WENR, November/December 2003: Slovenia
he Slovenian education system is bound by strict legislation with several acts to consider, such as the Higher Education Act of 1993 (revised 2000) and the Professional and Academic Titles Act (1998). The Council for Higher Education was established by the Higher Education Act to advise the government on the preparation and implementation of changes in higher-education legislation. It also performs specific tasks, including determining criteria for assessing study programs with regard to international comparability, duration of studies, approval of higher-education study programs, assessing teaching and research quality and introducing new programs. With specific regard to the recognition of foreign qualifications, Slovenia is bound by the Recognition of Foreign Certificates Act (effective since 1972). In preparing for European Union (EU) accession, there is also proposed legislation regarding EU directives that should be passed in a few months.
Before 1993, there was a unified system of higher education in Slovenia. Since then, it has established a binary structure of academic and professionally oriented studies. Higher education is provided by two universities, three art academies and seven private, higher-education institutions (faculties and professional colleges). In 2000, there were approximately 35,000 students in vocational education and 42,500 in academic education. Ten years ago, there were only approximately 30,000 students in higher education.
1. Easily Readable and Comparable Degrees
Slovenia ratified the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in 1999.
• The diploma supplement is now a mandatory component of the diploma certificate. The revised Higher Education Act of 1999 prescribed its introduction. Some privately run higher-education institutions and the University of Maribor are issuing the supplement, and the University of Ljubljana was scheduled to begin issuing it in October.• The Nacionalni Informacijski Center za Priznavanje Visokosolski Diplom acts as the Slovenian ENIC/NARIC body.
2. Degree Structure
Stage I: Undergraduate higher education requires four years of study, and in some disciplines five-to-six years of study, leading to the Visokosolska Diploma (Diploma of Higher Education) with a professional title e.g. diplomirani inzenir (graduate engineer), diplomirani pravnik (graduate lawyer) doktor medicine (doctor of medicine).
Stage II: Postgraduate degree programs of two years (120 ECTS–European Credit Transfer System–credits), with an additional year for the preparation and defense of a thesis, were introduced by law in 1993 and 1999, and lead to the Magister (masters). The overall duration of study for a master’s degree goes well beyond the five years (300 ECTS credits) proposed by the Bologna accords.
Stage III: The final stage of higher education leads to the Doktorat Znanosti (doctorate of science) obtained after a further approved period of research, after the master’s level, and defense of a dissertation.
• Slovenian authorities are in no hurry to adapt to the Bologna model, especially in terms of duration. No decisions have been made on a new study structure, although principles and criteria have been added to the wording of the Higher Education Master Plan (2002), which would help to intensify the duration of studies and accelerate their completion.
• Universities have already begun to develop new curriculums on the 3+2 model, but existing legislation does not allow such structures yet.
• According to the Ministry of Education, for a country with only two (soon to be three) universities and seven smaller independent institutions, any rapid change to a new system of study programs would, prior to thorough assessment of the employability of graduates, create new problems in the labor market rather than solve current ones.
3. Credit Transfer
• The use of the ECTS is not required by law; however, it is recommended by the Law of Higher Education (1999). ECTS is mentioned in the 2002 Higher Education Master Plan as confirmed by Parliament.
• In 1998, a credit system was introduced in Slovenian institutions of higher education for postgraduate studies that was then gradually extended to undergraduate studies. The credit system is modeled on ECTS, although the decisions of individual institutions tend to differ from one another. It has been commonly used for mobility purposes.
• In April, the Higher Education Council decided to prepare a National Credit System.
• In the 1990s, Slovenia participated in TEMPUS projects, and since 1999, has been participating in the SOCRATES-ERASMUS programs.
• Slovenia also participates in the CEEPUS program, which facilitates exchanges among countries that are not members of the EU.
• In amending the Higher Education Act (1999), a provision was introduced under which all EU citizens will – as soon as Slovenia becomes a full member– have the same rights and conditions as Slovenian citizens to education in higher-education institutions. These include the right to access publicly certified undergraduate study programs free of tuition fees.
• Bilateral agreements with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, the Russian Federation and Slovakia recognize academic qualifications gained in those countries and accord the same right to their citizens as provided for Slovenian citizens. For a full list of agreements go HERE.
5. Quality Assurance
• Since 1994, the Higher Education Council has been operating as the Slovenian accreditation body. Its main tasks include the assessment of higher-education institutions and study programs, identifying and ensuring the basic standards for commencing work as well as reassessing them at least every seven years.
• Since 2001, the council has assessed 59 new or revised study programs. It has also dealt with applications to establish or reorganize new or existing higher-education establishments, such as Primorska University’s application to convert three higher vocational schools into faculties.
• Since December 2002, the council has operated under stricter guidelines. The new guidelines for assessing institutions and their programs also take account of inclusion into the common European Higher Education Area.
• Higher-education institutions are now required to compare their study programs with at least three foreign programs from three different countries in terms of form and content, the duration of study and types and methods of study. The study program must also demonstrate that it can be included internationally, that is, in “the joint European Higher Education Area.”
• The National Commission for Quality Assurance was established in 1996. Since June 2000, it has consisted of students and representatives of all higher-education institutions. The commission publishes an annual report based on its findings. The commission does not accredit programs and schools; rather, it makes suggestions to the Higher Education Council, which is under the auspices of the ministry.
• The Higher Education Master Plan, adopted in 2002, outlines principles for implementing study programs and specifies criteria for the establishment of new educational institutes.
• The Higher Education Council and the National Commission for Quality Assurance are not autonomous and do not make external evaluations of institutions and programs.
• Slovenia is not represented in the European Network for Quality Assurance (ENQA). The commission is a member of the Central and Eastern European Quality Assurance Network.
6. Promotion of European Dimensions in Higher Education
• Through its participation in the Central European Exchange for University Students Program (CEEPUS) program, Slovenia has been working on the development of common study programs that would lead to the issuing of joint diplomas.
• Regulations regarding the language of instruction have been cited as a main obstacle in implementing joint degrees.
• As of 2002, Slovenia was not issuing joint degrees.
• There are an estimated 600 Slovenian researchers engaging in joint projects with other institutions.
— Nick Clark
• Survey on Master Degrees and Joint Degrees in Europe, Christian Tauch and Andrejs Rauhvargers, September 2002
• The State of Implementation of ECTS in Europe, European University Association, October 2002
• Diploma Supplement – State of Implementation, European Commission, June 2003
• Lisbon Convention Status Reports, Council of Europe, Aug. 29, 2003
• Country Report Slovenia, Ministry of Education, September 2003
• Quality Assessment Commission of Slovenia