I have been asked to pass along the following appeal—first circulated privately and signed by representatives of a student organization and several faculty, including noted philosopher Katerina Kolozova—concerning the situation of universities in Macedonia.
The Macedonian government is moving to institute a set of external, government administered examinations that would become the condition for granting of any university-level degree. Billed as an anti-corruption measure, this initiative is being criticized by the authors of the letter below as having the effect of ending the autonomy of the country's universities (guaranteed in the Macedonian constitution) and subjecting their core academic functions to direct political control. Similar sentiments are reflected in the following news stories about significant protests which took place last week in Skopje (here and here)—the largest in a month of protests.
The letter is reproduced below. Those with more knowldge of the situation are encouraged to add their voices in the comments.
After a month of student (and professors') protests, we would like to ask for your support
Skopje, December 19, 2014
Deeply troubled by the ongoing abolition of the autonomy of the universities in the Republic of Macedonia, and faced with Government officials who have been consistently turning a deaf ear to all appeals from the students and professors, we have decided to address you as prominent members of the international academia and to ask for your support.
Namely, over a course of a few years, the Government has imposed legal reforms without any substantial dialogue with the stakeholders in the academia. Each of these reforms has been diminishing our autonomy and has transformed the universities into political instruments rather than educational institutions. The latest draft amendments to the Law on Higher Education will increase the direct interference of the State, i.e. the Ministry of Education and Science, in curricula planning, examining and grading at the Universities, depriving them, finally, of their right to grant diplomas (literally). What is more, it introduces the idea of a compulsory state exam for each and every course taken by the student, one in the second year of the studies and another in the fourth, the organisation and execution of which is to be carried out by appointees selected by the Ministry. The state exam is foreseen for all cycles of university education: graduate, master and doctoral studies. It is a precedent to be found nowhere in the world. In sum, this latest reform will practically strip universities of their right to issue diplomas unless students successfully pass the examinations before the completion of the study cycle.
In less than a month, the student movement Student Plenum, supported by numerous university professors, has organised a number of activities and gone to great lights to make authorities hear their voice. To no avail! Macedonia has witnessed two massive rallies attended by at least ten thousand students and professors. In spite of the protests and the almost unanimous rejection of the proposal by the academic community, the Government has recently unscrupulously moved to swiftly adopt the proposed bill. In the absence of any meaningful opposition in the Parliament, the bill will indeed be passed automatically.
In view of bigger protests and the likelihood of a general strike by the students and the professors, we ask you to support us by any means you find appropriate. You could address your state officials and ask them to appeal and/or exert pressure on the Macedonian Government to cease its brutal final blow on whatever remains of academia in our country. Finally, we would highly appreciate your personal statement of support in reply to this message, one we would like to publicize as part of our campaign which is one of the elements of the overall resistance primarily carried out in the form of protests and appeals to dialogue with the government.
On behalf of the Student Plenum (#СтудентскиПленум), Darko Malinovski and Arben Hajrullahi
and Prof. Katerina Kolozova
Prof. Biljana Vankovska
Prof. Igor Jovanoski
Prof. Gordana Popsimonova
Assistant Lecturer Ognen Cemerski