Communist regimes in Eastern Europe a decade on

December 21, 2001

When the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe toppled one by one more than a decade ago, university reforms flowed thick and fast from the market-friendly successor governments, many with academics well represented, that swept to power.

Inevitably, motives were mixed. Academics at the ancient universities that pre-dated Communist rule saw an opportunity to reposition their institutions firmly in the western European tradition.

Meanwhile, the politicians and their advisers, enthusiastic for the free market, saw the universities as generators of economic revival, producing graduates steeped in the entrepreneurial practices, officially out of favour under communism.

In some countries where the state system was unable to cope, private institutions have sprung into being. And tuition fees have appeared in universities where free education had previously been guaranteed as a constitutional right.

Expansion has taken place across the state and the private sectors. But the formula for unqualified success is proving elusive for some states and their universities.

More than a decade after the events that made reforms possible, a patchwork of success and failure stretches across states that, aspiring to full membership of the European Union, are already engaged in the Bologna Process of convergence towards a European higher education area.

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