How did the private higher educational system develop in Kosovo? A brief analysis. We received it and we gladly published it

21/08/2018 -  Nicasia Picciano

Post-conflict peace-building is a political and relational process between local authorities and international agencies. It thus engenders a transnational interdependence and the basis for an instable peace is set. Internationals do not generate a request for change unilaterally. De facto they help and support political alliances and/or local organizations.

Kosovo is an emblematic case in this regard. After the Albanians' repression under Milošević and the end of the conflict in June 1999 (UNSC resolution 1244, 10th June 1999), the international community has in practice empowered the locals for the creation of an Albanian state (Ahtisaari Plan, 26 March 2007). Various sectors have been analyzed and debated. However, attention has been almost inexistent about the role played by the internationals (UNMIK) in the conception, design and creation of the private higher educational system in the youngest Balkan State.

However, a look at this sector is necessary. Education is, in fact, a contested area in post-conflict settings and ethnically-divided societies. It is a crucial tool for stimulating and legitimizing collective organization and often inculcating beliefs about identity and political objectives to be achieved. Also, it assumes that there is a 'virgin' community (norms, values, traditions, etc.) to be preserved and guaranteed.

After seventy-eight days of NATO bombing, Kosovo was placed under international interim administration (UNSC res. 1244). The latter was entrusted, among other things, to rebuild Kosovo's educational system. UNMIK co-led the Department of Education and Science (DES), today the Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST), which was in charge, together with other international agencies (UNESCO, UNICEF, etc.), for carrying out this task.

The main concern was to allow children and young students (primary and secondary school) to return to school. In contrast, the university system has been completely ignored, apart from having created two separate and ethnic universities (University of Pristina for Albanians and University of Mitrovica for Serbs). Not only has a long-term strategy for the sector not been developed, but no guidelines have been set for the establishment and management of private universities.

This negligence saw the blossoming of such institutes between 2002 and 2005. Pristina officially hosts twenty-five private colleges (unofficially the number is higher and no reliable statistics are available). The number is even bigger countrywide (twenty-nine in all). In comparison, Kosovo, four times smaller than Switzerland, has the highest number of private higher educational providers across all Western Balkans. This raises doubts and leaves room for reflection.

To date there is no control whatsoever over the type of education 'produced ' in private colleges. Rather, it would be desirable to monitor the level of quality of education provided, the qualification of the teaching staff, and the level of integration of the other minorities as well as of disabled people. Besides that, many programs are accredited in a dubious manner and there are a considerable amount of cases of corruption. Additionally, there is no control over the staff quality and qualification. Also, it is not unusual to have professors who, in reality, are not qualified, who have previously worked in other sectors (e.g. bank, cinema, etc.) and/or who have de facto bought their PhD in Albania.

The major problem remains the integration of minorities (Serbs, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians, and Turks). These colleges are run by the Albanian majority and the language of instruction is Albanian. This discourages minorities who master a little Albanian from attending classes. A suggestion would be to launch English programmes for Bachelor and Master level. Moreover, it is necessary to highlight the teaching staff's lack of training, as well as the absence of ad hoc structures to guarantee disabled students' attendance. Almost twenty-years after the war and ten years after its independence, the path towards an inclusive, quality-oriented higher education in line with European standards has a long way to go in Kosovo.

* Nicasia Picciano holds a PhD in European conflict management in Kosovo at the University of Flensburg, Germany. Her research interests are peace- and state-building, ethnic conflict and EU enlargement in the Western Balkans. This article is part of a research project 'Building Knowledge about Kosovo' (v.2.0) of the Pristina-based Kosovo Foundation for Open Society.

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