Kosovo students return

August 20, 1999

About 15,000 students returned to higher education in Kosovo this month as 13 university faculties and seven other higher education institutions resumed lectures.

But the metallurgy faculty in the town of Mitrovich remained closed because of continued tensions in the area following the end of Nato bombing to stop Serb aggression.

The rector's office in Pristina University "remains occupied" as an Albanian television newscast from Tirana put it - by representatives of the K-For peace-keeping force.

The university's teaching and academic council has decided that teaching in what is officially still the 1998-99 academic year will continue until October 15, after which examinations will be held. The 1999-2000 academic year will then begin.

The university is now being run by Albanian academics who, after being ejected from the university in 1990, were obliged to hold classes in makeshift premises.

Before classes resumed, Zenel Kelmendi, rector of the "alternative" Albanian-taught university, announced that courses would be taught in both Albanian and Serbian from now on.

Serb academics and students would be welcome to stay in what will now be a single multi-ethnic university, he said. This is in effect a return to the situation that existed before 1990.

But Serbs are demanding their own university. A group of Serb academics, led by Jagos Zelenovic, a contender for the rectorship - backed by Millville Simonovic, Serbia's deputy education minister - met representatives of Unesco, the United Nations civilian mission to Kosovo and the K-For peace-keepers, to ask that the "present status" of the university be preserved.

Pristina University was a "generator of all development programmes" in Kosovo, they said, and has been an "extremely powerful factor in dynamic development", assisting the province in "spanning centuries, as far as the progress of civilisation was concerned", over the decades.

The Serbs say they will support a university open to all, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender or ideology, only if they have full control of the institution.

Serb academics produced a list of "brutal attacks" on the lives and property of university staff by "ethnic Albanian criminal gangs", who have put the "very survival" of the university at risk.

The international representatives expressed their readiness to help the university return to normality, but - judging from Serbian reports - seem non-committal about defining normality.

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