Government Attempts to Interfere in Universities in Macedonia
Students and faculty in Macedonia have been protesting attempts by the government there to impose state-supervised exams for university graduates. Response to faculty involvement in the protests has been to propose a requirement that the government’s ministry of education approve the composition of thesis committees and be involved in thesis defenses.
Todd May (Clemson) has drafted a brief letter for members of the international academic community to sign in support of the protestors, urging autonomy for the universities. The letter has already been signed by many and has been sent to several Macedonian and EU officials. May says that it will soon be sent to the President of the Republic of Macedonia—it is not too late to sign. You can view the letter and add your name as a signatory here.
Just a word of caution from someone who was very much part of dramatic change in universities in Eastern Europe throughout 90s. It seems to me a little odd to sign a petition simply on the basis that you hear from one side that government is encroaching on the autonomy of universities, without having any context to the claim or knowing anything about history of higher education and its problems in a given country. Here, familiarity with what is actually going on – from both sides – would be crucial. In my own country, there were both very serious quality (both in instruction and research) problems in universities beginning corruption (esp. for admission to universities and for passing exams), almost zero research productivity – esp. in humanities and social sciences – with little to no motivation to “catch up” with the world, minimal investment of effort to teach high-quality classes, as well as structural problems (with universities refusing to change to adjust to changing times – mostly because of the very small “pool” and overly familial relations among academics. One could go on. Various governments tried to change the status quo – some did it stupidly (and we protested and failed), some tried good things (but failed due to opposition from the academic public who liked status quo – many of them would be fired since they literally have not done anything for decades – and couched it in terms of autonomy. In any case, I am not saying that this is the case in Macedonia (for all I know, the cause is just and the government is doing something really stupid), but – being from the same part of the world – I am saying that simply jumping to support one side without knowing the whole story is not a particularly informed choice. The state of the higher education in many countries in Eastern Europe is not great and the resistance to change by people who have been entrenched in certain ways of doing things is enormous.Report
This article provides some useful background information: https://futurechallenges.org/local/liberalization-versus-qualification/Report
I appreciate the two comments above. We should recognize, however, that the project of the Macedonian government to remove the autonomy of the universities is not an isolated incident. Across Europe and increasingly in the United States, governments are imposing themselves on university life, and without benefiting the character of higher education. The reason for this is that neoliberal governments are not interested in benefiting the character of higher education. They are interested in ensuring that universities become training centers for the corporate world. Among the results of this are a general decline in funding for universities, an attempt to stifle critical thought, an attack on the humanities, and the corporatization of university administrations. The situation in Macedonia is an extreme example of the trend of governments to undermine the autonomous role of universities in social life. We can see it as a test case. If it happens in Macedonia, it may become a model for other governments. In other words, in looking at what is occurring in Macedonia, we may all be gazing into our own future.Report
Whatever the problems in higher education, the solution is not examination conducted by the Ministry itself (latest version of the law: by the Board of Accreditation which is a body founded and funded by the Government) , MA and PhD theses defense committees and tenure track reports approved by the ministry, fines up to 30 000 euro (stipulated in the text of the law), up to three years of prison for the deans for issuing a diploma without prior state examination and much much more. Please, do contact the other side and ask for the English version of the law. Or if you understand one of the south slavic languages and read cyrillic i can upload the original version hereReport
I support the autonomy of Macedonian UniversitiesReport