The student population imprisoned in the index of old problems

On the occasion of November 17 – International Students’ Day – the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points out the unfavourable status of the student population, which remains on the margins of public policy. Decision-makers should make efforts to ensure a more stable future for students, who increasingly, during or after completing their studies, decide to leave the country.

The Montenegrin Government has not yet adopted a proposal for a new Law on Higher Education, which would address the essential shortcomings in this area, especially at the level of the University of Montenegro (UoM), which has long been marked by negative practices. The Government did not start changing other legal decisions, which prevented the valorization of diplomas obtained according to the model of 3 + 2 studies on the labor market.

The lack of practical teaching, along with the parallel large scope of theoretical, as well as the neglect of non-formal forms of education, do not ensure the acquisition of applicable knowledge. Practical teaching in its current form does not achieve its essence, because it is still most often performed in the premises of faculty units and by academic staff. Therefore, it is necessary to enrich its programme by introducing experts with practical experience who would, preferably outside the amphitheatre, share skills and knowledge, linking theory with practical skills.

The CCE also assesses that the Vocational Training Programme is not a sufficient mechanism in building future professionals because, although conceptually good, it is not subject to sufficient controls to prevent the frequent abuse by employers, which negatively affects its quality. In that part, a similar programme should be established during the studies, since the largest number of graduates first encounter the internship only after graduation, which is quite late.

Unfortunately, UoM maintains the trend of poor ranking on the relevant international lists, and the lack of interest of the current leadership to remove obstacles by solving problems to make progress at this higher education institution is worrying. The CCE points out that this management had to make an effort to ensure respect for the principle of transparency of work and this was not the case.

The non-academic behaviour of the employees did not deserve enough attention from the UoM management. There is a lack of proactivity, but also inaccuracy in the procedures for addressing reports of disputed cases, although such cases damage the reputation of the only state university and strengthen the distrust of students, which is already at a low level. Numerous problems are also visible in the staff shortages at all levels of studies, and especially in master studies, which weakens the quality of mentoring support to students. There is also a clear need to enable work with students in small groups.

The CCE earlier warned about the lack of criteria for enrolment in the second year of study of those students who previously acquired 240 ECTS credits, and now there is a noticeable and uneven practice at the faculty units. At that, the UoM remains silent, risking litigations, while it is at the same risk concerning those students who paid tuition for one-year master’s studies, and who were not provided with online classes during the suspension of traditional lectures due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

It is also worrying that students are getting used to these problems, instead of resisting and pressuring the university leadership to solve them. Students, given a sufficient percentage of representation in the highest bodies of UoM, should be the voice that will indicate and initiate the solution of already ongoing problems.

Tijana Gračanin, Project assistant