1. Major characteristics of tertiary education in the country Legislation covering the field of tertiary education
The Montenegrin Higher Education Act was adopted in October 2003, in the same year that Montenegro officially became a Bologna signatory country. The changes and amendments of the Law on Higher Education were adopted in Parliament of Montenegro on 27 July 2010. The major novelties that the new Higher Education Act brought were:
- Integrated university;
- Three-cycle system;
- Introduction of ECTS;
- Introduction of Diploma Supplement;
- Council of Higher Education;
- Quality Assurance (internal and external)
Types of tertiary education programmes and qualifications
At the time of the creation and adoption of the new Act there was only one public higher education institution operating in Montenegro, the University of Montenegro (Univerzitet Crne Gore). The Act nonetheless provided for the possibility of having private higher education institutions (HEIs). The University of Montenegro comprises 19 faculties and 3 scientific-research institutes.
Those 19 faculties offer 79 study programmes. Higher education in Montenegro is structured as a three-cycle system and includes:
- Bachelor studies (osnovne studije)
- Master studies (magistarske studije)
- Doctoral studies (doktorske studije)
In 2003/2004 a pilot project was used to test the introduction of the Bologna Process requirements in some study programmes. The following year, the first generation of students enrolled in higher education programmes under the new 2003 Act. Most faculties offered Bachelor study programmes (osnovne studije)
lasting 3 years. Higher education institutions started offering Master study programmes lasting one or two years (depending on the duration of the undergraduate study programme and the concept of the organization of postgraduate studies). The number of students enrolled in undergraduate and postgraduate study programmes doubled in 2005/06. The pass rate for the students studying in accordance with the Bologna system has substantially increased. This is a substantial improvement and one of the most pronounced positive results of the implementation of the Bologna principles. In 2006/2007 the first Bachelor students studying in accordance with the Bologna principles were
awarded their diplomas. Since September 2004, the principles of ECTS as an accumulation and transfer system for undergraduate, postgraduate (specialist –specijalističke studije) and Master studies (magistarske studije) and doctoral studies (doktorkse studije) are compulsory for all universities and higher education institutions in Montenegro. Courses are limited to one term and each course is graded in accordance with ECTS points. A Diploma Supplement (DS) based on the official European model is issued to graduates. As of 2006/07, the DS was made mandatory for all degree programmes and it is free of charge. The content of the DS is bilingual, in both Montenegrin and English. If the student studies in one of minorities’ languages, then a diploma and a diploma supplement is issued in the minority’s language. Bachelor study programmes are organised as three year courses – 180 ECTS for the majority of study programmes. After one additional year, the student may be awarded a specialist diploma amounting to 60 ECTS (the first stage of postgraduate studies), and after a further year (also 60 ECTS), he or she may be awarded a Master degree. Access to higher education is based exclusively on the academic performance of students during high school, with the exception of the faculty of architecture, academies (academy of fine arts, music academy, faculty of drama) and sport. There is no differentiation with regard to the admission procedure for students who are older than a typical tertiary education student (age 18-19). The second cycle of academic study programmes gives direct access to the third cycle. In order to gain entry to doctoral studies, for most study programmes students must have accumulated at least 300 ECTS credits and at least 360 credits for medical sciences. Within the doctoral programmes, students must earn a minimum of 180 credits to obtain the degree. Doctoral programmes include obligatory course work and individual research. The doctoral dissertation is the final part of the study programme, except in arts, which is an artistic programme. Accomplished scientific contributions are graded according to the number of the scientific publications.
Study programmes in Montenegro can be divided into two streams:
- Academic study programmes (akademske studije)
- Applied study programmes (primijenjene studije)
Only academic study programmes can lead to the diploma of Doctoral studies, while applied study programmes can lead to the level of Master. At the moment, there are around 21 000 students studying at the public University of Montenegro.
Types of tertiary education institutions
The University of Montenegro is the only public higher education institution in Montenegro. The first private university, the Mediterranean University (Univerzitet Mediteran), started to operate in Montenegro in 2006. The
Mediterranean University comprises 6 university units, with 11 study programmes. Around 2 000 students are currently studying there. Apart from the private university, there are also 7 individual private faculties in Montenegro, at which around 2 400 students are studying. Under the Higher Education Act,
it is possible to create new study programmes, but in order to use the name university; the institution needs to have at least 5 study programmes, from three different scientific areas. In accordance with the adoption of new changes and amendments with the Law on Higher Education, an institution can have the status of a university, i.e. use the term « university » in its name, under the condition that it provides a minimum of five different study programmes at undergraduate level. Of these five different study programmes at least one study programme must have undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral studies.
In April 2010, the second private university Donja Gorica (Univerzitet Donja Gorica) has been awarded a licence. The new university comprises 5 faculties.
2. Distribution of responsibilities
The Ministry of Education and Sports of Montenegro (MPS) is the highest authority responsible for overall education policy in the country. Apart from the Ministry, the 2003 Act also established the Council of Higher Education. It functions, among other things, as an accreditation body and conducts external evaluations through its commissions. The Council was appointed by the Government of Montenegro in 2004. It was composed of 11 members and is responsible for making its conclusions, recommendations and opinions accessible to the public. The new changes and amendments of the Law on Higher Education, the Council increased its membership to 13, including the President. The Council is appointed by the Government for a period of four years. Council members are appointed from among eminent experts in the area of higher education, science, technology and arts and the area of economy, social activities and other relevant areas and from among students, in compliance with the act on appointment of the Council. A maximum of one half of the Council members can be elected for one more consecutive term of office, in compliance with the act on Council appointment. The Government can dismiss a Council member before his/her term of office expires when it assesses that there are reasons for this or at the personal request of a Council member. The present Council will continue to work till the appointment of the new Council.
3. Governing bodies of the Higher Education Institutions
The governing body of the University is the Governing Board (Upravni odbor), and its main roles are defined by the Statute of the University. It is responsible for the following tasks:
– establishing educational, research, scientific and policy development;
– applying the Statute of the University;
– considering and defining the university budget;
– setting tuition fees, with the approval of the Ministry of Education and Sports;
– adopting the rulebook on the allocation ofthe state budget;
– appointing and dismissing rectors, vicerectors, deans and directors of organisational units of the university.
The rector is responsible for managing the university. The Governing Board consists of 13 members – 7 academic staff representatives, 3 external members, two students’ representatives and one non-academic representative (Statute of the University of Montenegro).
The Senate is composed of a rector, vicerectors, representatives of all faculties, academies, institutes, higher applied schools such as the higher medical school (visoka stručna škola) and students. Students represent 15% of the whole Senate. It is prescribed that there should be undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students in the Senate. As the supreme academic body, the Senate has the following functions:
– it defines general questions related to research, scientific and artistic work and teaching at the University,
– it considers the strategy for the development of the academic activities of the University, including the establishment of new study programmes, stopping existing study programmes, separating or linking some already existing study programmes,
– it awards academic titles,
– it adopts the structure and contents of study programmes and courses,
– it makes decisions as part of the procedure for awarding the academic title of PhD (doktor nauka),
– it defines the proposal of candidates for the post of rector,
– it proposes the number of students to be enrolled and also defines criteria and procedures for enrolment, in accordance with the Act,
– it defines policy and procedures for evaluation of the academic success of students,
– it is responsible for facilitating life-long learning,
– it provides for the application of academic standards and defines study rules,
– it defines and implements the procedure for evaluating the quality of teaching,
– it awards emeritus titles,
– it applies the code of academic ethics,
– it makes decisions on the expulsion of students from the university,
– it considers the strategy for the protection of intellectual property rights.
The Senate is chaired by the rector. It has three permanent professional councils (strukovna vijeća): the council for social sciences (Vijece za društvene nauke), the council for the arts (Vijeće za umjetnost) and the council for natural and technical sciences (Vijeće za prirodne i tehničke nauke).The powers, composition, duration of mandates, manner of work and decisionmaking of the Senate are closely defined by the Statute of the University.
The professional body of a faculty is the council (Vijeće fakulteta). The professional council is composed of the dean, vice-deans, professors and students’ representatives (not less that 15% of the overall number of members).
Professional councils are responsible for:
– monitoring of students’ work at the faculty or academy,
– making proposals to the Senate related to changes in the structure and contents of study programmes and subjects,
– appointing members of the Senate and Senate Councils (Vijece Senata).
The Dean manages the faculty. A faculty may have up to three vice-deans.
According to the Higher Education Act, students are represented on the university governing board, senate and faculty bodies; at least 15% of each decision-making body consists of student representatives (it is planned to include student representatives on the Council of Higher Education).
The University of Montenegro is financed from the state budget. The Ministry of Education and Science defines a proposal for financing. The Government, taking into account the opinion of the Council of Higher Education, adopts the measures for the financing of higher education and, also, prescribes the methodology for the funds’ allocation. Accordingly, the Government decides on the number of students to be financed from the state budget (approximately 40% of students, the remaining 60% being self-financings), following the number prescribed in the applicable public institution licence and recommendations from the Ministry of
Education and Sports. In accordance with the adopted changes and amendments of the Law on Higher Education, private higher education institutions (HEIs) can be financed from the state budget. The Government, with the consultation of the Council, determines the number of students and the amount of funds to finance those students who study at private institutions certain areas that are of public interest.
5. Students’ contributions and financial support
There is no differentiation between fees payable by “traditional students” and “nontraditional” ones. Students studying at the public university have the right to apply for: student accommodation, student loans, scholarships (for the best students), and concessionary travel. In accordance with the adopted changes and amendments of the Law on Higher Education, there is no differentiation between students of public and private higher education institutions. Both have the right for:
- accommodation and food in students’ dormitories,
- students’ loans,
- scholarships for talented students,
- getting local and inter-city public transportation expenses (for students),
- professional training, and
- health care.
6. Licensing, quality assurance and accreditation of institutions and/or programmes
The process of accreditation begins with an external evaluation review. If the institution passes the review, certification for the right to award degrees in education is awarded. Foreign experts may be appointed as members of the external evaluation commissions. The Ministry of Education and Science has the power to issue an operating licence to an institution, as well as to change or revoke the licence. Each higher education institution in Montenegro, whether it is newly founded or already in operation, is required to have an operating licence. The licence determines the institution type, its accredited study programmes, the maximum number of students it may enrol, as well as the degrees and diplomas it may award. Accreditation is issued for a maximum period of three years. Re accreditation after those three years is based on the report of the external evaluation of the institution and its study programmes, in accordance with the standards and procedure stipulated by the Council. The certificate on re accreditation is valid for five years. If an institution does not meet the standards for re-accreditation, it may continue to operate for a maximum of one year, but is not allowed to admit any new students during that period. If the institution is not able to achieve re-accreditation standards after the probation year, its licence is revoked. Once a licence has been revoked, it cannot be reinstated. An institution that obtains a form of accreditation from another state or agency is obliged to submit a certificate of that accreditation to the Council. The Council carries out its assessment of a non-state accreditation in accordance with its statutes. The students are involved in the internal evaluation team in the process for reaccreditation and also play an active role in QA by conducting opinion polls among students. A private higher education institution is required to submit a guarantee by the founder on its financial standing covering a period of at least three years. The operating licence for a private institution also includes a provision on the guarantee, in case it should fail. If the institution ceases its operations, it must provide financial support for all students already enrolled to continue their studies at another accredited higher education institution in Montenegro or the region. In 2007 the Guidelines on Re-accreditation of Higher Education Institutions and Study Programmes was adopted by the Council of Higher Education. Higher education institutions (HEIs) conduct internal evaluations. Internal evaluation is mainly carried out through students’ opinion polls and teams established for this purpose. Internal evaluation is done in line with the provisions of the Guidelines on Re-accreditation of Institutions and Study Programmes. Internal evaluation is carried out in each university unit by nominated teams and their report is presented to the Governing Board of the University of Montenegro. The approved report is delivered to the Council of Higher Education for further processing. The Council of Higher Education submits it to the Commission for External Evaluation, which is appointed by the Council. In accordance with the Guidelines, the University of Montenegro was re-accredited, by the regularly appointed commission of EUA experts. The plan for the further development and improvement of the educational process, as well as the plan for the development of the scientific and research capacities of the University as a whole, was adopted at the level of units, in accordance with the recommendations of Commission for External Evaluation. External evaluation covers a minimum period of five years. In accordance with the above-mentioned Guidelines, external quality assurance has been performed for two universities and three individual faculties. In accordance with the Higher Education Act, the Council is responsible for ensuring quality in higher education. Each faculty has a person responsible for quality assurance. In terms of quality assurance, HEIs must conduct self-evaluations and evaluate and assess the quality of their study courses and work conditions. Self-evaluation is performed continuously, in accordance with the institutional statutes, and must involve stakeholders from the institution’s management, academic staff and students. Self-evaluation methods are determined according to the curricula, teaching equipment, qualification of academic staff, teaching method, pass rate percentage, percentage of graduates and other necessary indicators of the work of the institution. National guidelines recommend implementing procedures for continuous enhancement. The internal evaluation report is a compulsory part of the accreditation and re-accreditation process. Students are involved in the self-evaluation procedure (at faculty level all students are involved; at university level participation is via student representatives). Questionnaires are used as evaluation instruments. The process of internal self-evaluation is still relatively new. The current Higher Education Act prescribes a certain standard which the evaluation procedure has to reach. One obstacle Montenegro has to overcome in this field is the current lack of trained professionals in the quality assurance field.
The Quality Assurance Centre was established at the University of Montenegro in 2008, supported by WUS Austria and IPA 2007 funds.
As the supreme academic body, the University Senate proposes the number of students to be enrolled in the academic year, as well as defining the criteria and procedures for enrolment, in accordance with the Higher Education Act. Each HEI defines its own rulebook on conditions, criteria and procedures for enrolment in the first academic year. Student enrolment is based on the open public competition of the University for all study programmes. The public competition is published in daily newspapers and on the website of the University of Montenegro. The competition is announced in the second half of June of the academic year, indicating the first enrolment deadline. If the number of qualified candidates is less than the prescribed number, a second or even third enrolment deadline may be introduced. The second deadline is announced in the second half of July, while the third enrolment deadline is in the second half of August. Applicants who want to enrol for a particular study programme need to submit the following documents: original school leaving certificate, original diploma on passed “matura”, or final examination, birth certificate and diploma “Luca” (the highest award issued to the best pupils based on all the best marks gained throughout the whole secondary school study period). Prospective students must have finished secondary education to be able to enrol at an HEI. In accordance with the adopted changes and amendments of the Law on Higher Education, the matriculation or professional exam is valued with at least 15% of the total number of points obtained at admission. Admission procedure and admission requirements are the same both for “traditional” students, as well as for students who are older than a typical tertiary education student. Enrolment is competitive, in accordance with the results achieved during secondary school, and accordingly a ranking list is established. For enrolment in certain study programmes, additional examinations may be required as additional conditions, as prescribed by the Rulebook. Foreign citizen may enrol under the same conditions asn Montenegrin citizens, but they need to have their diplomas recognised. If the process of diploma recognition is not finished, foreign citizen may enroll provisionally, provided that the process for diploma recognition had already been initiated. Foreign students have the status as self-financing students.
8. Organisation of the academic year
The University determines the study programmes, rules of studying and examination and evaluation procedures, and this information needs to be transparent and available to students. The study year is organised in two semesters: winter and summer. The Governing Board, by special decision, determines when semesters begin. Semester study programmes last 16 weeks.
Examinations are held in the last week of the semester. After the end of the semester, the second examination deadline is organised. The study programme for a year amounts to 60 ECTS, or 30 ECTS per semester.
9. Curriculum content
The Senate defines the structure and content of the study programmes and courses. The initiative for new study programmes comes from the faculty. The introduction of new study programmes involves certain procedures to elaborate the justification for the new programme. The procedure begins with the faculty council. The Senate, on the recommendation of the rector, appoints a commission to work on the elaboration paper and carry out all other activities necessary for defining the new study programme. Once the elaboration paper is prepared, the faculty council, Senate and Governing Board of the university adopt it. When the documentation has been completed in accordance with the Acts of the Council of Higher Education (Initial Request for Accreditation of Study Programmes, Rulebook on Accreditation, Criteria and Standards for Accreditation), the documentation has to be accredited. The accreditation process is the responsibility of the Council of Higher Education, i.e. a commission appointed by the Council. If a study programme is to be changed by up to 30 ECTS, it does not need to be accredited. When changing the contents of a study programme, each university unit must submit its reasons for doing so to the university authorities.
10. Assessment, progression, certification and degree
The most common form of assessment for students is written examinations, but there are also oral examinations. Students financed from the state budget who do not fulfil the criteria to continue their studies as a budget-funded student may continue as self-financing students. Conversely, self-financing students who pass all exams may become budget-funded students if there are places available on their study programme. Those students are chosen on the basis of the ECTS gained and academic performance during their studies. The final examination is an individual elaboration of a particular issue in a field related to the study programme. After completion of a Bachelor degree, a student may apply for a specialist degree, and/or a Master degree, after which they may enrol for a doctoral programme. Students on undergraduate applied study programmes may progress to the level of Master.
11. Academic staff
Academic staff are professors directly involved in the provision of study programmes. Academic titles are as follows: full professor (redovni professor), associate professor (vanredni professor), lecturer, and professor at a higher vocational school (profesor na visokoj stručnoj školi), which is a university organisational unit. Teaching assistants, senior lectors, lectors and laboratory assistants are all involved in the realisation of study programmes. They need to be doctoral students (to already hold a Master degree, with the exception of laboratory assistants), and maintain an average grade of B during their studies.
All the categories of academic staff, except full professor, are appointed by the Senate of the University for a period of five years, after a public competition. Full professors only are appointed for unlimited periods of time. In accordance with the adopted changes and amendments of the Law on Higher Education, elections for the award of academic titles are performed by the university. In order to be able to use the title of full professor, one needs to hold a doctoral degree, have a high level of knowledge in the particular field, which is confirmed by publications in national and international academic journals, books and monographs, as well as through participation in national and international events, congresses and conferences; one also has to have the pedagogical and organizational skills required for academic work. For the title of lecturer, one needs to hold a doctoral degree, have published in national and international academic journals, show good results in classes, and have a good knowledge of the field in question.
12. Research activities
There are various legal acts defining scientific research activities in Montenegro, such as the Act on Scientific Research Activities, the Act on the Montenegrin Academy of Science and Arts, and the Strategy for the Development of Scientific and Research Activities. The Higher Education Act also contains parts related to the field of science and research. Among the objectives of higher education, the Act mentions:
– establishment, improvement and development of knowledge, science, arts and culture,
– transfer of general, scientific and professional knowledge and skills through education and research.
Research policy in Montenegro is carried out:
– through inclusion of research institutions and researchers in the European research area and international scientific programmes;
– through national and international research projects (basic, applied and developmental research);
– in premises and using the necessary equipment for research;
– by qualifying staff for scientific work and training researchers;
– by making the results of scientific work accessible in the country and throughout the world, and
– through fostering programmes which contribute to raising overall standards among the public and help build a knowledge-based society.
Research activities are funded from the state budget, but mainly through various international programmes. One of the most important instruments is FP7 programme.
13. University-enterprise cooperation
Employers are not directly involved in the definition of curricula. When starting each new study programme, the institution is obliged to draw up a needs analysis regarding the labour market, so as to justify the existence of the study programme; it must primarily take into account labour market requirements, and the opportunities for students’ employment. Certain HEIs have established cooperation mechanisms with certain enterprises/companies through cooperation agreements. In order to recruit future personnel, some companies offer scholarships to students and awards to the best students, and provide students with opportunities for practical placements and future employment.
14. International cooperation
The Tempus programme has, to a considerable extent, supported higher education reform in Montenegro since 2001, providing support for curricula development and university governance and also providing support to the Ministry of Education and Science as regards the introduction of the new law on the recognition and assessment of educational certificates, so as to create a NQF for higher education. The major contribution of Tempus through curriculum development projects centred on the revision and modernisation of curricula and the introduction of new Bachelor and Master programmes. University management projects have been of the utmost importance to the University of
Montenegro, especially at the time the new Higher Education Act was to be adopted, as well as the Statute of the University. The experience and support of foreign experts in this phase was of particular importance for higher education reform in Montenegro, and it created a basis for further development of the HE system. Tempus IV, as a continuation of the previous successful programme phase, focuses more on regional projects addressing civil society, making linkages with the labour market and the economy, although the focus still remains on curricula reform and university governance projects. As regards international cooperation apart from Tempus, we should mention the CEEPUS programme – Central European Exchange Programme for University Studies – which started to operate in Montenegro in the 2005/2006 academic year. It involves the development of central European university networks, made up of various individual networks, which promote academic mobility, mainly among students. Up to now, more than 200 students and academic staff have been able to take advantage of opportunities for mobility under the CEEPUS programme. In order to increase student and staff mobility, a number of measures have been taken at both the national and the institutional levels, so that universities participate in mobility programmes. Montenegro was chair of the CEEPUS till March 2010. A Ministerial CEEPUS Conference was held in Becici, Montenegro, and the CEEPUS
Agreement III (2011-2018) has been signed. Apart from various bilateral and cooperation agreements between the University of Montenegro and various universities worldwide, the University of Montenegro successfully participates in two projects under the former Erasmus Mundus – External Cooperation Window, called Basileus and JoinEuSEE, and so far there have been 61 instances of student mobility. Periods of study are recognised once the student returns to his/her home institution. There are also certain scholarships offered to Montenegrin students by foreign governments.
II. Current challenges and needs
1. Trends and challenges
The higher education reforms that started in 2001 in Montenegro are still continuing. From the beginning, these reforms were intended to help achieve the Bologna objectives. The legal framework created in 2003, as a basis for HE reforms and implementation of the Bologna principles, now needs to be changed and amended. At the moment, changes and amendments to the Higher Education Act are under way which will primarily focus on the financing of higher education, with special emphasis on the social dimension, including the provisions on private HEIs and the rights of students from private HEIs, the structure of the Council of Higher Education, stronger involvement of students in the Council of HE etc. A Strategy for the Development of a National Qualification Framework was adopted by the Government of Montenegro in 2008, and a working group was established to work on the preparation of the National Qualification Framework Act, which will be a life-long learning NQF. Implementation of the IPA 2007 project “National Qualification Framework and Quality Assurance in Higher Education” has recently started, and the foreign experts have been appointed who are to assist Montenegro in working on the NQF. The second part of the project is related to quality assurance in Montenegro, and the quality assurance experts are working closely with the quality assurance centre recently established at the University of Montenegro with the support of WUS (World University Service) Austria. A network of the quality assurance offices that exist in each university unit has been established. Documents on the functioning of the quality assurance network have been adopted, and Guidelines for internal quality assurance are under preparation. As part of project IPA 2007, strategic documents on quality assurance (policy, strategy and plan) and informatics support (software and hardware) for the more efficient functioning of the quality assurance centre are also being drawn up. The creation of the NQF and the further development of quality assurance have, from the very beginning, been the greatest challenges in the field of higher education. One of the biggest challenges is the creation of the Strategy for Higher Education Development. Under the Higher Education Act, the Council of Higher Education is to work on a proposal for strategy, and this will be supported by World Bank experts. In 2007, the University of Montenegro underwent the process of re-accreditation, performed by experts from the European University Association (EUA). In the commission report, certain recommendations were made that can serve as guidelines for further development and the improvement of quality in higher education. One of the issues mentioned in this report is the establishment of better links with the world of work. One way of establishing stronger links is the creation of the LLL (Life-Long Learning) strategy. The idea of the LLL strategy is deeply rooted in all ministerial communiqués, EUA reports and EU overall education policy papers. One of the strategic orientations in the future period would therefore be to prepare the university LLL strategy. The issue of regulated professions, the creation of a list of regulated professions, as well as the harmonisation of legislation with Directive EC/36/2005 thus remains a major challenge for Montenegro, especially because of the European integration process under way in Montenegro, and the need to harmonise Montenegrin legislation with existing EU legislation.