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Prof. Dr. Remzi Altın: Albanian universities in need of a fundamental change in teaching methods

April 19th, 2013

Prof. Dr. Remzi Altın: Albanian universities in need of a fundamental change in teaching methods

Prof. Dr. Remzi Altın: Albanian universities in need of a fundamental change in teaching methods

The Rector of Epoka University, Prof. Dr. Remzi Altın analyses the greatest challenges of Albanian Higher Education today, stating that the challenges faced by Albanian higher education system are directly related to the level of socio-economic development of the country and its path towards potential full EU membership. He says that the private universities in Albania offer a better physical, technological and teaching infrastructure compared to public ones. However Prof. Dr. Altın emphasizes the fact that both public and private universities should promptly respond to the changes by updating their curricula and teaching methods so as to be able to raise graduates with critical thinking, problem-solving and work-in-group capabilities. According to him this is a high demand by the modern labour market. “It is my deep belief that the challenges faced by the Albanian higher education system are directly related to the level of socio-economic development of the country and its path towards potential full EU membership”, Prof. Dr. Altın said. Noting his idea, he says that one of the most important challenges “is the need for a fundamental change in teaching methods from a process focusing on the transfer and repetition of facts towards interactive teaching methods that make use of modern technology and also stimulate discussions and critical thinking among students”.

What are the advantages of private higher education in Albania and what features make it distinct from the public one?
First of all, it should be stated that all universities, whether public or private, offer a public good such as the provision of higher education. In this context, rather than the status of universities, it is their output in terms of the quality and employability of their graduates, the quality of scientific research as well as the level of their contribution to the national development that differentiates universities from each other.
Rather than focusing on a public-private university dichotomy that I do not find realistic, I believe that Albanian universities should be evaluated individually by measuring the level of the achievement of their objectives as mentioned above. It should be emphasized that both public and private universities represent a heterogeneous environment in Albania. The quality of all public universities is not the same and similarly, there are a few good and accredited private universities as well as other non-accredited private higher education institutions in the country.

That said, I would nevertheless like to state that to a great extent private universities in Albania offer a better physical, technological and teaching infrastructure compared to public ones. At the same, the student/lecturer ratio is lower in private universities rendering it easier for them to focus more on students. Their management and operation is also more flexible and more solution-oriented.

We live in a rapidly changing world and this change is fed by both globalisation and the immense advances in information and communication technology which have drastically changed the work environment and the requirements from graduates prior to their entrance into the labour market. In this context, both public and private universities should promptly respond to these changes by updating their curricula and teaching methods so as to be able to raise graduates with critical thinking, problem-solving and work-in-group capabilities that are in high demand by the modern labour market. Given their more flexible management, I believe that private universities are better placed to promptly respond to such demands.

Albania is a country that loves education and constantly works to enhance in this regard, of course, facing various challenges as well. From your experience Mr. Altin, what are the greatest challenges of Albanian Higher Education today, both private and public?
It is my deep belief that the challenges faced by the Albanian higher education system are directly related to the level of socio-economic development of the country and its path towards potential full EU membership. Albania has achieved to a great extent the liberalisation of access to higher education but much still needs to be accomplished in terms of assuring quality at universities. This requires both the channelling of larger investment and financial resources by public authorities towards higher education as well as stronger mechanisms of external evaluation and accreditation. Nevertheless, this “quality” culture should be adopted and internalised by universities themselves for quality assurance and improvement to become a healthier and more sustainable process.

Another important challenge facing Albanian universities is the need for a fundamental change in teaching methods from a process focusing on the transfer and repetition of facts towards interactive teaching methods that make use of modern technology and also stimulate discussions and critical thinking among students. This is not an easy task nonetheless it is an indispensable one given that rapid changes in the work environment and technology mentioned above.

It should be clear to all of us that Albania will be able to become a proper EU member by having a human capital able to compete with that of other European countries. Albanian universities indeed should ensure the preparation of such human capital as well as its continuous improvement in line with global developments.

How do you see employment chances on the Albanian labour market for graduates from foreign and local universities, either private or public? Is it true that a foreign degree is worth more in the Albanian labour market than a degree obtained from a local university? What are the criteria for a “valuable” diploma in Albania?
Albania has a young population and a rapidly increasing number of university students and graduates which will certainly lead to greater challenges faced by graduates to get employed in compliance with their education and qualifications.

It should be said that apart from the recent history of Albania being an isolated country until the beginning of 1990s, the public perception that foreign degrees a priori are more valuable than local ones has been fuelled by the shortcomings of Albanian universities with regard to quality assurance and improvement. Nevertheless, I believe that there are a few universities in Albania that offer education in compliance with best international standards and it has been proved not only by a considerable number of students who have continued their further studies in European countries but who have also had the opportunity to get employed there.

If a student is graduated from a university recognised for the quality of its teaching and research, be it in Albania or abroad, possesses the skills required by the modern labour market and has studied in a field that matches the necessities of the Albanian economy, then we can certainly state that the student possesses a valuable diploma. It should also not be forgotten that Albania aspires to become a EU member and with future EU membership, Albanian graduates will have much greater opportunities to be employed not only in Albania but also in the EU Internal Market.

EagleMag, April 2013

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