Albanian government expected to push ahead with controversial education reforms

Major changes to Albania’s higher education system are in the works despite protests from students who say their voice has been ignored, Balkan Insight reports.

The changes, originally proposed by a commission set up by Prime Minister Edi Rama, include introducing competitive, performance-based funding for teaching and research, stricter spending oversight, and a scholarship system, according to a blog post by Harvard University’s Economic Growth in Albania project.

The government is aiming to bring Albania’s universities up to EU standards following a massive increase in the number of higher education institutions over the past decade that wasn’t accompanied by a rise in quality.

In 2004-2005, around 60,000 students were studying at universities in Albania. By the 2011-2012 school year, that number had more than doubled, to 160,000, according to statistics from the country’s Commission on Higher Education cited by the Harvard project.

The reforms also aim to more closely align the higher education curriculum with the needs of employers, as one in three of Albania’s university graduates is unemployed, Balkan Insight reports.

Artan Borici, a professor at the University of Tirana, told Balkan Insight the recommendations privilege one role of the university – training specialists – over the creation of national elites.

Some students are angered that the proposals include a hike in tuition fees, and some academics and students say they were not consulted on the proposals.

“As we were excluded from the process, problems and concerns are not properly reflected in the reform,” said Pavjo Gjini, an activist with a group that has staged several protests against the reforms at university campuses in Tirana over the past year.

However Arjan Gjonca, the academic who heads the commission responsible for outlining the reforms, said the commission had consulted “all the interested actors in higher education, from professors to students.”

This article was originally published by Transitions Online.


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