiqi.

Last week, a group of students visited South Mitrovica Mayor Agim Bahtiri to ask him to use his influence to push central institutions to implement the funding agreement. Though he said financial support was outside of his own capacities, he promised to speak with government leaders and advocate for the college, reported Zeri.

The Minister of Education The Minister of Education, Arsim Bajrami, told BIRN that the delayed ratification of funding agreements was due to Parliament dissolving for the June elections.

“If we could have had only one more parliamentary session, the draft law would have been approved,” Bajrami said.

Du Pont said that the acting government should pass emergency funding.

The acting government is allowed to pass emergency funding, which would enable IBCM to keep operations going until a new government and Assembly is formed, and the international agreement that would secure five years of funding for the college can be ratified,” he said, adding, “the Minister of Education can bring a request for emergency funding to the next cabinet meeting and then the Prime Minister can use his authority and release the emergency funding.”

Meanwhile, the student activists are planning a peaceful gathering if the school does not receive a response from the Kosovo government and the Ministry of Education.

“The idea is to have it on the Mitrovica Bridge, and in front of government in Prishtina. But we are hoping we get a response before this happens,” Vidishiqi told Prishtina Insight.

06/06/2017 - 11:11

06 June 2017 - 11:11

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.