It’s a stale (and wrong) cliché that the Balkans produce more history than they can consume (quote from Churchill)। More recently, it seems like the Balkans are producing more universities than anybody could (or should) consume. Throughout most countries of the region, there has been a boom of new private (and state-run) universities.
In Serbia, there are some 17 universities, plus a number of independent “faculties”, i.e. departments. With only a quarter of the population, Macedonia has approximately the same number of universities. Bosnia beats both Serbia and Macedonia with the number of state (or rather entity and cantonal) universities: nine (including two in Sarajevo, Mostar) and around the same number of private universities. Kosovo is lagging behind with just two public universities (and the second one in Prizren is still pretty new) and less than ten private universities. The regional winner seems to be Albania with over 10 public and over 30 private universities.
There is no doubt that advancing higher education is a good idea, esp. in a region where the ratio of university graduates is below the European average. It is also not bad in principle to have private universities. However, considering that there are approximately as many private universities in the region than in the entire European Union (minus Romania which also has dozens of private universities) together (around 100, mostly very small institutions: Austria 13, Germany 83, UK 1, Hungary 1, Netherlands 1, Portugal less than 10, most other countries none or single digits), there might be a bit of an oversupply.
Thus, considering the limited resources, both in terms of funding for students to pay tuition and in terms of potential teachers, the number in the Balkans is striking.
Some of the institutions are certainly on their way to establish themselves as serious places of higher education. Many others have a distinctly dubious ring. Here is my list of my favorite ten private universities in the Western Balkans (this is not to suggest that these are not fine institutions, but presentation and names leave a bit to be desired):
10. Pan-European University “APEIRON” (Banja Luka, BiH). Here the name is pretty good. Apeiron means infinite or limitless in Greek, so this is the infinite Pan European University. In addition to its name, it also wins a mention for its cryptic English text “How strong are you to win yourself? During its development, human society has managed to overpower and strengthen its capabilities acting by the influence of its will, by the strength of its body and mind, achieving the best results in different life activities…”
9. Crystal University (Highway Tirana-Durres, Albania). Once more, the name makes this university worth a mention, as well as the address (Highway Tirana-Durres, kilometer 3) and the motto: Crystallize Your Future!
8. Synergy University (Bijelina, BiH). This university also deserve recognition for its name and the picture with the current president of the RS (and his predecessor below) on the main page, a prominent scholar and promoter of academia.
7. UFO University (Tirana, Albania). No, there is no department for extraterrestrial studies here. UFO stands for “Universitas Fabrefacta Optime”, which means as much a university to forge the good. So it’s the University to Forge the Good University. Their motto, 3000 students cannot be wrong (in the Albanian version of the website, it is 4000 students can’t be wrong). To quote the president: “Welcome to UFO University! Many of you have just started the university studies, the others are deeply engaged to reach their best, as you are living some of the most intensive years of live. I say convincingly that you should feel lucky that this intensity of taking and treating of the knowledge you experiment in lecture rooms of UFO University. We give our belief, so that each element that must have “a good university” ….
6. International University of Struga (Macedonia). According to the website, the uni boasts many African-American and Asian-American students, palm trees. The university, in the words of the rector “is one of the most significant historical events for this city as well as for Republic of Macedonia and the region of Balkan.This University will accomplish the dreams of the citizens of Struga, Macedonia and the wider region and it will contribute to develop the city of Struga into “Balkan Strasbourg”.” According to the mission of the university “International University of Struga is a highly qualifiedUniversity which is fullydevotedtothe education and successfulness of its students”
5. International University of Novi Pazar (Serbia). Another international university in the region. The president is “Da Mufty” Zukorlic. He notes in his message to the world that “we wait for long for the sun of university to shine from the piece of the sky above us…and now we will enjoy this sun.” (no translation can do justice to the Bosnian original)
4. Megatrend University (Belgrade, Serbia). This university earned its place in this ranking through its mega-creative name and of course, for making the leader of the people’s Jamahiriya a Doctor honoris causa. To quote the university: “This once again proves the readiness of Megatrend University to follow the world trends of international business and educational cooperation.”
3. University of Donja Gorica (UDG) (Montenegro). This uni is a bit more modest about its name , even if it aims to be the Oxford of Montengro and in the process earn Milo Djukanovic, one of its owners (together with liberitarian economist Veselin Vukotic), a bit of extra cash. Oh yes, it is also very orange.
2. Iliria Royal University (Prishtina, Kosovo). A royal university, and Iliriya? What more can one ask for? This university is under the patronage of the King of Albania. Of course the academic (and for that matter royal) credentials of Leka, “King of Albanians” are well established. The university also seems to engage in a good amount of flag-waving, American that is.
1. Slobomir P University (Slobomir, Bosnia)। This is a university for a (virtual) city. The project of a certain couple known as Slobodan and Mira, no, not what you think, Pavlovic (thus the P. in the name). It’s a part of a grandiose plan for a city of freedom in peace, a just down the road from Bijelina. A city of the future has all one needs from a city of peace, a university, a TV station and an aqua park (Palma, eat your heart out). And Dodik is also shaking some hands in the city of peace.