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October 31, 2017 | Tuesday

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Academic integrity at the University of Prishtina

By Rron Gjinovci – ORCA

Academic fraud is a global trend. In developed countries, particular emphasis is put on catching student that cheat during the process of studies, especially through plagiarism, but another type of fraud has also taken root, and this is simply buying wholesale papers.

In Kosovo, although there is talk of this issue, no report or research to reveal this phenomenon has been conducted yet.

However, significant steps have been made in Kosovo in another issue related to academic integrity. Since 2014, when a rector was dismissed due to attempted cheating during the academic advancement process, the public’s attention has been focused on faculty professors of the largest university in the country.

The 2015/16 academic year culminated in the gridlock imposed by former rector Ramadan Zejnullahu to the Senate in order to prevent undeserved advancements. This resulted in protests and critical situations that had an effect on raising the public’s attention to a global problem. Today, Kosovo may be the country that has dealt the most with the issue of predatory journals.

After a number of media reports on this phenomenon in 2014, and after the dismissal of a rector and many protests, a debate between civil society and institutions has started on this issue in Kosovo.

In February 2017, ORCA published the report on the “Academic Integrity of the Leaders of the University of Prishtina”, which states that 25 out of 61 professors with academic titles (about 40%) who occupy leading positions have published at least one paper in suspicious journals.

Further, the report addresses the issue of justification of academic titles. To receive an academic title, one of the main conditions is the number of scientific papers. When ORCA considered whether the current academic titles of UP leaders would be justified in case the papers published on suspicious magazines would be removed from the count, it turned out that 30 out of 61 professors with academic titles (about 50%) occupying positions of leadership could not hold their current academic titles.

Even more disconcerting was to calculate whether UP leaders could justify their academic titles if papers published in dubious journals were counted as authentic papers. 26 out of 61 professors with academic titles (around 40%) occupying leadership positions do not justify their titles even if papers published in dubious journals were counted as authentic papers.

This showed that there systematic violations of the Statute and applicable laws have taken place. A large number of professors have advanced in academic titles without having published enough scientific papers.

For this reason, ORCA focused on monitoring the advancement process that took place in 2017. After great media pressure led by ORCA and assisted by various media and non-governmental organizations, a tangible success was achieved on this issue.

In the 2017 process of academic advancement, 131 candidates were recommended for advancement. ORCA estimated that 74 of the nominees for advancement did not meet the conditions, for not having published enough scientific papers or due to the fact that the papers were published in suspicious journals. For each candidate ORCA has submitted a detailed report to all UP Senators who would participate in the voting. 70 out of 74 candidates rated negatively by ORCA were not awarded the advancement.

For the first time, the University of Prishtina accomplished a process of advancement that was characterized by minor violations compared to the past, when this process was conducted behind closed doors and with massive violations.

Meanwhile, the new Kosovo government begins the chapter on higher education in its governing program with the phrase “Evidence of developments in Higher Education implies the fundamental problem that is the advancement of academic staff.”

Now, the issue of academic integrity that is closely related to the academic advancement of the staff of higher education institutions has turned into state agenda, and this is another success of public pressure exerted by activists, students, media and civil society organizations over the years.