Within the project “Transparency and Accountability in Financing Higher Education and Science in RNM”, the Independent Academic Union conducted research identifying the procedure and criteria for allocation of funding for public universities and research institutions from the Budget of RNM and the legal bases for regulating the salaries of employees in the department of higher education and science, as well as the analysis of the salaries of employees at six public universities and eight public scientific institutions (institutes that are outside the composition of universities).
Research has shown that none of the laws governing the funding of higher education and science prescribes specific procedures and criteria that the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) would use to allocate funds to public universities and science institutions. In a situation where the legal obligation to establish a National Financing and Development Council, which is responsible for developing funding standards and criteria, is not met, the MoES appears to be the only institution that allocates funds. In the absence of known and predefined criteria and procedures on the basis of which this allocation is made, the allocation is obviously arbitrary, based on purely political parameters and without the possibility of control. This way of allocating resources undermines and tends to bring down the education system.
There is also confusion as to the legal framework for employee salaries. In practice, public universities and their units receive salary coefficients set by the MoES for each job position. It is unclear exactly what is contained in the funds allocated by the MoES, nor how the coefficients are created. Nor is it clear why the coefficients are not multiplied by the minimum wage that the unit coefficient carries to obtain employee salaries. Compared to the salaries of the academic staff in the region, our state allocates two to three times less funds both as an absolute amount of salaries and as a coefficient of the average salary in the country. How much our country values higher education and science is presented by the fact that for the basic net salary of a regular professor are allocated about 90 euros less than for the salary of a village-based secretary or 75 euros less than for the salary a second-level head of a sector.
But it is even less clear how the increase, i.e. the increase in wages, is determined. Namely, although the state budget has grown by 38% from 2010 to 2018, the salaries of the employees in higher education and science follow neither the budget growth nor the salaries growth in the other public sectors. For example, from 2011 until the last increase in August 2019, wages increased by only 3.8% (2014) instead of the shown 5%, i.e. three times less than the percentage increase in the overall education sector, and six times less than the percentage increase of salaries in the health sector.
But the salaries these employees actually receive are cumulative: from the funds paid from the MoES core budget and from the self-financing activities, i.e. the own funds of the institutions, received on the basis of co-payments and tuition fees, applied activities, etc., which are regulated in the rulebooks of universities and/or their units. Even in these rulebooks, criteria cannot be found on the way the coefficients are created or the number and value of points, and this practice leads to large differences in the salaries of jobs with equal education, scope and complexity of work in different universities and public institutions. For example, at the university level, the highest salaries of DUT and UGD Stip are higher, while the average salary of DUT’s associate professors is higher than the average salary of UKIM’s regular professors.
Even greater inequality exists between the salaries of employees between the different UKIM and UKLO units. Those units, which due to the nature of the study programs can earn modest extra funds, receive salaries in the amount determined by the MoES without an allowance for past working experience (which, although legally required, is not paid from the MoES basic budget). Therefore, at UKIM, for example, 102 regular professors or even 16% of the total full-time professors receive net salaries of less than 38,000 denars – an amount that represents a presumed lower limit for net salary with an allowance for past working experience. If other unit employees are added to this number, the number of UKIM employees who may seek to exercise their legal right through lawsuits will be much higher, which could lead to the blocking of at least eight units. Some of the institutions that have independent income use almost the entire amount to pay the allowance for past working experience, rather than to improve the conditions of studying, development of scientific research and so on. The most drastic example of the difference in the salaries of UKIM’s employees that hold same titles is the example of regular professors’ salaries of the “richest” and “poorest” unit – the average regular professor’s salary in the former is 122.205 denars, while in the latter is only 36,194 denars, which is a difference of 3.38 times. In addition, the total average salary of employees of four UKIM units is below 30,000 denars – the amount of the projected average salary in the country by this Government.
All of this presents the basis of systemic corruption in higher education and science in our country, both by the authorities and by those for whom higher education exists – the students. Therefore, instead of selective and vague solutions with which the government is ensuring pre-election social peace, the Independent Academic Union requires a systematic solution of problems:
- setting out procedures and criteria for the allocation of budgetary funds in the laws;
- formation of a National Council, as provided by the Law on Higher Education;
- immediate conclusion of a collective branch agreement on higher education and science, where the same minimum wage for a degree of complexity of work will be the basis for determining the salaries of employees in all higher education and scientific institutions; establishing criteria for properly determining complexity coefficients based on job requirements; preventing the MoES from unilaterally changing the coefficient value and guaranteeing the legal right to allowances for past working experiences for all employees.
Photo: Radio MOF