As thousands of students turn to nursing as a way to move to Germany, health experts worry about standards slipping. Suzana Manxhuka Kerliu, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Pristina, condemned a decision three years ago by the Kosovo Accreditation Agency (KAA) to allow private colleges to admit unlimited numbers of nursing students each year. “How can our faculty only be allowed to admit 50 students in nursing while private ones can admit thousands?” she said. “‘It’s good to have competition, but we should pay attention to quality and rigid monitoring.” KAA head Gazmend Luboteni said the decision was based on an assessment that “the needs of the market were higher than what the Faculty of Medicine was offering” — despite the fact that hundreds of medical graduates have not found jobs in Kosovo.
Lul Raka, a professor of microbiology at Pristina University and a former KAA board member, said Kosovo has breached both European Commission directives and its own laws on higher education. “Based on EU directives, titles such as doctor, dentist, pharmacist, nurse or physiotherapist can only be issued by a university or universities that are related to scientific institutions,” he said. “None of the private colleges fulfill this condition.” Adding to anxiety about standards are reports that some private colleges are cutting corners. “They don’t follow regulations … There are many staff with the title of professor who do not have PhDs,” Manxhuka-Kerliu said.
Private colleges, which typically charge students 1,000-2,000 euros a year, counter that the University of Pristina does not have a monopoly on quality. Fitim Alidemaj, head of the department of nursing at the private University of Business and Technology, said his institution invests more in staff and infrastructure. “We have 102 staff for nursing alone,” he said. Analysis by BIRN of staff resumes posted online reveals that all public universities and private colleges offering nursing have academic staff without the PhDs required by law. In many cases, lecturers are Masters students. In their defence, tertiary institutions cite an administrative order issued by the education ministry in 2017 giving them a five-year “grace period” to ensure staff have the necessary postgraduate degrees. The KAA is supposed to monitor universities and colleges to make sure staff are up to scratch, but some experts question its ability — or willingness — to do so.
In September, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), a Brussels-based umbrella group for quality assurance organisations, cancelled the KAA’s membership on the grounds it was not doing enough to safeguard standards. “There has been no monitoring or follow up of recommendations of earlier reviews,” the ENQA wrote in a letter to KAA, available online. “Monitoring has been limited to formal requirements only, limited to control rather than quality enhancement.” Experts say the ENQA’s move could make it harder for Kosovo students to have their qualifications recognised.