The Pact for the University and where we stand 5 years later

Author: Marina Zela

As another university year ends, one starts to reminisce on what happened 5 years ago, when students started asking for greater rights and services in their academic life, and what has been accomplished and has failed to materialize in almost half a decade.

“The secret of freedom lies in individual education, the secret of Tirana is to keep them ignorant,” “404, error, money not found,” “A bite that cannot be engrossed, o brother, is the fee.” These are just a few of the slogans from the massive student protests in 2018, which paralyzed the auditoriums throughout Albania for weeks.

A list of demands from the students was addressed to the government, making it clear the inevitable need for universities in the country to be reformed. Increase the education budget by 5% of GDP, transparency in budgeting by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), publication of all expenses online, provision of Student Cards to all students within the academic year 2018-2019, plagiarism checks on academic titles of professors, and increased student decision-making authority in universities were some of the demands.

Facing increased pressure, the government came up with the “Pact for the University” in response to address the demands of the students. However, 5 years after these protests, what has been achieved from the pact?

The education budget only 3.3%, transparency remains on paper

One of the main demands of the students was an increase in the education budget to 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, even 5 years later, our country is far from fulfilling this request. Currently, the budget for education in Albania is only 3.3% of GDP.

Gevio Tabaku, from Qëndresa Qytetare, an NGO focused on educational issues in the country, states that a 5% of GDP budget for education would be a great investment and a step towards improving quality. However, the situation remains the same every year, with many promises made but little change observed. “There is no significant and essential change in this year’s education budget, or in the budgets of previous years,” he says.

“The budget approved for this year is around 3%, and it surprises me because this is not about government comparisons, but I have worked in the Ministry of Education, and when we left, the budget was actually 4.1%, not just a promise,” says higher education expert Ndriçim Mehmeti. He adds that we are in a stalemate because even if the 5% target is achieved, it should not be abused. Mr. Mehmeti also emphasizes the need for visionary people. “We don’t have them; we need passionate individuals and a vision that we don’t have,” he says, highlighting the declining figures of high school graduates and students each year, and stating that instead of achieving “brain gain,” Albania is experiencing “brain drain” as a considerable number of individuals choose to leave the country.

One problem that is not finding a solution is the transparency regarding the expenditure of funds in the education budget.

“I would like to know how the higher education system has been managed and how the funds have been allocated in such a way that the areas of greater need can be identified,” says Irsa Ruci, an expert in higher education, in an interview with ACQJ. She adds, “This budget needs to be detailed, meaning the current budget items should be clarified regarding how the funds have been utilized, where the money has gone, how the funds have been managed, and how they have been distributed, in concrete terms.”

However, the platform “,” which was created in early April 2019 to make the CVs of professors transparent, provide information about the appointed administrative boards by the Ministry of Education, and present data on university budgets and expenditures, has not fulfilled its function.

“The truth is that this portal currently lacks any kind of information about expenditures. Only the Sports University has made their budget transparent, while others remain in the dark,” says Gevio Tabaku, who is involved in monitoring this platform as part of his daily work. He adds that if one relies on the platform’s monitoring, it is unclear how universities have spent their funds.

According to expert Ruci, the platform “” was something positive and necessary to manage the entire situation. “I’m not talking about transparency that will remain orphaned; I’m talking about the transparency that should have been. There should be a specific person who makes that transparency, showing where the funds have gone and the percentage allocated to each government policy,” says Ms. Ruci. She adds that only by achieving such transparency will it be possible to understand what went wrong due to the budget and what went wrong due to the government.

On the other hand, Mr. Mehmeti, when asked about this issue, expresses that Albanian students are excellent, but we don’t know how to treat them. “We demand everything from them, but we don’t show transparency towards them. These are the truths!” he concludes.

Student ID Card, the promise that seems as if has been kept

“The Student ID Card” is one of the fundamental demands of students, which significantly eases student life through the services it provides. Currently, there is no national student ID card in Albania, and the only one available is issued by the Municipality of Tirana. The Student ID Card was initially promised in 2016, and the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, pledged that all students would be provided with this card within the year. This promise became a reality in 2019, but only for students in Tirana. According to official data from the Municipality of Tirana, 70% of students have been issued this card.

Ritvana Hajdari, a first-year student in the Psychology department, expresses that she has obtained this card and only uses it to get the student discount on transportation. “From what I have seen from the services provided by the student ID card, we have discounts at supermarkets and other places, but I think the government should use it for discounts on books in bookstores because it is more reasonable and necessary for us as students,” she says. Furthermore, in 2016, the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, promised that this card would serve as a student pass and be one of the forms of electronic ticketing. The need for students to use public transportation for free became possible in November 2022, but students still need to purchase a separate pass instead of using the student ID card. Free passes for students will continue until June 2023, and after that, it remains to be seen. On the other hand, students do not benefit from discounts in the cafeteria, even though food expenses are one of the major items that weigh on their monthly budget.

Although it was their duty to create and distribute the student ID card, when officially asked by ACQJ, the University of Shkodra, Durres, and Korca state that none of their students have been provided with the student ID card. The responsible institutions, which failed to deliver the card to thousands of Albanian students by the end of 2019, added to the list of failures the promise of participating in the European ID Card Project.

Gevio Tabaku criticizes the only functional student ID card issued by the Municipality of Tirana, calling it outdated and discriminatory. “The card should have been issued by the universities themselves, such as the University of Tirana, the Polytechnic University, the University of Shkodra, Durres, Elbasan, each having their own card. Moreover, in comparison to student ID cards in other countries, the functionality of this card is limited. It is also used as a debit or bank card, for discounts in cafeterias, and so on,” he says.

On the other hand, according to education expert Mr. Mehmeti, the situation with this ID card is laughable. He states that this card bears no resemblance to the ones in EU countries, and the student ID card is the property of the university, not the municipality.

“Why are students unworthy of Valentino and Pierre Cardin, but they are unworthy of books for supplementary literature, laboratories,” he says.

University Campus, still no concrete progress

On June 19, 2019, Prime Minister Rama and the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, announced that construction work on the University Campus would begin. At the end of 2021, the Municipality of Tirana opened the tender for the construction of the University Campus of Tirana, as well as the University of Arts and the Police Academy. In 2023, when asked about this issue, the Municipality of Tirana states that it is currently carrying out the necessary design tasks for the construction of the constituent facilities of the University Campus of the University of Tirana. Regarding the costs of this project, the Municipality of Tirana states: “As for the costs, implementation time, or the availability of the implementation project, we inform you that the implementation projects for the university campus have not yet been drafted.”

Ndriçim Mehmeti expresses that the campus is of great importance for student life. “We are the only country where we don’t have a student life, where the country is not illuminated by student life. The campus provides opportunities for studying, ensures social tranquility, socialization, has libraries where you can sit and learn, and life is safer because we won’t have students becoming victims of violence, alcohol, etc.,” he says. Mr. Mehmeti expresses pessimism when asked about when this campus can be built, saying that he is afraid that when the campus is built, we will go for walks because there will be no students. Even for expert Ruci, the need for universities to have their own campuses is urgent. “The lecturer guards the classrooms so that they are not occupied, so they can teach or not. It is unfortunate that these discussions are taking place in our country, it is unfortunate,” she says.

Performance evaluation in teaching and academic titles

One of the main demands of students was the evaluation of performance in teaching by the academic staff. Currently, there is no unified methodology across all universities in the country, as different universities use different methods. The University of Tirana, when officially asked, states that it carries out self-assessment reports. The same methodology is used by the University of Shkodra. Meanwhile, the University of Durrës states that the assessment of teaching quality is ensured through student questionnaires, where students evaluate the performance of the academic staff engaged in teaching by assessing characteristics related to the pedagogue’s communication and professional skills, ethics, innovative methods used, correctness, student knowledge assessment, etc.

“This questionnaire is conducted at the end of each semester, usually in the 13th and 14th week. The assessment of teaching quality is carried out for all full-time and part-time pedagogues,” says UDAM in an official response, adding that the evaluations are made available individually to all evaluated academic staff members, departmental responsible persons, as well as respective deans from the Academic Quality Assurance Directorate (DKSC) at the Rectorate.

The issue of academic titles of the teaching staff, where according to the students there was widespread plagiarism in scientific papers, became a prominent concern during the student protests. Although directly asked about the verification process of academic titles, the University of Tirana does not provide a specific answer regarding whether it has initiated, is currently in the process of, or has completed the verification of academic titles. The largest university in the country states that “UT protects intellectual property and condemns plagiarism by recommending software such as Unicheck, Turnitin, Oxisico, and plagiarism check, in accordance with the current legislation.”

On the other hand, the University of Shkodra has not started the verification process for academic titles regarding plagiarism, while the University of Korça has avoided giving a direct answer, stating that “such information should be obtained from the Human Resources Office where these titles were issued.” The “Aleksandër Moisiu” University claims that verifications for plagiarism within the academic staff have been conducted. They state, “Anti-plagiarism checks have also been performed on those academic papers submitted for scientific degrees over the years by Aleksandër Moisiu University in Durrës.” However, this institution does not provide specific figures or data.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Edi Rama stated on April 1, 2019, that “There will be no forgetfulness, and there will be no blockage of the process of academic titles.” When asked by educators how the reassessment of academic titles will be carried out legally, the Prime Minister pledged that “whatever you believe and think the government should do to facilitate this process, we are ready to do it through an accelerated procedure, as proposed to us directly.” This implies that, according to him, there is a lack of willingness on the part of universities and educators to bring this process to a conclusion.

Former Deputy Minister of Education, Taulant Muka, states that nothing has been done in this regard and we are far from taking measures to prevent plagiarism. “While an initiative was undertaken to establish an anti-plagiarism system in universities, not only did Albanian universities not use the system, misusing funds, but later they canceled the contracts in order to avoid copying checks,” he says, emphasizing that this shows that science and originality are not valued by universities in our country, whereas these two elements should be the foundation upon which universities are built. Mr. Muka adds that it is impossible to educate a generation and build well-prepared professionals with an academic elite built on copies and stolen academic titles.

The former Deputy Minister of Education states that this situation requires a thorough analysis by the Ministry of Education. “Without this study, it is difficult to provide an opinion based on facts,” he expresses, while also suggesting some factors that contribute to high levels of plagiarism in Albania’s education system. According to Muka, if academic staff are built upon law violations and copies, it is expected that this phenomenon will further increase.

“Just look at the Academy of Sciences. The chairman of the Academy has no scientific publications, and the natural question arises: how can he lead the Academy of Sciences? Secondly, there is a lack of investment in education and science. Our country still ranks among the lowest in terms of investments in education,” he concludes.

Digital library

One of the highly talked-about promises, where the Prime Minister of the country, Edi Rama, took a personal commitment, was the digital library. In a statement to the media and during a conversation with educators, he expressed: “It is incomprehensible and intolerable that the digital library can now be operationalized by a significant portion of the university network and still cannot be made available by the University of Tirana because the University of Tirana is technologically unprepared… The Ministry of Education should take action, the relevant agency should intervene to facilitate student access to the digital library at the University of Tirana because there is no minimal expression of willingness from the university’s administration and personally from the rector of the University of Tirana. It is unacceptable.”

The rector of the University of Tirana, Artan Hoxha, was requested for an interview by ACQJ regarding the implementation of the University Pact, but the request was refused. Many students, on the other hand, express that they have never used this library, and their professors have not directed them towards this option either.

When asked by ACQJ if there is a comprehensive assessment of the University Pact, now that more than 4 years have passed, the Ministry of Education states, “There is no comprehensive assessment.” Euejda Buzhiqi, a second-year student at the Polytechnic University of Tirana, says she feels betrayed and forgotten by the government.

“Who will be held accountable for the promises made, and how will they convince us to stay in a place where, apart from misery, there seems to be no future?” she says.

Now, almost 5 years have passed since the university pact, and it seems that the government’s promises have long faded away. In a bewildering situation where many refuse to speak about their responsibilities, many questions regarding student welfare remain unanswered.

*This article is part of the project Investigative Journalism Lab that is financially supported by the Public Relations Office of the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of State.
What's your reaction?
Qendra Shqiptare për Gazetari Cilësore
Rruga Pjetër Budi, 69


Telefon: +355 (0) 6 8856 3686

Investigative Network Albania

Teksti zyrtar është versioni në shqip i faqes së internetit. Kjo faqe përdor përkthim automatik përmes mjeteve të inteligjencës artificiale. Pavarësisht se ky përkthim është i një cilësie të lartë, rastis që të ketë dhe gabime dhe keqkuptime në kontekstin e produkteve. Duke qenë se është një teknologji e cila përmirësohet me kalimin e kohës, shpresojmë të qendroni me ne ndërkohë që perfeksionojmë këtë shërbim.

Copyright © 2024 Giljana Limani.  All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2024 Giljana Limani.  All Rights Reserved.