University rector resigns amid student protests

11/02/2014

Protests highlighted a scandal in which the rector and several professors were accused of publishing scientific work in fake academic journals.

By Enis Rexhepi for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 11/02/14

photo

Kosovo police used pepper spray to disperse students protesting in front of the Pristina University rectorate. [AFP]

The University of Pristina is looking for a new rector following the resignation of Ibrahim Gashi, who quit following allegations of academic fraud.

Students protested after Gashi claimed to have been published in an academic journal in India that turned out to be fictitious, and demanded resignations from him and other professors.

Students said the other professors also used questionable journals or publications to bolster their credentials.

Protests spread and turned violent when students organised a stay-in, blocking the entrance of the university rectorate. On Friday (February 8th), police arrested 30 protesters including civil society activists that joined the protest.

"I hope that my resignation will start the normalisation of work at UP [University of Pristina]," Gashi said.

University officials said a new rector will be selected within two weeks. Meanwhile, the university will establish a committee to examine international journals in which university staff have been published and implement measures to increase transparency of professors' work.

"Just days ago, the university senate and the steering council assigned tasks to the university management to overcome the current situation," Labinot Hajdari, public affairs official at the Pristina University rectorate, told SETimes.

Qendrim Gashi, a professor at the Mathematics and Natural Sciences Faculty, is among a group of professors who supported the students' demands, but said the entire rectorate should resign to open the door to sweeping university reforms.

"The weak management of a long-time irresponsible university combined with political interference, lack of legal and transparent functioning of the university bodies that culminated with the fraudulent works by the rector, has made the situation more severe," Gashi told SETimes.

Gashi said the corrupted environment has led the university to abandon its mission to advance knowledge and science as well as quality education to students, making the need for reform even more urgent.

''There is a need for open debates and arguments at the university, but first and foremost there is a need for accountability. The steering council will inform the staff and the public what are the next steps and what they have done so far," Gashi said.

The university has responsible staff who perform their duties diligently and who should be supported, he said.

Gaining academic titles by engaging in fraud in illegal, said Erzen Vraniqi, spokesperson of the movement Vetevendosje.

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"It is a culmination of degradation of the university," Vraniqi told SETimes.

Vraniqi said the situation at the university is alarming and Vetevendosje supports the students and a new university leadership that will introduce reforms.

"Pristina University should be freed from partisan influence and appointments, narrow interests and turned into a place for the production of knowledge to develop social, economic and cultural aspects of the society," he said.

What should Kosovo authorities do to prevent academic fraud? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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