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The Re-Institutionalization of Higher Education in the Western Balkans

The Interplay between European Ideas, Domestic Policies, and Institutional Practices

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Edited By Jelena Branković, Maja Kovačević, Peter Maassen, Bjørn Stensaker and Martina Vukasović

Higher education in the Western Balkans is currently undergoing substantial changes as a result of European reform ideas, new domestic policy initiatives as well as universities and colleges in the region trying to adapt to new expectations and challenges. The book analyzes the changes in both policy and practices in various countries in this region predominantly through a comparative approach. Through a number of empirical studies in which new data was collected and systematized, the book shows how countries in the Western Balkans are struggling to maneuver between adapting to broader European reform ideas while at the same time handling domestic challenges. Hence, the book is a valuable contribution to those interested in studying how various higher education systems are developing in the different European regions.
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Chapter 1: Introduction

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Bjørn Stensaker, Jelena Branković, Maja Kovačević, Peter Maassen and Martina Vukasović

Change has been a key characteristic of European higher education the last three decades. During this period higher education systems and institutions have witnessed dramatically changing socio-economic, technological and political environments, general public sector reforms aimed at modernizing public sector governance and management, and increasing demands for positive social and economic impacts of their education and research activities. However, as part of this process, one should underline that some countries and regions have been more exposed to various change dynamics than others. The countries often described as “the Western Balkans” (former Yugoslavia, minus Slovenia, plus Albania) during the last couple of decades have faced two interrelated sets of challenges. First, they had to re-establish their own national higher education systems following the institutional upheaval of the break-down of former Yugoslavia or the fall of the autocratic regime of Enver Hoxha in Albania. This required the development of new laws and regulations, the establishment of new governance and funding systems, and the adequate handling of problems with respect to the quality, efficiency and relevance of higher education institutions. Second, the countries had to adjust these newly developed systems to European developments, not least the Bologna Process and more internationally oriented higher education institutions while maintaining national and regional relevance.

The countries of the Western Balkans form a particularly interesting region to study since in-depth studies can shed lights on several theoretical and policy related...

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