Higher Education Act Was Amended by Parliament: Statement of University

Bratislava, 23 March 2022: Comenius University Bratislava takes note of the fact that the Slovak Parliament amended the Higher Education Act.

25. 03. 2022 10.14 hod.
By: CU External Relations Office

We have been offering well-argued input throughout the legislative process. Nevertheless, we consider the process to have been very unusual. The resulting text adopted today by the National Council of the Slovak Republic fails to address some of the essential criticism levelled by the representatives of universities and other higher education institutions, and as such cannot be considered either optimal or beneficial.

It is true that the final version does contain some compromises which were not in the original draft. We appreciate that MPs supported a number of amendments addressing, for example, the concern that university governance might lose some of its participative nature. In one case, the act returned to the original one-third representation of students on university self-governing bodies. Even though we are still unable to support a number of other provisions in the act, Comenius University in Bratislava has always respected and will continue to respect generally binding legal regulations which are adopted through the democratic process. Our next task in the near future is to synchronise our processes and internal regulations with the new legislative framework.

However, as we repeatedly pointed out, the amended law does not constitute reform nor does it provide a guarantee of increased quality. A multitude of issues need to be resolved if we are to elevate our university ecosystem to a higher level; one of them is the catastrophic lack of financing and insufficient investment at Slovak universities - a point we often bring up. In this context, we stress the need to preserve the independence of the Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education, to optimise the operation of grant schemes, and to implement ongoing development projects properly. The largest European investment project in Slovak higher education and science to date, ACCORD, does not enjoy adequate attention and support of the competent authorities. The current development of macroeconomic indicators in Slovakia generates fears that there will be insufficient funding to cover the dramatically increasing costs and particularly energy prices in the coming months. Slovak universities will not survive without additional financing.

The amended act, on the other hand, fails to address the issue of brain-drain, even though goals in this area were originally publicised. There is an urgent need to increase the attractiveness of universities to all involved actors - applicants, students, teachers, researchers and also their administration.

We believe that after the adoption of the amended Higher Education Act, the time has come to launch close cooperation among ministry representatives, university representatives and other involved entities, with the aim quality improvements in these difficult times. We must offer the Slovak public a vision of science, research and education that will be future-proof.