University students protest tariff hikes, low education standards in Albania

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 5, 2018 13:33

University students protest tariff hikes, low education standards in Albania

Story Highlights

  • Among some the students’ demands is to remove a 670 Albanian Lek fee for every credit left to be obtained for failed classes and to pay the year’s total education fee in January, rather than in December.

Related Articles

TIRANA, Dec. 6- Over Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday what started as Construction Engineering, Architecture and Urban Development students taking the streets of Tirana in protest of the government’s decision to place some additional fees turned into a big student protest from all over Albania.

Initially, the students’ demands centered on removing a 670 Albanian Lek fee for every credit left to be obtained for failed classes and changing university payment deadlines.

However, as the protest’s scope started expanding to include Elbasan students on Wednesday and Durres and Korca students on Thursday, the list of demands also grew longer.

As of Thursday, the students’ demands included: cancelation of extra fees charging students retaking classes by the credit, 50 percent reduction of university fees, improvement of dorm facilities, addition of one student representative at the university board, to arrive at an equal number of university and education ministry representatives, as it is foreseen in the law for Higher Education.

University students from Shkodra also warned they will be joining the capital students protesting on Friday.

On Wednesday, hundreds of students gathered at the Engineering Faculty building’s front yard, part of Tirana’s public Polytechnic University, and marched through the city streets heading towards the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth.

Tirana University students, the majority coming from the natural sciences and law faculties, joined the protest on the way to the education ministry.

Deputy Minister of Education Besa Shahini asked for a representative body once the protesters blocked the traffic in one of Tirana’s main streets, but the students haven’t complied so far, instead waving their “Drop the Fees” banners and throwing eggs on the ministry’s walls.

Education Minister Lindita Nikolla said during a conference the added credit fee per failed class students are mainly objecting to does not go in effect this year and will probably only apply to first-year-students starting in 2019.

The country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, on the other hand, replying to a citizen’s Facebook comment on one of his daily pictures asking him to give striking students a solution, said “he doesn’t think taxpayer money should pay for failing students’ university costs.”

“Is there consent that you, taxpayers, pay failing students’ university costs? I don’t personally think so, and the second point is there has been no fee hikes since 2014 (which is not something the ministry decides on anyway, but the university itself, it’s called educational autonomy), but there is a lot of disinformation spread by a minority that doesn’t want to accept the education reform,” Rama wrote.

Despite Rama’s claims, countless experts’ stand on the education system is that imposition of fees on failed classes puts students at an even greater disadvantage to professors, who often pressure students under the risk of failing classes. Moreover, countless studies have shown that corruption is widespread among the faculty.

Students have not agreed to speak to any government representatives – they have given the education ministry a deadline by 4pm on Thursday to issue a statement.


Education Ministry backs off

On Thursday evening, after the student protests blocked one of Tirana’s main roads throughout the day, Nikolla held a press conference to communicate the government’s decision, after reinforcing previous statements that it is universities that decide upon the fees, rather than the government.

“Starting today the government will abolish the fee-related decision, there will be no additional costs for failing students. The Council of Ministers’ Decision Article 4 will be removed and there will be no fee for failing students’ examinations,” Nikolla said.

This decision came after meetings Nikolla reportedly held throughout the day with university Deans and Rector.

Concerning students’ demand to drop university fees by 50 percent, Nikolla said only universities can take that decision.

“We thank students for encouraging communication. The government will back off from tariffing failed classes,” Nikolla concluded.



Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 5, 2018 13:33