Withdraw bill on higher education from procedures

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), after a public debate of 17 May 2013 on the Draft Law on Higher Education, assess that the proposed text should be immediately withdrawn from the procedure. The reasons for the withdrawal of the text are numerous, and are reduced to the fact that it is impossible to submit amendments by modifications or ammendments.

CCE reminds that this is a very serious legal text which will have far-reaching consequences, and which is about to be brought in an extremely troubled and not transparent procedure. Public debate should have involve consultation with authorities, organizations, associations, individuals, and interested public at the initial stage of preparation of law and the debate on the law, hence the draft. In the case of the proposed text of the Law on Higher Education, it had violated the entire formal legal scope starting from the omitted public debate and the draft Law on Higher Education, until the violation of Article 7 of the Regulation on the procedure and manner of public consultation in the preparation of the law which provides that the deadline for submission of initiatives, proposals, suggestions and comments in written and electronic form, can not be shorter than 20 days from the date of publication of the call, and can also be extended.

As regards of content and the essential parts of the draft Law on Higher Education, it is difficult to identify the alleged intention of the proponent to improve the quality of higher education. But, it is quite clear intention to allow the founder of the state university or the government of Montenegro to create a legal basis in the near future to privatize the University of Montenegro, which brought into conflict the provision of autonomy of higher education institutions.

This is clear from the fact that the proponent wants to abolish the independence of the Council for Higher Education, the body that performs accreditation and re-accreditation. Instead the Council for Higher Education to be appointed by the Assembly, and thus be an independent body, proponent has, the appointment of the Council, and the criteria for enrollment in the first year of the study, entrusted to the Government, which again threatens the already fragile autonomy of universities. In this section, CCE believes that it was necessary to provide a wide range of structures with an even number of members who would be sitting in the Council so that the government cannot have more than half, only after which objectivity of judgments and decisions can be expected.

Furthermore, CCE believes that the governance structure of universities must be standardized with precisely allocated relation of the founders in relation to other members within the Management Board, while the Rector should not be elected by the Senate proposal, but the Council meetings of faculty units by secret ballot, in order to avoid long-term cycling position of members of the Senate, the Board and the Rector. Imprecisely defined provision that “institution can without public competition engage academics from other institutions outside the territory of Montenegro as a visiting professor” produces double dual employment and labor relations on a full-time visiting professors precisely to those visiting professors, while teaching associates are elected on the basis of open competition announced by the institution for a period of one year, instead of at least 3 years, whereas our PhD candidates are being sent to the bureau of labor, while visiting professors take money away from Montenegro. This will legitimize existing and encourage new examples of corruptive behavior.

CCE hopes that proponents of the draft Law on Higher Education will find enough reasons in recommendations made at the public debate and that they will withdraw the Proposal from the procedure. Ultimately, CCE expects that the leadership of the University of Montenegro is going to be engaged in this approach, if they hold up to the public interest.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Programme Coordinator