To whom does enrollment without criteria for non-accredited master’s programmes suit?

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) calls on the management of the University of Montenegro (UoM) to urgently, and in consultation with the competent Ministry, resolve the issue of enrolment in the second year of master’s studies for candidates who completed the previous level according to one of the systems valid before 2017.

Namely, the amendments to the Law on Higher Education, from June 2017, stipulate in Article 119b paragraph 3 that persons who have acquired a degree in one of the previous models of higher education studies that is equivalent to 240 ECTS credits have the right to directly enrol in the second year of master’s studies. However, the UoM has never passed accompanying bylaws that would more precisely regulate the criteria and procedure of enrolment in these studies. At the same time, for each study programme, in accordance with the request of the UoM, the Ministry determined the number of students by the license, and the Agency for Quality Control and Quality Assurance in Higher Education issued a certificate on accreditation of the study programme. CCE warns that this in practice means that it may happen that, for example, 50 students enrol in the second year while the capacity for teaching and mentoring is limited to 10 or 20 students.

This issue was raised this academic year, by a letter of Vice-Rector Veselin Mićanović to the faculty units to enrol students who have completed their studies according to the previous systems, and whose diploma is equivalent to 240 ECTS. Mićanović, as well as the entire rector’s board, had to be aware that this legal solution is not applicable without the established criteria for enrolment in the second year prescribed by UoM, without a license and accreditation.

Considering that this is a year-long programme comprising 60 ECTS, whose content coincides with the second year of two-year-long master’s studies, the accreditation procedure had to be primarily conducted for its implementation. It is important to emphasize that the current accreditation refers to two-year-long, but not one-year-long master’s studies of such content. As the laws do not define years of study as isolated study programmes, but each study programme must be individually accredited, this leads to the questionable quality of that programme and the validity of diplomas upon its completion.

CCE underlines that UoM has not passed bylaws, i.e. criteria that would determine the scoring system of candidates who have applied and the manner of their ranking. There is no obligation to pass the admission exam, as is the case with enrolment in the first year of two-year-long master’s studies, thus making the average grades irrelevant. The number of students who can enroll in the faculty is not limited either, resulting in the enrolment of anyone who wants to, at any time. Finally, the Senate did not verify the enrolment of these students when the verification was conducted for newly enrolled students in the first year of master’s studies.

According to the information available to the CCE, these problems have been communicated by students and faculty management to the Rectorate of the UoM, but the Rectorate shows no understanding for justified concern about such a situation nor an interest in finding mechanisms to address this issue.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor