BY PETER OLEKŠÁK

"The arrogance of power in the education sector"

The Education Ministry has revealed the principles by which it intends to amend the Universities Act, and to radically change the current balance of power in Slovak universities.
Henceforth, the government rather than parliament will issue permission for founding public universities. University senates will be composed of an "adequate" number of members from each faculty, rather than an "identical" number as under the current law, which could lead to dominance by a single faculty.

The Education Ministry has revealed the principles by which it intends to amend the Universities Act, and to radically change the current balance of power in Slovak universities.

Henceforth, the government rather than parliament will issue permission for founding public universities. University senates will be composed of an "adequate" number of members from each faculty, rather than an "identical" number as under the current law, which could lead to dominance by a single faculty. Furthermore, members of academic councils, vice-chancellors and vice-deans will not be appointed but only discussed by the academic senate. Naturally, in this situation chancellors and deans will choose their friends and close colleagues to fill these positions.

We should also be concerned by the proposal to increase the powers of the boards of trustees of universities, which were founded in 2002 to strengthen ties between universities and the public, and whose powers include approving basic university contracts (rental, sale, loan etc.). Henceforth, boards of trustees will also be able to nominate candidates for chancellor, and to veto chancellors elected by the academic senate. They will also be given the power to set the salary of the chancellor and approve the budget of the university.

These changes have not been accompanied by any evidence that the current system is faulty, but instead are an attempt to limit the powers of academic self-governing organs like academic senates.

Who stands to gain? The most radical changes were suggested by university rectors, who want to take from the deans of faculties the power to write employment contracts for their professors and assistant professors. They also want the power to appoint deans, which would absolutely destroy academic self-governance at the faculty level.

University rectors and politicians stand to gain the most from these changes, the former because university boards of trustees under the current system are composed almost entirely of their nominees, and the latter because under the new rules their trustee nominees will have a major influence on decisions made by chancellors regarding employment, the requisition and provision of services, and procurement. Is this what is meant by strengthening the ties between universities and society?


Sme, March 6

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