Eyewitness

June 18, 1999

A degree of strained normality returned to the University of Belgrade this week as students took examinations postponed because of the war .

For the Albanian Kosovar students dispersed around the region - and Serbian students who had been at the University of Pristina until it too ceased to operate - normality remains.

Pristina's university symbolised the divided community for a decade u language determined whether students attended the state (Serbian) university or its underground (Albanian-language) alter ego.

But the slim hope of stability means that reconstruction - physical and academic u- in both Kosovo and Serbia is on the agenda. The Association of European Universities (CRE), which suspended its Serbian members over the notorious 1998 University Law, is bringing together major players such as USAID and the World Bank at a conference in Sarajevo early in July to discuss reconstruction .

Celia Hawkesworth, a Serb expert at the London University's School of Slavonic and East European Studies, says restoration of Pristina for both Albanian speakers and Serbs is remote. o Serbs, especially of fighting age, will not feel very secure and sadly people are leaving in very large numbers.

She counsels caution in contacts with academics in Serbia who were involved in the Alternative Academic Network before the attacks. oThe political situation is so volatile that anyone with the word aealternative' in their name is very exposed. i Colleague Dejan Djokic says it is vital to bring Kosovo's and Serbia's universities back into full activity. oFor any society to function properly it is absolutely necessary to maintain the education system. If reconstruction aid is preconditioned by political changes, as seems likely, universities should be exempted . After all, the Serbian universities have been one of the key sources of opposition to the regime throughout the 1990s.

Aid to Pristina should be even-handed: oWhoever studies in Pristina should be assisted from outside in accordance with their needs, not their ethnic background.

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