New Universities in the Balkans: European visions, UFOs and Megatrends

It’s a stale (and wrong) cliché that the Balkans produce more history than they can consume (quote from Churchill). More recently, it seems like the Balkans are producing more universities than anybody could (or should) consume. Throughout most countries of the region, there has been a boom of new private (and state-run) universities. In Serbia, there are some 17 universities, plus a number of independent “faculties”, i.e. departments. With only a quarter of the population, Macedonia has approximately the same number of universities. Bosnia beats both Serbia and Macedonia with the number of state (or rather entity and cantonal) universities: nine (including two in Sarajevo, Mostar) and around the same number of private universities. Kosovo is lagging behind with just two public universities (and the second one in Prizren is still pretty new) and less than ten private universities. The regional winner seems to be Albania with over 10 public and over 30 private universities.

There is no doubt that advancing higher education is  a good idea, esp. in a region where the ratio of university graduates is below the European average. It is also not bad in principle to have private universities. However, considering that there are approximately as many private universities in the region than in the entire European Union (minus Romania which also has dozens of private universities) together (around 100, mostly very small institutions: Austria 13, Germany 83, UK 1, Hungary 1, Netherlands 1, Portugal less than 10, most other countries none or single digits), there might be a bit of an oversupply. Thus, considering the limited resources, both in terms of funding for students to pay tuition and in terms of potential teachers, the number in the Balkans is striking.

Some of the institutions are certainly on their way to establish themselves as serious places of higher education. Many others have a distinctly dubious ring. Here is my list of my favorite ten private universities in the Western Balkans (this is not to suggest that these are not fine institutions, but presentation and names leave a bit to be desired):

Runners-Up

European Vision University (Prishtina, Kosovo). Basic website, but European vision.

International University of Travnik (Bosnia). Best picture of library

Top Ten:

10.  Pan-European University “APEIRON” (Banja Luka, BiH). Here the name is pretty good. Apeiron means infinite or limitless in Greek, so this is the infinite Pan European University. In addition to its name, it also wins a mention for its cryptic English text “How strong are you to win yourself?  During its development, human society has managed to overpower and strengthen its capabilities acting by the influence of its will, by the strength of its body and mind, achieving the best results in different life activities…”

9. Crystal University (Highway Tirana-Durres, Albania). Once more, the name makes this university worth a mention, as well as the address (Highway Tirana-Durres, kilometer 3) and the motto: Crystallize Your Future!

8. Synergy University (Bijelina, BiH). This university also deserve recognition for its name and the picture with the current president of the RS (and his predecessor below) on the main page, a prominent scholar and promoter of academia.

7. UFO University (Tirana, Albania). No, there is no department for extraterrestrial studies here. UFO stands for “Universitas Fabrefacta Optime”, which means as much a university to forge the good. So it’s the University to Forge the Good University. Their motto, 3000 students cannot be wrong (in the Albanian version of the website, it is 4000 students can’t be wrong). To quote the president: “Welcome to UFO University!  Many of you have just started the university studies, the others are deeply engaged to reach their best, as you are living some of the most intensive years of live. I say convincingly that you should feel lucky that this intensity of taking and treating of the knowledge you experiment in lecture rooms of UFO University. We give our belief, so that each element that must have “a good university” ….

6. International University of Struga (Macedonia).According to the website, the uni boasts many African-American and Asian-American students, palm trees. The university, in the words of the rector “is one of the most significant historical events for this city as well as for Republic of Macedonia and the region of Balkan.This University will accomplish the dreams of the citizens of Struga, Macedonia and the wider region and it will contribute to develop the city of Struga into “Balkan Strasbourg”.” According to the mission of the university “International University of Struga is a highly qualifiedUniversity which is fullydevotedtothe education and successfulness of its students” 

5. International University of Novi Pazar (Serbia). Another international university in the region. The president is “Da Mufty” Zukorlic. He notes in his message to the world that “we wait for long for the sun of university to shine from the piece of the sky above us…and now we will enjoy this sun.” (no translation can do justice to the Bosnian original)

4. Megatrend University (Belgrade, Serbia). This university earned its place in this ranking through its mega-creative name and of course, for making the leader of the people’s Jamahiriya a Doctor honoris causa (see here for the universities justification). To quote the university: “This once again proves the readiness of Megatrend University to follow the world trends of international business and educational cooperation.”

3. University of Donja Gorica (UDG) (Montenegro). This uni is a bit more modest about its name , even if it aims to be the Oxford of Montengro and in the process earn Milo Djukanovic, one of its owners (together with liberitarian economist Veselin Vukotic), a bit of extra cash. Oh yes, it is also very orange.

2. Iliria Royal University (Prishtina, Kosovo). A royal university, and Iliriya? What more can one ask for? This university is under the patronage of the King of Albania. Of course the academic (and for that matter royal) credentials of Leka, “King of Albanians” are well established. The university also seems to engage in a good amount of flag-waving, American that is.

1. Slobomir P University (Slobomir, Bosnia). This is a university for a (virtual) city. The project of a certain couple known as Slobodan and Mira, no, not what you think, Pavlovic (thus the P. in the name). It’s a part of a grandiose plan for a city of freedom in peace, a just down the road from Bijelina. A city of the future has all one needs from a city of peace, a university, a TV station and an aqua park (Palma, eat your heart out). And Dodik is also shaking some hands in the city of peace.

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40 Responses to New Universities in the Balkans: European visions, UFOs and Megatrends

  1. kapedani says:

    what about “Vitrina” (Window Shop) in Albania, Tirana with the moto : Don’t hide, reveale (show) yourself (Mos rri, po duku).

  2. Pingback: Bieber’s Top 10: List of Bizarre Balkan Universities | BTURN

  3. Braindrain says:

    When the state doesn’t know how to take care of education (coruption and not enough financial support), its obvious that people will identify the business opportunity in education. Í agree that the private universities are not always credible and good, but they seem to teach you a lot more than a public university in the Balkans.

  4. Endem says:

    You forgot the UDG motto: “Be a part of the history of future.” Great and spot on article.

  5. sv says:

    Good one for UDG: Be the part of the history of future! :))

  6. Florian Bieber says:

    Definetely Vitrina deserves a places on the list: Show your values! Because you’re worth it! It is apparently also “recognized for its unique and conservative character”…

    http://www.vitrina.edu.al/rreth-universitetit/filozofia-dhe-misioni/?lang=en

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  8. Ridvan Peshkopia says:

    I have a clarification. UFO does not stand for “Universitas Fabrefacta Optime.” Its owner, Astrit Veliu (nedless to add here that he is semi-illiterate) opened in the mid 1990s a dental clinic named KLINIKA DENTARE UFO [UFO Dental Clinic]. Freshly arrived in the capital city, Tirana, from the countryside and having been recently bombarded with fantascience movies out of the broadcast liberation of the postsocialist Albania, the man got fascinated with the Holywoodian alien fantasy, so he named its clinic after the UFOs. When he switched to a university, some professors, among them Shpend Bengu, embarrassed by the stupidity of the university’s name, but unable to persuade its UFO-lover owner to change the university’s name, came uo with the Universitas Fabrefacta Optime. However, recently, perhaps alarmed by the sharp decline in registration, UFO University changed its name to Albanian University, but it is basically the same guffy stuff with a different name.

  9. Gjergj says:

    There is also one university called: Planetary University of Tirana. There to there are not extraterrestrial studies but they have medicine department and by the name, perhaps they have discovered the mysteries of UFO UFO abduction stories . http://universitetiplanetar.com.

  10. Ridvan Peshkopia says:

    Vitrina means “showcase.” How about a PhD from the Showcase University? I think, all the doors of Earth and Heaven will be opened to you. “Don’t stay shy, show up”! Haaaaaaaa!

  11. klodi says:

    What about CAN YOU DO IT? (alb: e ben dot?) UET university in Albania.

  12. Nikola says:

    In No.5, the link to “Bosnian original” is actually this one: http://www.uninp.edu.rs/sr-latn/o-univerzitetu/rijec-predsjednika/

  13. Pingback: A friendly letter from the International University of Struga « Florian Bieber

  14. UDGstudent says:

    Can you tell me from your perspective what do you find wrong with UDG in Montenegro? Beside alluding owners opened it for profits? Yes, it’s orange, that’s their color. As ex student of state university and current one of UDG I can tell you quality of, well everything is at higher level, from professors to teaching conditions, study material etc.
    Now, it’s far from perfect like anything here but it’s trying to become internationally respected university, despite constant bashing of local media, which have taken this article now and changed it a bit.
    I’ll be the first to name its cons and bad sides but I’d like to hear some constructive criticism for once, beside constant hate from some local press and people, mainly due to owner, which me personally don’t like that much, but can’t say he is bad businessman heh

  15. RK says:

    It’s really sad this what you do! But I will let you one thing i guess you already know….Beyond a good stallion there’s a lot of dust!!!!

  16. Lighthouse says:

    Your text was cited in one of Montenegrin newspapers, and used as another way to annoy/satisfy the public (and that’s not too hard, obviously). I was curious to see the original writing and about who You are.

    Of course, your text was misinterpreted by the local media and the part where you say that you do not suggest that these are not fine institutions was surely not mentioned.

    Anyhow, your bad judgment offended me (since I’m one of the “orange ones” and somewhere in that photo) and having read your academic and professional background, I must say I was even more dissapointed with the criteria you used in the text to “rank” the Universities. UDG certainly does not deserve to be ranked by the color, the owners or the slogan. And even by doing so, it is far(by far I mean extreme far) from “bizzare”. Have you even entered the UDG website? Have you read about curriculum, the teaching staff or the activities/seminars held on UDG? How come your analysis are so superficial?

    Hope you don’t perceive this reply the wrong way, I just had to react (somehow) to something completely unappreciative of the new ideas and great efforts in Montenegro.

    Also, you are more than welcome to visit our University!!!

    Greetings from Montenegro.
    Student of Postgraduate Studies, UDG

  17. Milijana says:

    Is it true, mister Bieber , that some uni sue you for this text? In Montenegro is huge debate about UDG.Your text confirmed that what we were afraid of.

  18. Mike says:

    I think that UDG’ logo is something that you should write about in your next post :-)

    Haha, I believe it’s the worst logo ever created. :-)

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that someone made it in Microsoft word :-)

  19. Anja says:

    Dear Mr. Bieber,

    I have read this blog even on beginning of September, but I never gave such importance to it until few days ago, when in local newspaper/their website/facebook we got highlighted title: UDG 3rd on the list of most bizarre universities in Balkan. In Montenegro there is a big issue with private Universities, and to be precisely especially UDG because of its’ owner.

    As a former student of this institution let me say that it is far away of bizarre. Above all things I have said in loads of debates that I had (and I am not going to give any arguments on that now), I must say that I am really proud that I have been studying there, wearing orange t-shirt and representing its’ color and name everywhere. As I was student of first generation I never regretted enrolling it, as a matter of fact when I finish my Master degree I will probably go back there and enroll the PhD studies.

    I don’t know if you were aware how harmful will this article be for reputation of some of the new Universities, especially for ones that are trying to build one on a very hard way in a really small close-minded countries. It’s not only damage to University it is also damage for students, as much as for present as for former.

    As I could understand you are doing studies on Balkans and I would like to ask you: Knowing the mentality of Balkan people don’t you think that this will close their mind even more, and that they will still think that private universities are just for bad students who wants to pay their diploma? (because that is the biggest issue). Don’t you think that now someone will completely underestimate my work and effort that I invested studying there?

    We, students of UDG did lots of effort to be considered seriously in Montenegro, as a matter of fact we are not considered seriously only in Montenegro, but every institution around it respect us, from Canada/USA above wery well known Universities in Europe. But that is a problem, because not all of us has opportunity to work outside Montenegro.

    I most certainly understand your article and I understood purpose of it, as I said I did not give much importance before, but now sincerely I think you need to give at least a public apologize for damage you’ve made.

    Sincerely,

    Anja Boskovic
    Student of Master in Actuarial Science
    Technical University of Lisbon

  20. sampalavaladjenoveskamilipilipitikovski says:

    There has been lots of commotions since your blog was published in the daily Montenegrian newspaper Vijesti, I have rad your article and it seems that you are expressing a private opinion that doesn’t targets west public and also that someone has found your blog via internet and used it for their personal interests whatever that might be, or I might be wrong, and you are the responsible person that everyone is finger pointing. As you know Balkan has had many religions, rulers, kings, and presidents that came and went, and sacrificing or self sacrifice of one professor is nothing in comparison…I am just saying
    You have chosen and wrong stated the geographical point of the area you have mentioned, Balkan is both east and west and kinda in the middle of Balkans inside itself, inside its own soul, I hope you can understand that, for centuries we have this problem as you do with finger pointing, escalations, and wars, some still consider, via media, Former Yugoslavia, which are now named as 7 different entities, one reality show of barbarians, neanderthals, maybe somewhat primitive, compering to the elegance of EU, and EU calculated % estimates, so you might not have taken all the estimates into your consideration before writing this in your blog, but as you said in your newspaper published response it its not scientific report but a personal opinion

    My personal response to Churchill quotation
    I mean he is dead and he is not considered a philosopher, maybe he can bear some historical importance as a leader and bla bla bla, but I don’t see him in the ranks of important philosophers taught, why didn’t you use Marshal Tito’s quotations instead? why did you had to use an opinion of say a foreigner who never spent even a year in Balkans and his personal and wise opinion of the Balkans’ people what they can do and what they can not. Let me give my distance opinion of the peoples’ cultural representative with the historical impact of Germanic people and the area they occupy , well they also used to be called barbarians, primitives….but they developed, separated into many different entities, united again under multicultural umbrella of EU. In the South Slavic case- why separate one person in 7 then try to fold it back to one bigger entity? No sense, then just go with the flow

    For the end I would like to quote John Lennon
    “I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”

    Sincerely and with respect

    UDG= University for Domestic Genius

    Student

  21. Sam says:

    Well, universities all over the world intend to promote values of a region/country and the history of the people living in there. I don’t really undertand why has ILIRIA Royal University has been mentioned with so many questionmarks?! It seems that mr. Bieber either have some personal issues with it or does not understand the purpose of the name and values this institution tries to promote.
    1. What is wrong in using the name of Albanian predecessors? Should have they asked you for doing?!
    2. Albanian Monarchy is known in the history to contribute into establishing the foundation of the modern albanian state! The institution is only promoting national values and it is not being run or governed by the Royal Family or any daily politics (perhaps you didn’t know this)
    3. The American flags?!?! Perhaps you didn’t know this either: American people along with other european nations (including yours) have contributet in saving a nation from ethnic cleansing. The institution believes that appreciation to these nations for their sacrifice and effort should be permanent and in generations to come. Every year the university organizes festivities in order to show Kosovar youth’s appreciation for the support and friendship.

    • Ridvan Peshkopia says:

      O you, my fellow Balkanians! Why won’t you stop attacking this wonderful article, and hide your intellectual miserability? Why would you, with your crappy English and your miserable writing skills, are doing everything to prove the author right? Isn’t anyone wiser out there to copy-edit your poor entries in this blog? Why have you put your logic in the shelf and kiss your brain good bye? If those who attack this article are all those zanny universities can produce, I am telling you that Prof. Bieber is treating you with far more respect than you deserve. You’re dumb, dumb, dumb, just like your universities’ names suggest. Why wouldn’t you shut up the freaking hole on your face, and hide from the world your stupidity, thus allowing my intolerace toward it to rest in peace?

      • Another Balkanian says:

        Intellectuals do not use the vocabulary that you use in your previous post! Knowledge of English is not an indication of one’s intelligence!

        BTW I totally support the article, many of these universities are only money makers and diploma producers!

      • Ridvan Peshkopia says:

        I never claimed to be an intellectual; in the Balkans, they represent simply those who have a university degree. I have a little more than that. While I agree that knowledge of English does not qualify someone as smart, one’s participation in an international debate without a proper English certainly qualifies him/her as dumb.

      • sampalavaladjenoveskamilipilipitikovski says:

        you are talking about commentators bad English lets have a look at one of your sentences- Ridvan wrote “Why would you, with your crappy English and your miserable writing skills, are doing everything to prove the author right?” your question here says ” Why would you… are doing everything to prove the author right?” I hope you are not Florian Bieber’s student because that would be bigger shame then our poor english

      • Ridvan Peshkopia says:

        Hahaha! I’m not his student; I don’t even know him. I simply liked his take on the topic and got pissed off out of the stupid comments posted on this blog on that matter. As for my sentence, just like my entire entry, it is written in a fine English which, obviously, you cannot grasp…

      • Ridvan Peshkopia says:

        Is this your sentence? Is anyone that can make any sense of this excruciating sentence?

        “You have chosen and wrong stated the geographical point of the area you have mentioned, Balkan is both east and west and kinda in the middle of Balkans inside itself, inside its own soul, I hope you can understand that, for centuries we have this problem as you do with finger pointing, escalations, and wars, some still consider, via media, Former Yugoslavia, which are now named as 7 different entities, one reality show of barbarians, neanderthals, maybe somewhat primitive, compering to the elegance of EU, and EU calculated % estimates, so you might not have taken all the estimates into your consideration before writing this in your blog, but as you said in your newspaper published response it its not scientific report but a personal opinion.”

        That’s funny! Hahaha…

      • sampalavaladjenoveskamilipilipitikovski says:

        and why is that funny? but your question asking ‘Why would you… are doing?’ isn’t. Please enlighten me with your vest English vocabulary or let me suggest you try using maybe French or Latin to express your intellectual dominance. This web page might not have the spell check for those two but as you said it earlier you know how to copy and past.

      • Ridvan Peshkopia says:

        Hahaha!

  22. Denis says:

    @Ridvan Peshkopia
    And that is your argument?! Some people in here can’t write english properly?! Congratulations on your english. I hope you can write in your mothertongue language as good as you do in English (if you at least have respect for it).

    • Ridvan Peshkopia says:

      Yes, that’s my argument, proud of it and signed wth my proper name! If you don’t get it, go to a better school!

  23. Serbi says:

    Good article Florian.

    I had the chance to get teaching offers in these universities in Albania, and I know very well what goes on inside of them. I was once offered to teach master students at UFO University – in communication. When I meet the dean of communication department I told him that I have no master or Phd in communication – how can I teach here? He told me – come on! You have a good CV and this is Albania.

    I have many ex-students who have gone to these universities. They have gone there just to take a degree by drinking coffee and give good money to the chiefs (presidents) of these universities. One day I meet one gymnasium friend of mine – who does not even to read Albanian properly. I asked him what are you doing? He told me I have just take a law degree from Kristal University. I told him bravo! You did not know how to read in high school. He told me – never mind. Now I pay and get the degree. I have paid 5000 US to the president and I will get a masters degree soon. I asked him: what in the hell shall you do with that? He told me: Ilir Meta (in that time foreign minister) will send me ambassador if I take this degree. I told him – but you were his driver – how can this thing happen. He told me, he has promised me.

    But what is the funniest of all is that some owners of these universities – have only 4 years of primary education. I am wondering why you did not include in this article anything about the “European University of Tirana” whose “chief” Naim – who changed name into Henry – claims to have a masters degree from France – but this brand new university is mass producing European Phd-s?

  24. Aleksandar says:

    Right on the target. A more thorough analysis would have probably unearthed many more bizarre things. Our intellectual basis in the academia was meagre even in Yugoslavia, because of the political correctness and opportunism that ruled over academic advancement (read: below-average students and junior scholars were frequently promoted because of their political “cleanliness”, ideological skewedness and family and political ties). The good thing about the old system was that education overall was more solid and ethical. Today, Yugoslavia having been fragmented, the old ills of our system have been inherited with a few new ones, caused either by political agendas or by profit minded individuals lacking any ethical standards. An academic community without morality and without academic integrity cannot produce thinking human beings, despite all the reforms and Bologna-like attempts. Another major thing that happened is that the few clever people that we had before the war either fled the area or were intellectually or physically killed. So, at least here in B&H, the consequences are, to be honest, quite bleak. As I have just said, the situation in Yugoslavia had not been that good intellectually and academically (otherwise we would not have had in the aftermath what we have had, would we?). I have worked in the academia here for the last fifteen years, trying very hard to raise intellectual awareness and academic goals and standards both with my students and colleagues but, despite some achievements, I do not think I have had much success. Old habits die hard. At least, I have many doubts about it. And I have worked both in the state and private sector, and the problems are similar: lack of motivation, lack of objectivity, mutual respect, corruption, cheating, and an overall lethargy. And, in addition to this, we have equally, if not more serious problems in the primary and secondary education. Of course, there are exceptions to this and examples of good work, but they are in the minority. Back to the idea of your article, let us hope that the market equation that quantity will yield quality may also work for us. Yet I still believe that there are certain areas of human life to which market values somehow do not belong: family, love, friendship, health services, art and education. But I may be old-fashioned.

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  27. eri says:

    I am very surprised to learn from you evaluating KRISTAL university in Albania,you writer please be informed more when you write something.Every body know here how are the diploma are taken …please just read this article how an Italian having no Idea of Albania graduated there with all 10 marks :
    hhttp://gazeta-shqip.com/lajme/2012/05/06/diploma-e-bossi-t-prokuroria-shqiptare-leterporosi-ne-itali/ education here sucksssssss

  28. Pingback: New universities in the Balkans | Adventures in Higher Education Quality

  29. Florian Bieber says:

    Here is the Albanian version of the blog post: http://gazetajnk.com/?cid=1,983,979

  30. Florian Bieber says:

    A quote from the post on Courriers des Balkans http://balkans.courriers.info/article23868.html

  31. Pingback: Revisiting New Universities in the Balkans: European Visions, UFOs and Megatrends - Balkanist

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