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The Re-Institutionalization of Higher Education in the Western Balkans

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


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 8: Quality Assurance in Croatia and Serbia: Analysis of Changes of Policy and Internal Organizational Practices


Martina Vukasović

Over the last 20 years a number of changes in higher education have taken place in Croatia and Serbia. The most dynamic period of changes overlaps with the participation of the two countries in the Bologna Process, given that both countries joined the Process relatively early (Croatia in 2001 and Serbia in 2003) and since then have gone through several changes of legislation and other policy instruments, to a large extent reflecting the Bologna Process action lines. Some of these policy changes concern the issue of quality assurance (QA) of higher education at the system level, and include the introduction of accreditation of study programmes, accreditation and external evaluation of higher education institutions (HEIs), as well as introduction of new buffer structures specifically tasked with QA. Concerning the organizational level, partly due to the introduction of institutional accreditation, a requirement that HEIs are expected to develop internal QA procedures was also introduced.

While such changes of policy (system level) and HEI rules and practices (organisational level) can primarily be seen as part-and-parcel of Bologna implementation, indicating a convergence of national policies and institutional practices, recent reports and comparative studies suggest caution and indicate there may be much more divergence looming under the surface (EA-CEA 2012; Westerheijden et al. 2010a). In other words, there is the danger of subsuming the entirety of policy and organizational developments related to QA under the Bologna umbrella, overlooking domestic specificities in the policy change process, and not going beyond...

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