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Western Balkans Ministerial Conference: Quality and Quality Assurance in Higher Education – Trends and developments in the EU and Western Balkans

Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of North Macedonia, in cooperation with the Education Reform Initiative of the South Eastern Europe (ERI SEE) Secretariat, gathered some of region’s ministers and other high ranking government officials, representatives of competent institutions, academia and experts from the Western Balkans and European Union (EU) at the “Quality and Quality Assurance in Higher Education – Trends and developments in the EU and Western Balkans“ conference on 26th and 27th September 2023 in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia.

The ministers of education and science of the Republic of North Macedonia and Montenegro, Mr Jeton Shaqiri and Mr Miomir Vojinović, Assistant Minister of Education of the Republic of Serbia Mr Aleksandar Jović, Vice-Minister of Education, Science and Sport of Lithuania Ms Agne Kudarauskiene, as well as over 80 conference participants discussed on this occasion the quality and quality assurance of higher education in the region and the steps to be taken to increase it.

The international conference was opened by the Minister Shaqiri, who underlined the significance of such an event and expressed the expectation that the conference will result with the roadmap that will improve the quality of higher education in each of the economies of the region.

„I believe you will agree that it is not a question of whether to intervene in higher education, but what kind of intervention we need“, said Mr Shaqiri, and added that it should start as soon as possible, „Because education, including higher education, is a living thing that is constantly changing. It depends on numerous social and global factors and trends, and we have to adapt the systems to the changes happening in all other spheres and segments“, said Mr Shaqiri in his opening remarks.

Ms Tina Šarić, ERI SEE Director, in her address said that effective quality mechanisms will help us advance knowledge, foster innovation, and address the challenges that our time constantly presses on higher education. „This, in turn, will help us prepare our citizens, the citizens of the region, for the dynamic world in which we live“, said Šarić.

The Minister of Education of Montenegro, Mr Miomir Vojinović, also emphasised the quality of higher education in the context of quality of society in general.

The directors of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), Mr Douglas Blackstock and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), Ms Magalie Soenen.

“Quality assurance is a collaborative process and brings together all students and members of the academic community so that we can, through collaboration, build a much higher quality in higher education. I am here not only to share good practices from other countries, but also to hear experiences from the Western Balkans, to learn how the system works and to use them in my future work“, said on this occasion Mr Douglas Blackstock, president of the ENQA, gathering 46 agencies for ensuring the quality of education in Europe.

The Director of EQAR, Ms Magali Soenen reminded that the European framework is the basis for cooperation between European higher education institutions and for the recognition of diplomas, which allows for greater mobility of people in the Europe.

The event also hosted two key speakers, Ms Ellen Hazelkorn, PhD, Professor Emerita at the Technological University Dublin and Ms Danijela Horvatek Tomić, PhD, the Director of the Croatian Agency for Science and Higher Education.

The two-day event comprised the presentations from the high-level European experts, panel discussions with policy makers and representatives of key institutions compеtent for quality assurance in the Western Balkans, European and regional experts from academia, workshops, as well as the study visits to the University Kyril and Method and International Balkans University in Skopje, where participants of the conference were hosted by the Rectors: professor Biljana Angelova, PhD and professor Lutfi Sunar, PhD.  who presented their latest achievements and experiences in encouraging a culture of quality among professors and students.

The Western Balkans Ministerial Conference “Quality and Quality Assurance in Higher Education – Trends and developments in the EU and Western Balkans“ resulted in the Western Balkans Policy Recommendations for Quality in Higher Education on further directions for enhancing the quality and quality assurance in higher education in the Western Balkans, in accordance with the Bologna Process commitments and European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (European Standards and Guidelines – ESG).

Presentations from the conference are available here:

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