New programmes at Faculty of Natural Sciences
Two new programmes in the area of higher education in teaching will be added to the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Tirana in 2024-2025 academic year.
Approval of the new academic calendar
The new academic calendar was approved in March 2023.
Possible raise of salaries for professors
The government in cooperation with higher education institutions is currently reviewing the respective framework for possible raise of salaries with 20% to face changes in prices.
The new strategy on education for the period 2021-2026 includes for the first time since 2015 where the new law on higher education was approved also higher education. The part dedicated to higher education includes objectives related to internationalization of higher education; quality improvements in assessment framework regarding higher education programmes; improvements in research infrastructure, ICT infrastructure and services for public higher education institutions.
The project Strengthening Democratic Citizenship Education in Albania holds its third Steering Committee meeting
ALBANIA 4 NOVEMBER 2021
On 4 November 2021, the Steering Committee of the project Strengthening Democratic Citizenship Education in Albania met in a hybrid format in Tirana and online to discuss the current status of activities and the way forward.
The progress achieved by the project was appreciated by the beneficiary and the stakeholders. In particular, Ms. Zamira Gjini, General Director for Policies and Development of Education and Sport from the Ministry of Education and Sport highlighted some of the key project achievements, including specific support to the drafting process of the recently adopted National Education Strategy (2021 -2026), capacity-building activities in the project´s pilot schools and activities towards more inclusive and democratic schools.
“I believe that this cooperation has served as an impetus to further strengthen education for democratic citizenship and human rights. We express our willingness and readiness to continue our cooperation with the Council of Europe to enhance the quality of education in our schools in order to jointly establish an effective model for the development of democratic culture and competences in schools, the implementation of policies and practices on democratic governance and enabling inclusive environment for all students,” said Ms Gjini.
Among other issues discussed were the project´s next steps which will focus on strengthening cooperation with the Parent Councils and Student Governments. The importance of furthering co-operation with the Quality Assurance Agency for Pre-university Education, introducing on-line teaching and learning tools based on the Education Department’s LEMON learning modules, introducing Labs for Democratic Culture as well as activities with schools and students on environment protection were also discussed.
The Steering Committee approved the progress report, took note of the updated risk register as well as approved the indicative workplan for the next implementation period and expressed their strong support in continuing and adapting project activities to ensure that they are relevant and provide concrete support for lasting change for the citizens of Albania. The Steering Committee includes representatives from the Ministry of Education and Sport, the Swedish Embassy in Albania, the Agency for Quality Assurance in Pre-university Education, the General Directorates of Pre-university Education, the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination, the People’s Advocate (Ombudsperson) Parent Council, Student Parliament and civil society.
The project “Strengthening Democratic Citizenship Education in Albania” is implemented by the Council of Europe and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The Impact of COVID -19 on higher education
Mirela Bimo, Director of Budget and Financial Management Department, Ministry of Education and Sports
The fiscal impacts resulting from natural and epidemic disasters are short-term and long-term, leading to budget redistribution, expenditure diversion, economic contraction and budget cuts due to the allocation of financial resources to other destinations, in order to meet emergency needs due to the consequences caused by these disasters. The November 2019 earthquake in Albania, had devastating consequences, in life and infrastructure in some regions of Albania, but those most affected were the regions of Durres, Lezhe and Tirana. The consequences of this earthquake were felt most in 2020, as these consequences are compounded by the consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic.
In this analysis we will focus mainly on budget cuts in the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth in Albania, allocating available resources for needs related mainly to COVID 19, which led to the postponement of the reconstruction of infrastructure facilities in the public education system, both pre-university and higher education. The analysis will focus especially on the two public universities, which are: the Polytechnic University of Tirana and the Agricultural University of Tirana, whose resource allocation has caused loss of income / profits, both financially and humanly.
During 2020, due to these two disasters, it was mandatory that the budgets of almost most institutions be reallocated to address the short-term needs of these consequences. Among the sectors most affected by the budget review during 2020 were the health, education, justice and public services sectors.
Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is used to estimate the monetary value of the impact of deferral of these projects, giving the sum of potential costs and benefits. Redistributions and budget transfers, although considered important to meet the needs of the Covid-19 pandemic, cause an opportunity cost in the development of concrete projects. In the education sector, this cost is associated with an impact on project performance, the achievement of objectives higher education institutions and the realization of sectorial objectives. The analysis aims to show how the pandemic situation has affected higher education but also pre-university, due to the redistribution of the budget and the non-implementation of two concrete reconstruction projects.
Development of education in Albania during the pandemic situation
Each year, higher education institutions and local self-government units are invited to apply for funding for infrastructure projects, submitting their proposals for additional financing / co-financing to the Ministry of Education and Sports. Depending on the available budget and the fulfillment of specific criteria, a limited number of them are selected to be financed from the MASR budget. In 2020, only two projects of higher education institutions were selected to be funded, the construction project of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, at the Polytechnic University of Tirana and (ii) the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food, Agricultural University of Tirana.
In pre-university education, funds intended for educational infrastructure (construction / rehabilitation of educational facilities) in the amount of 1 billion ALL or 10 million dollars were reduced by Normative Act no. 15 dated 15.04.2020 and MoES did not finance any infrastructure project in pre-university education.
The funding provided for this year was related to the reconstruction of higher education institutions that were damaged by the earthquake in November 2019. Based on the cost-benefit analysis, it is shown that the budget cuts associated with these two projects, although during periods of disaster, are not insignificant at all. The projects of the two universities were expected to be fully completed in 2022, but due to the pandemic and the delay of their funding, these projects are expected to be completed in 2024, causing a loss of benefits of 2 years.
Delays related to COVID 19 in the execution of contracts, have resulted in reduced costs in the first year under the contracts, which means that the money would be disbursed more slowly in 2021 than in 2020.
The Cost-Benefit Analysis determines that three priorities / objectives will be achieved later / postponed due to delays in project completion:
- Earnings from students who complete education and start work;
- Private sector profits from consumer spending based on graduate student profits;
- Government funds deriving from income taxes paid by graduate students.
The main measured advantage is that, which is common in Education Cost-Benefit Analysis related to the human capital benefits of pursuing education - in this case higher education.
The other two benefits relate to the indirect benefits that are the private and public sector, as a result of the additional revenue generated. These factors are indicative of the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the education system in the long run. Due to COVID-19-related budget cuts, delays in the restoration of the two faculty buildings resulted in measurable economic losses estimated to be approximately three times the total cost spent by the Government for the reconstruction of these structures / buildings. The table below shows the summary findings of the cost-benefit analysis.
Table 1: The cost-benefit analysis.
|Element of CBA calculation
|Total investment cost (undiscounted)
|Total reduced Investment cost due to delay (discounted)
|Total loss due to delayed investment (undiscounted)
|1,708 million-1,838 million
|16.50 million-17.76 million
|Total loss (discounted)
|14.60 million-15.71 million
|Total net present value of loss (discounted change in total investment cost less total discounted loss)
|1,482 million-1,597 million
|14.31 million-15.44 million
The implementation of university reconstruction projects approved in 2020 by the Ministry of Finance is as follows:
• The project of the Polytechnic University will be completed in three years at a cost of 450 million ALL from the State Budget;
• The university project will be completed in 18 months from the time when the construction site is made available to the company at a cost of ALL 206 million from the State Budget.
Table 2: Change in the cost profile of works due to delays in MoES projects (million ALL).
|POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY FACULTY
|AGRICULTURAL UNIVERSITY FACULTY
Conclusions and recommendations
The Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth (MoES), was one of the institutions with the highest amounts of under-spending. In the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth in 2020 was noticed the under-expenditure of 2 billion ALL, or 5% of total expenditures.
In Albania, the research suggests that health and education are the sectors with the lowest expenditure adequacy compared to the observed needs and regional comparators, followed by economic relations and social security, and thus these sectors can guarantee a degree of protection against cuts.
It is also important to identify funding priorities in each sector, including post-disaster education.
Most of the instruments used in Albania for financing COVID 19 were of an ex post nature such as budget reallocations, in which education was one of the most affected sectors and best practice in disaster risk financing suggests that default funding facilitates rapid response, increases cost-effectiveness, and facilitates decision-making. So, it is necessary that in addition to the Reserve Fund of the Council of Ministers which was insufficient to meet the important needs of the pandemic, another structure (emergency fund) should be built, to be used for financing in emergencies.
Due to budget reallocations and transfers to COVID 19, a total loss of ALL 12.3 billion or 0.76 percent of GDP is estimated and education is one of the sectors with the highest value of losses. This is due to the fact that the feasible spending cuts in these area were one of the most significant.
EU (European Union), Government of Albania (GOA), UN Albania, and World Bank. 2020. “Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). Volume A Report.” Tirana. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/albania_post-disaster_recovery_a_v9.0.pdf.
IMF (International Monetary Fund). 2021. “Database of Country Fiscal Measures in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Fiscal-Policies-Database-in-Response-to-COVID-19.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2021. “The COVID-19 Crisis in Albania.” Updates from April 27, 2020, to January 31, 2021. OECD, Paris. https://www.oecd.org/south-east-europe/COVID-19-Crisis-in-Albania-archive.pdf.
World Bank. 2014. Financial Protection against Natural Disasters: An Operational Framework for Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance. Washington, DC: World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/21725.
World Bank. 2020a. “Disaster Risk Finance Diagnostic Albania.” World Bank, Washington, DC. https://www.financialprotectionforum.org/publication/disaster-risk-finance-diagnostic-albania.
National Assembly. 2016. “For Some Addings and Amendments on the Law no. 9936 Dated 26.06.2008 ‘On Management of Budgetary System in the Republic of Albania (Amended).’” Government of Albania, Tirana. https://financa.gov.al/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/LOB_i_ri_nr._57_dt_02.06.2016_-_MIRATUAR_ne_KUVEND_ENGLISH.rtf
The effectiveness of the Excellence Fund
Mirela Bimo, Director of Budget and Financial Management, Ministry of Education and Sports
Excellence Fund Program in MASR, has started to be implemented in 2007, a program which is still ongoing. This Program was a model taken from the German academic exchange agency. The model that was applied in Albania as a first experience was the model of application and monitoring of students completing undergraduate and postgraduate studies with the German Agency for Academic Exchange.
At its inception in 2007 the program was applied only to excellent students pursuing doctoral or postdoctoral studies abroad and they had the obligation to return after their studies and work in Albania for a 5 year period. In 2010, those who were pursuing bachelor and master studies were included in the government decision. To receive financial support students had to be admitted to one of the top 15 universities in the Times Higher Education world ranking. The average grade had to be above 9 for natural and technical sciences and above 9.5 for economics and social sciences. After completing their studies, the beneficiaries had to return to Albania and be employed in public or private institutions for at least a period of three years. This analysis is focused on a presentation of the number of scholarship beneficiaries, related costs and used data from the Ministry of Education and Sports to see the effectiveness of the Excellence Fund and to give recommendations for its development.
Key words: Excellence Fund, scholarships, students.
From 2014-2020, the Fund of Excellence has been implemented according to DCM no. 483, dated 16.07.2014 "On the financial support of excellent students and civil servants of state administration". Referring to this DCM, the following categories are financially supported:
1. Students attending studies in the first cycle and / or second cycle, who have been admitted to the 15 best universities in the world, according to THE, and agree to return and work in Albania for 3 years.
2. Doctoral students, in the 15 best universities for social and economic sciences and the 50 best universities for natural and technical sciences, ranked according to "Times Higher Education".
3. Civil servants of the state administration, accepted by the 300 best universities in the world according to the defined fields and work for 4 years in Albania.
From 2020 onwards, the Fund of Excellence operates based on DCM no. 160, dated 19.02.2020, "On the financial support of excellent students and civil servants of the state administration".
Analysis of the situation in Albania
Referring to the data of the fund of excellence for the period 2019-2021, the table below summarizes the beneficiaries of the fund of excellence, the type of studies funded, the amount funded and the region where the beneficiaries have studied.
Table 1. Beneficiaries of the Excellence Fund for the period 2019-2022
|Number of beneficiaries
|The amount obtained (in leke)
|Source: Ministry of Education and Sports
For the period 2019-2021, the excellence fund has been spent in the amount of 545.7 million ALL and a total of 98 excellence scholarships have been obtained.
- For the year 2019-2020, 21 new students and 15 intermediate students have been funded;
- For the year 2020-2021 are funded 14 new students and 18 intermediate students;
- For the year 2021-2022, 5 new students and 25 intermediate students have been funded.
So, for the period 2019-2021, have been announced winners and have benefited a total of 40 new students and have continued to fund intermediate students, who have started their studies before 2019. It is evident that for a period of 3 years, the number of beneficiaries attending doctoral studies and the category of civil servants is very low (only one civil servant and three doctoral students). Most of the beneficiaries have attended master studies (this is also due to the change of the DCM in 2020 where bachelor studies were excluded).
It is evident that very few students have applied for scholarships at the universities where they have been admitted. Only 3 (three) of the students who have benefited from the EF them have received scholarships from the host university and the EF has compensated the difference between the tuition fee or living expenses. Regarding the pursuit of students who have completed their studies funded by the Excellence Fund and have the obligation to return and work in Albania, it is evident that they either do not return or the vast majority of them are employed mainly in the private sector or declare that they are registered at the employment office as unemployed.
Beneficiaries employed by the private sector, in those cases when we have investigated, are declared with minimum wages at the tax authorities, which makes us have reasonable doubts that these students do not return to Albania at all, but due to non-refund of the amount received from FE, are obliged to make employment declarations with private entities with minimum wage. Also, the technical secretariat of MASR has identified 18 cases of students benefiting from the fund of excellence, who have not fulfilled the obligation to return and work in Albania. These cases have been reported to the MASR court decision sector, who are pursuing their cases in court.
Results and Recommendations
As above, only with the data for a period of 3 years, it is estimated that the effectiveness of the fund of excellence is very low, to say insignificant, in relation to the purpose and objectives for which this fund is designed and approved. Every student of the excellence fund costs Albanian taxpayers an average of 55 thousand USD per year to cover the costs of studying and living in one of THE's top 15 universities.. It is also evident that students who study in America have higher costs than those who study at European universities. (Excluding the UK where the cost of studies is high, but slightly lower than in America).As above, we suggest that the policy pursued with the Excellence Fund needs to be reviewed. In our recommendations, we consider that the DCM of the fund of excellence should be reviewed, as suggested below:
a) To impose a condition that is not accepted to apply for EF students who have not previously applied for scholarships at the host university. If the host university does not award scholarships, the EF should award only the scholarship (controversial) and the rest should be funded by the student himself.
b) Students who have received scholarships from the host university, in part or in full, to be funded for the uncovered part while those students who have received full scholarships to be given a bonus, in the form of incentives, not more than 3,000 Usd (disputable ).
c) To expand the range of universities (by setting the condition in the DCM that funds are ranked universities ranked not in 15 but in the top 25 countries according to THE) but by financing only studies in European countries (since the cost of studies is lower)
d) One option remains to set the Financing Limit for each applicant (assume that EF finances no more than 20,000 USD / year) for students of excellence, regardless of cost and place of study or other similar policies.
DCM no. 483, dated 16.07.2014
DCM no. 160, dated 19.02.2020
Data of the Ministry of Education and Sports
The new draft strategy on education
The new "Strategy on education" which is currently at draft version will include also higher education as a part of this strategy. In this way also higher education will have a strategic framework that is in line with changes that followed the adoption of law No. 80/2015 "On higher education and scietific research in higher education institutions in the Republic of Albania".
Abania gets the secretariaat of BFUG
Albania following its successful application will be the national secretariat for Bologna Follow Up group for a five years period starting from January 2021. This secretariat is held by specificially designed structure in line with respective requirements.
Exams for the February March season to be held in a mixed approach
Based on respective discussion with Deans of faculties the exams of Universities will be held following a mixed approach of online and physic presence based on new challenges posed by COVID 19. The Minister of Education, Sports and Youth has called upon higher education institutions to prolong the season if possible and to organize exams in more than one session in order to avoid overcrowding of classes during exams.