Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliament adopted a law on higher education Monday (July 30th), addressing a key source of contention with the international community and opening up new opportunities for students. Adoption of the law means BiH diplomas will now be recognised within the European Higher Education Area and potentially worldwide.
“This is the best possible news for more than 100,000 students and staff of this country’s higher education institutions,” High Representative in BiH Miroslav Lajcak said after the parliamentary vote. “I am pleased to see the responsibility shown by political leaders and parties in taking measures for the future of the all citizens of this country.”
Until Monday, BiH was the only one of the 40 Bologna Process signatories that did not have a modern law on higher education. Adopting such legislation was a requirement for the country as it seeks to move towards EU accession.
The law remains a subject of hot debate, particularly since it would put higher education funding in the hands of the entities — the Republika Srpska government, and the Federation of BiH’s cantons — instead of the state. According to critics, this could be interpreted as meaning higher education is not consistent across BiH, since the funding is not common.
Under the legislation, the Agency for Education will spearhead improvements at the lower, elementary and secondary school levels. Another agency, CIRCA, will work on diploma recognition. Each country that signed the Bologna Accord has an operative agency to ensure that diplomas from that country are accepted and recognised worldwide.
The Quality Assurance Agency will set unique standards and criteria for the accreditation of higher education. This is the most crucial agency, as its job will be to co-ordinate the work of all the higher education facilities in the country and make sure they all follow common standards and criteria.
“This law has created a sound legal foundation for ongoing improvements in Higher Education in BiH,” Lajcak said. “Implementation of the law is now important, and needs to commence as soon as possible.”