University of Prishtina rectorate. | Photo: BIRN.

Suspensions of 131 university programs in Kosovo were justified, experts argue

The Kosovo Accreditation Agency’s decision to suspend 23 programs at the University of Prishtina alone indicates a lack of qualified staff and the need to scale down academic programs.

The Kosovo Accreditation Agency, KAA, suspended accreditation for 23 study tracks at the University of Prishtina, Kosovo’s largest public university. Citing a lack of teaching staff with required degrees, the KAA has withdrawn accreditation from bachelor, master and doctorate programs in several faculties.

The move is considered a clear indicator of the poor state of the public university, which has drawn criticism about problematic promotions of staff and plagiarism scandals in the past few years.

“This moment marks a new phase for the process of accreditation,” explained Blerim Saqipi, education expert and assistant professor at the University of Prishtina.

With the decision, which was taken on June 23, the KAA suspended a total of 131 programs across private and public institutions of higher education in Kosovo.

“The closing or suspension of a considerable number of programs should not be seen as big concern. Our society needs well-prepared education staff, and not a large number of them. The sooner we recognize this, the sooner higher education will fulfill its mission with respect to economic and social development in Kosovo,” Saqipi said.

The whole accreditation process needs to be seen from a more complex perspective, added Saqipi.

“The opening of new public universities without any adequate preparation and without fulfilling the basic prerequisites has posed a big challenge to set minimal quality criteria for higher education, and especially for the process of accreditation itself,” said Saqipi.

Kosovo has 24 private and nine public institutions of higher education, with the University of Prishtina being the oldest one, established in 1970. Some of the public universities located outside of the capital were established quite late, with the University of Ferizaj for example established only in 2015.

These state-sponsored projects have tested KAA’s capacities, which in agreement with the Law on Higher Education, cannot accredit a study program without three professors with doctoral degrees.

Through the June 23 decision, the KAA also suspended three doctoral programs, two at the Faculty of Economics and one at the Faculty of Philology at the University of Prishtina.

Saqipi said that the subpar doctoral programs cause more harm than the suspension of a program for a year or more ever could, especially at the University of Prishtina, which as the largest institution is “more important.”

Higher education institutions bear the main responsibility for fulfilling the minimal standards required by the KAA, argued Saqipi.

“Ensuring the quality of programs is an internal responsibility, whereas the KAA exists as an external body for monitoring and evaluating quality standards,” he explained. Saqipi also said that education institutions need to become partners in this process by installing a culture of qualitative vetting as part of their mission and routine practice.

The Organization for Increasing the Quality of Education, ORCA, also spoke about the situation at the UP after the recent suspension decisions by the Accreditation Agency.

“This is the last chance for the universities to fill missing information and assign competent professors to lead programs,” said ORCA’s executive director Rron Gjinovci, explaining that by ‘suspending programs,’ KAA’s decision makes room for the programs to fulfill required criteria and gain accreditation once more. In the meantime, the suspended programs cannot enroll students for the 2017/18 academic year.

Gjinovci, who authored a report on the advancement of teaching staff at the University of Prishtina through papers published in dubious journals, believes that the suspensions of almost two dozen programs at the University of Prishtina is a clear indication of the poor qualifications of the academic staff.

“The suspension shows that there was a practice of finding cushy jobs for people who work at the University of Prishtina. These programs were not based on what the society, economy, or arts and culture of the country need, but were designed to employ specific people,” continued Gjinovci. “Kosovo does not need, nor does it have the capacity for those kind of programs. This is the harsh reality.”

04/07/2017 - 16:48

04 July 2017 - 16:48

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.