The Independent Academic Union on 27 November 2021 (Saturday) in Hotel “Karpoš”, organized a public presentation of the public policy document entitled “Presence of academic staff and higher education institutions in the public and their impact on the community.” The public policy document was prepared within the project “Quality of Teaching in Higher Education” by the expert team of the Independent Academic Union. Authors of the document are prof. Mirjana Najcevska, PhD, prof. Dragor Zarevski, PhD, prof. Bojana Naumovska, PhD, Assoc. Bisera Stankova, PhD and Juan Imeri, MA.
During the promotion, the introductory speech was given by prof. Dr. Dragor Zarevski stressed the importance of the impact of the academic sector in highly developed countries on the overall social development, and above all on the conception and development of functional public policies, as well as on the development of the economy. The document was presented by prof. Mirjana Najcevska, PhD (with video conferencing) and Assoc. Bisera Stankova, PhD, emphasizes that the impact of higher education and specifically on universities on the wider community, the private sector and decision-making processes in the wider community is a topic that, worldwide, is increasingly mentioned in the last twenty years. The latest direction of development suggests the need for increased influence of higher education. In this sense, we are no longer talking only about the two basic missions of higher education (training and research) but also about the third mission (services for society). Both training and research have a direct and indirect impact on the social development and development of the specific community (with staff training, new discoveries, and accumulation of knowledge…), however, the immediate impact is mostly achieved through the third mission – services to society.
The need for a direct and visible impact of higher education/universities on community development (higher education service activity) is argued by:
- The need to address the complex problems facing the modern world through the adoption of data-based policies arising from scientific research;
- The need for support and development of the economy and operationalization of the goals of sustainable development (provided by state institutions);
- Development of “engaged” universities that are animators of development and direct participants in socio-social processes.
According to the data obtained from the research, the perception of the academic staff is that higher education in the Republic of North Macedonia is very little involved in decision-making processes, policy-making and support for the overall development of the community.
According to these data:
- There are no systemic solutions that would use the full capacity of universities in formulating policies at the state level.
- Academic staff usually expresses their views through the media on an individual basis (as separate opinions and views).
- Data from applied research conducted by universities or individual faculties are not supported or used.
- There is no institutional involvement of higher education institutions in the drafting of laws, strategies and policies at national or local level.
- Political parties often disavow research projects by manipulating the data obtained or by commissioned research.
- For issues for which there is a national expert capacity, foreign experts are hired who do not have adequate knowledge of the specific conditions in North Macedonia.
- The illusion of the participation of the academic staff in the decision-making processes is created.
The identified problems can be overcome with systemic solutions that support the cooperation between the state institutions and the universities; support for relevant application projects and utilization of existing databases; establishing permanent channels of communication between the academic community and lawmakers; encouraging cooperation between universities.
The effects of the change that would occur with the application of these measures are broad and multifaceted:
- greater relevance of data-based policies;
- creating conditions for the rule of law;
- animating the public and its informed decision-making;
- finding alternative and most appropriate solutions;
- uniform and sustainable development:
- increasing the potential of universities and building new generations of higher education staff.
The influence of higher education institutions in the community is always bilateral and is the basis for mutual support and impetus for development. However, perhaps the most significant result of such involvement of the academic community is a sure foundation for democratic development based on respect for diversity, freedom of speech, free choice and relevant citizen participation in decision-making processes.
Within the project “Quality of Teaching in Higher Education” led by the Independent Union, three public policy documents were prepared, as follows: (1) a public policy document entitled “Improving the quality of higher education – student perspectives” which was publicly presented at the promotion held in Hotel “Karpoš” on Thursday, 18 November 2021 starting at 11.00, (2) public policy document “Quality of teaching in higher education and science and conditions for higher standards” which was publicly presented at the promotion held at the Hotel “Karpoš” on Sunday, 21 November 2021, starting at 11.00 and (3) public policy document “Public presence of academic staff and higher education institutions and their impact on the community” which was publicly presented at the promotion held at the Hotel “Karpoš” on Saturday, 27 November 2021, starting at 11.00. The project “Quality of Teaching in Higher Education” is funded by the Foundation Open Society Macedonia, and implemented by the Independent Academic Union’s expert team.
—————————————————29 November 2021