Slovenia stuck on Erasmus

November 20, 1998

Introduction of Erasmus, the European student mobility programme, in Slovenia is still troubled by a faltering university infrastructure, a lack of internal communication and delays in the European community.

The nationalist stance of Italy's former Berlusconi government delayed ratification of Slovenia's Europe Agreement and although Greece, the last country to ratify the agreement, has done so, it has yet to send the documents to Brussels, effectively excluding Slovenia from full participation.

Even with this hurdle cleared, the decentralised management of Slovenian universities, common in Central and Eastern Europe, could be a further stumbling block.

University faculties used to negotiate their budgets directly with the ministry of education and sports in Ljubljana and could operate virtually independently.

But a 1993 law put budget control in central university hands. State secretary Pavel Zgaga said: "The process of reintegration of the universities came to a complete standstill in 1996 and was only set into motion again when a new rector was appointed at the University of Ljubljana last year.

"We want to move to a lump-sum funding system for both Ljubljana and Maribor universities, but it will take another one or two years before they are ready."

Katja Breskvar, vice-rector of Ljubljana, agrees: "Through a number of Tempus projects we are now reorganising the student administration and management. But it will take a long time. The reorganisation is at the expense of the deans' power and they are resisting with all their strength."

One result is that the university's international office was ill-prepared to manage the centrally-administered Erasmus contracts and has already lost European partners to Maribor.

Ms Beskvar said: "We have two members of staff to administer the international affairs of 36,000 students. It is impossible."

At the University of Maribor, preparations for 1999 Erasmus participation are in full swing. "We cooperate quite well with the Socrates agency in Ljubljana, but we don't get much information from them," said Hermina Radmilovic, head of the international liaison office.

"When partners in Germany asked us two years ago to join their Erasmus network we said we were not allowed to do that yet. Brussels told them we were likely to be in from 1999. Since then we started a programme of technical preparations. Just let those students come, we're ready for it !" The University of Ljubljana finally sent off the required mobility pack to the Commission this month and is awaiting the final results of the 1999 Erasmus application round in May.

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