The Faculty of Islamic Studies becomes Kosovo's only accredited programme in religious studies.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 22/10/12
The Faculty of Islamic Studies of Pristina has been integrated into the University of Pristina, and its courses have been accredited by Kosovo's Ministry of Education. [Faculty of Islamic Studies of Pristina]
The University of Pristina has integrated the Faculty of Islamic Studies of Pristina, giving the university Kosovo's only accredited higher education programme in religious studies. The faculty, which has trained new Imams since 1992, previously functioned independently.
Aligning with the university provides public funding, which will pay the salaries of 23 teachers plus additional administrative staff. Qazim Qazimi, dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies, said the move is important because it will make it easier for students to have their degrees recognised – something the education ministry did not always do in the past.
Basri Muja, acting director of Kosovo's accreditation agency, told SETimes that the faculty's programme has been accredited for the next three years.
Officials at the University of Pristina confirmed that the faculty has become part of the university, but did not offer further comment.
Qazimi said faculty has functioned well since it was established after the fall of communism, although it has experienced problems with facilities and working conditions. The faculty moved into a new building in 2010 and will continue to hold classes there as part of the university.
Funding from the university will provide financial stability for the programme, which previously relied on donations from the Islamic community of Kosovo.
"[The Faculty of Islamic studies] was established by the Council of the Muslim community, but funding is by the presidency of the Islamic community … as charity, or something left from the Hajj, which means that we had a lot of problems," Qazimi said.
Some in Kosovo said it is a positive step.
"It is a good decision, because the government has access to the curricula and they undergo checks, so that nobody can say that radicals and fundamentalists are being prepared at the faculty," Kamer Berisha, a teacher at a school in Pristina, told SETimes. "It helps also the faculty to get more recognition."
The university does not fund any other religious studies programs, and Kushtrim Bajramaj, an economics student in Pristina, told SETimes there might be some opposition.
"There has not been much discussion if it should be financed from the budget, and how does it reflect then also our secular society that the state university prepares Imams," Bajramaj said.
Across the region, several countries organise Islamic religious studies as independent higher education institutions or as part of universities.
In Albania in 2011, the Islamic community founded Beder University, which prepares future Imams and also offers programmes in other humanities and social sciences, such as Turkish and English. The university is recognised by the Albanian government.
In Macedonia the Islamic community runs the Faculty of Islamic Sciences as an independent private institution, accredited by the government.