News archive - EUA: Kosovo Summer Universities as a signal for the future

The Newsletter of the European University Association (EUA) featured in its latest edition (July 27, 2007) a report on summer schools organised by SPARK and held in Kosovo.

Read here the EUA-Article and find the full newsletter at

Kosovo Summer Universities signal hope for the future

While the world’s media has been focussing on the question of whether or not the UN Security Council can agree a final status for Kosovo, another story - equally important for the future of the territory - has been neglected.

That is the story of how Kosovan higher education is opening up to international academic cooperation.

In March this year, a difficult period of isolation of the University of Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo was brought to an end. An academic boycott of the university had been triggered in 2004 by political interference of the Serbian government in the university, and by the refusal of the imposed university leadership to recognise the legal jurisdiction of the United Nations in Kosovo. However, in March 2007, after a new Rector was appointed, the university was re-licensed by the UN Mission in Kosovo, thus paving the way for renewed international cooperation.

International cooperation has been kick-started in the last two weeks with the University of Mitrovica hosting a programme of summer courses that has drawn students and professors together from across the world. Professors from the university were paired with international counterparts to design and deliver intensive programmes on topics ranging from documentary film-making and cultural heritage to EU law and international relations. 120 students from Mitrovica were selected along with 80 students from other countries to participate in this event.

Meanwhile, less than an hour’s drive away in Pristina, now the capital city for the Kosovar Albanian population, the University of Prishtina organised its own Summer University, drawing students from 30 countries, including over 20 from Serbia. The university also offered an ambitious and inspiring academic programme, including a wealth of activities that showed how the university is engaging in society.

The initiative for both these summer universities comes from a Dutch development organisation, Spark, initially created by a group of students at the end of the Bosnian war. Yannick du Pont, director of Spark, explains these beginnings:

“As a group of students from the Netherlands we began our initiatives at the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the Dayton accords brought conflict to an end, we knew that students would need support to catch up with the education that had been denied them, and we saw an opportunity to help. We started with an exchange programme, and some English language teaching, and then thought of the idea of creating an international summer school in Tuzla. It proved an amazing success, with professors from around the world more than willing to work pro bono, the Dutch government willing to support us, and the CRE (a predecessor organisation of EUA) also providing much-needed assistance. Since then we’ve never looked back.”

A closer look at the events taking place in Pristina reveals the potential of such activity. In parallel to the United Nations Security Council discussion of a proposal for the final status of Kosovo, the University of Prishtina took the opportunity to organise its own debate on the future of Kosovo which was broadcast live on television. The panel for this discussion comprised the President of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu, the Head of the UN in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, and the Rector of the University of Prishtina, Enver Hasani. Thanks to the Summer University, Kosovo citizens were able to witness an extraordinary example of democratic debate where students from Serbia were able to discuss with the President of Kosovo matters such as how refugees from minority communities would be assisted to return to Kosovo. Students also pointed out that for many people that they had met on the streets of Pristina, the most important issues to be addressed were economic – and particularly how the high unemployment rates in Kosovo could be addressed.

Summer universities can now be found all across South East Europe, and Spark continues to support these and other educational projects: “We see our role now as offering ideas, and sharing our experience, but also handing over responsibility to universities in the region to organise these summer programmes as soon as they are ready,” explained du Pont. “It is incredibly satisfying to see what summer universities are achieving. They demonstrate the added value to be gained from well-organised international education. Everyone becomes more creative when learning together with colleagues from other cultures. So whatever the outcome of negotiations at the UN in New York, I believe that these activities are helping to build the future for Kosovo and for this region.”

Entry created by Elke Dall on July 31, 2007
Modified on August 1, 2007