Draft law on higher education worse than the current law

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) assess that the draft Law on Higher Education, which has recently been put to a public hearing represents worse solutions than those stipulated by the Law which is currently in force.

In general, the new law on higher education would have to be more reduced, systematic with clearly defined standards, leaving no possibility of a wide interpretation of the provisions, and CCE has expected far better solutions compared to the existing Law on Higher Education.

Unfortunately, instead of steps forward, steps back are being made through the offered deficient, sparse text without specified institutes, and the restriction of genuine autonomy of the university and its units.

It seems that the proposed text seeks, through institute of public-private partnerships, to provide security for private partnerships or private institution of higher education, while it has an aim of putting the state institution, ie. University of Montenegro (UoM), in the background, by minimizing it.

In the current law, and in the new Draft Law on Higher Education, it is stated that the institution is autonomous in carrying out its activities in accordance with the Law. This provision is unclear and does not specify which institution does it apply to, whether it is the university or the term in this provision include individual university units, which are legal entities in the legal entity? This issue is particularly important in the context of the recent activities at the UoM, because it is preciselly the (not)centralized budget that significantly affects the financial autonomy, and thus all other aspects of autonomy, and the consequent development of critical thinking in the academic sphere.

Furthermore, the law should precisely predict imperative norms and principles of the Council for Higher Education operation, especially in the part of the jurisdiction in relation to the performance of inspection of work in the case of accreditation of some faculty units. It is necessary to predict the diverse composition of the Council for Higher Education membership, in which would have to appear, as a member, the NGO which is dealing with education.

The law should better define the status changes, the establishment and abolition of the institution of higher education, as we have seen, in which the elimination of some academic programmes or institutions represent a political act. Only with the strict accreditation procedures, a quality growth of new study programs is being ensured, and political manipulation where the most damage have students is avoided.

CCE believes that the “interim financing” is wrong legal solution under Article 65 of the Proposal of the Act, which provides: “If a public institution does not receive a certificate of re-accreditation in accordance with this law, the Government may allow a temporary continuation of funding to re-obtain certificate”, which represents an attempt to legalize the space for misuse. In addition, this proposed provision reinforces the impression that the new law is being written so as to cripple the state university, and to favor the private universities and faculties, which, as experience has shown, are always late and have problems with
accreditation or re-accreditation. It is unacceptable that budget money is being spent on facilities without a certificate for work, and in doing so it cannot be known with certainty whether a facility can meet all requirements and be re-accredited or not, and on the other hand the budget of state universities which possess heritage of decades of tradition is being reduced.

In addition, CCE fully supports the suggestions of the Association of Youth with Disabilities to respect social and inclusive language in the law that would recognize the dignity of all citizens, regardless of their differences.

CCE concludes that the offered text of the bill on higher education goes towards threatening the credibility and the collapse of State University tradition. Text of the proposal should have to define objective and impartial standards that would be applied equally to all higher education institutions in Montenegro.

CCE will present the detailed comments in the coming period, since only a few days ago came into possession of the draft text, which also indicates a lack of transparency and the speed of the process that attempts such a bad legal text to be adopted.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Programme Coordinator