Unfounded reasons for separating the higher education sector from the Ministry of Education

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern about the allegations appearing in the media regarding negotiations for the formation of a new Government in Montenegro, which include the announcement of separating the higher education sector from the existing Ministry of Education and establishing a separate portfolio to handle it.

CCE points out that this is an unprecedented approach in Montenegro, and such a solution is rare even in the region, where there are many similarities in the state of the education sector but also approaches to organizing the management of this important part for development of society. Namely, the only example in the neighbouring countries is the Ministry of Higher Education and Science in Sarajevo Canton. Moreover, such a solution is extremely uncommon in EU member states or beyond, and it is difficult to find connections with systems where this type of organization exists in relation to Montenegro.

The CCE believes that such a decision should stem from a need assessment and wide consultations with stakeholders from the formal education system, as well as the interested public, with clear and measurable indicators based on experts’ assessments of the potential consequences, positive or negative, that such reorganization may bring to Montenegro. It is irresponsible to treat the education system in such a manner solely to gain an additional ministry in pursuit of satisfying the appetites of political entities that should participate in the distribution of power within the executive or fulfilling some other particular interests.

It is essential to remind that the autonomy status of universities and higher education institutions in Montenegro is protected by the Constitution and the Law on Higher Education, and their professional competencies have priority and are more significant than administrative authorities, which are adequately ensured through the higher education sector within the Ministry of Education. Additionally, there are independent bodies with clear competencies in the field of higher education, such as the Agency for Control and Assurance of Quality in Higher Education, responsible for accrediting study programs, and the Educational Inspectorate, which belongs to the Administration for Inspection Affairs, and so on.

The educational system is a unified process separated by levels in a formal sense, whereas in the administrative part there are no rational reasons in our context not to be entirely within the same Ministry of Education.

We are witnessing various extremes and practices of our executive authorities, as in less than three years ago, we had an incomprehensible consolidation of the education sector through its integration with science, culture, and sports. We also pointed out the irrationality of that approach, and time has proven it to be a bad solution. Now, we are facing another unintelligible and non-economic approach in planning of future authorities, where the education sector is proposed to be divided according to the levels of the educational process, with a potential risk of blocking the system concerning related institutions.

Finally, such experimentation does not contribute to what should be sacred to the authorities in civic society – the improvement of the quality of education at all levels under one “roof,” as a house is built from the foundation to the roof, not the other way around, where foundations are most crucial, and any reconstruction often costs much more than the construction process itself.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor