Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern due to the current manner of implementation of reforms at the University of Montenegro (UoM), which obviously weakens the already undeveloped academic dialogue which should be based on arguments and respect of diversity.
Law on Higher Education and the accompanying regulations recognise equally two models of study 3+1+1+3, as well as the 4+1+3. It excluded only those UoM faculty units that form specific professions (medicine, pharmacy, architecture), and which, since their establishment, have been organised in line with relevant European regulation, and where the acceptable models of studies are 5+0+3 and 6+0+3.
Forcible entry of model 3+2+3 at the UoM cannot be justified with regular process of reaccreditation. This is neither request within reaccreditation nor in the EU where it exists as one of prescribed model. More precisely, there are different models of study in European Higher Education Area: 3+2+3, 4+1+3, 5+0+3, and there is nothing wrong with Montenegro opting for several options, especially if there is the confirmation of labour market, or the employer, that model 4+1+3 provides the required education.
Finally, here we have the upcoming violations of Law on Higher Education, Law on National Framework of Qualifications and Statute of UoM. If the UoM management estimated that reforms should head into this direction, it should have first initiated the amendments of Law on Higher Education, Law on National Framework of Qualifications, Statute of UoM, as well as of numerous other bylaws. Instead, in an unusually harsh manner for an academic institution, there is an attempt to impose a decision, which is not only unlawful, but questionable from the point of future employability of staff which will be produced based on the new system.
The example of Faculty of Natural Sciences (FNS) is illustrative because it strips down the real democratic and academic capacity of UoM management. In other words, it clearly indicates that every discussion concerning this issue is unwanted at the UoM, or pre-directed so that it leads to mere approval of model on which the UoM management insists, even when it is faced with serious counter-arguments. This raises the question: what are the interests of UoM management when it clearly jeopardizes the viability of certain faculty unit, especially of those departments which are sustainable and required on labour market? Hardly that there is any public interest in it, and it the public interest should serve as guidance for an institution financed with tax-payers money.
Latest decision of UOM, based on which it excluded FS from the process of reforms and preparation for reaccreditation is scandalous. It comes down to: “either you’ll play by our rules, or you will be gone out of the picture”.
Management of UOM has not provided a good explanation to public as to why it is changing so radically the existing model of studies, while everything is characterised with numerous inconsistencies and dilemmas such as: has the will of every panel of every faculty unit of UOM been truly observed, was there any pressure on their decision-making, why weren’t the students involved on this matter through public debates, based on which analysis did labour market come up with that new solution, and etc. Instead of a dialogue, we have vindictive approach to those who dare and question the credibility of decision-making of management of UOM, which is highly inappropriate for academic sphere.
Finally, such forcefully transformed UoM cannot be a truly autonomous academic institution, or have the sufficient integrity and credibility, and so can’t its academic community. Consequently, forcefully governed academic community cannot develop the much needed critical thinking at the UoM. Perhaps, this is one of the real objectives of this reform of UoM: to suppress any different opinion, even in those small niches where it survived so far on UoM.
Hence, CCE urges the UoM management to ensure the quality and full inclusiveness of diversity of academic views instead of the speed and arbitrariness. This is the breaking point where UoM will either turn into an important academic institution in Montenegrin society, or its downward spiral of deterioration will continue.
Mira Popović, Programme associate