Professors and students said the low standard in higher education in some regional countries will have dire consequences.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 11/08/12
The high number of university degrees issued in some SEE countries is alarming. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
The fast-growing number of higher education graduates in some Southeast European countries is causing many to question the validity of diplomas.
In a number of cases in Albania, a university diploma or professional titles have shown to be just a means of getting a job, not an assurance of academic knowledge or professional ability.
On July 25th, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha requested a full review of the PhD degree criteria. Berisha said it is of paramount importance to move from quantity to quality of academic degrees, especially if the Balkan country seeks to enter international competitiveness.
"If we continue with the current trend, some day we might have more doctors of science than undergraduates," Berisha warned.
"[Undergraduate] diplomas don't reflect value anymore, they are just diplomas. This also has an impact on the quality of education and long-term socio-economic consequences for the country," Deme Hoti, professor at the philosophy faculty at the University of Pristina, told SETimes.
Ragip Gjoshi, spokesperson for the Kosovo education ministry, agreed. "There is a lowering of quality criteria from one university to the other," he told SETimes.
Ardiana Gashi, an economics student at Pristina University, said there are students who don't show up at exams, but later receive a diploma. "The dean's office should deal with these issues because this has an impact on the [academic] quality of the graduates," she told SETimes.
Pristina University, founded in 1970, will register 9,221 new students for the 2012-2013 academic year. It currently hosts 41,800 full-time students: 37,800 undergraduates and 3,500 master's degree students.
In 2008, Kosovo started to regulate its higher education by establishing an accreditation agency. "The objective has not been completely achieved, but a better [academic] discipline has," Gjoshi said.
He admits there are a high number of graduate students, especially in law and economics. But, he warned of the discord between the number of graduate students and the labour market demands, with a surplus of graduates.
"The [country's] labour market has not been researched properly [to employ the many law and economics graduates]," he told SETimes.
A practice of selling and buying of university diplomas, both undergraduate and graduate degrees, has also plagued the academic world in the region.
Renzo Bossi, the son of an Italian politician, graduated in 2011 with a degree in business management from a private university in Tirana without ever crossing the Albanian border.
Albanian prosecutors opened an investigation into the case.
Gjoshi said that the Kosovo education ministry was alarmed with the Bossi case. "We have 300 students who graduated from the same institution and they asked for the verification of their diplomas," Gjoshi told SETimes, adding that their diplomas were thoroughly checked.
In neighbouring Serbia, Inter Press Service reported in June "a major online trade in stolen final papers." An ad online "offered term papers for 27 to 90 euros, depending on the discipline." Papers were offered in a wide range, from short essays on Serbian writers to research papers on international relations and textile industry.
"Customers have an option of paying online using Serbian dinars, Croatian kunas, Bosnian marks and euros for Montenegro, as the database is easily available to Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Montenegrins due to the similarity in their language," the Service reported.
In another case, Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti, reported in July that a former Serbian police officer was arrested for forging and selling technical school diplomas in Smederevo, Serbia. Former police officer Miodrag Stankovic received between 500 to 3,000 euros for the service.