Slovenia confronts graduate glut as elections loom

July 23, 2004

Tertiary education is high on the agenda as the tiny Balkan state of Slovenia prepares for parliamentary elections.

Legislation on higher vocational education went before the final session of Parliament last week. The election is scheduled for early October.

Higher education in Slovenia receives about 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product, which, education ministry officials stress, is "on a par with the European Union average".

Conscription ended in October 2003, and the Government has pledged that tuition fees for full-time students will not be introduced "at least until 2005". These factors have led to an influx into universities.

The critical issue facing the country is the mismatch between graduates and employment opportunities. Slovenian universities are turning out graduates in fields for which there is little demand, leading inevitably to a brain drain. At the same time, many posts vital to the economy cannot attract recruits.

Slovenia's Roma are also an issue. Although they form only a fraction of the population (estimates vary between 1 and 2 per cent), their needs figure conspicuously in discourse on human rights in Slovenia. There are just five Roma undergraduates enrolled at universities, and, as elsewhere in Europe, they tend to drop out of education early.

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