Recognition of Diplomas
Kosovo and Serbia reached the Agreement on the Mutual Recognition of University Diplomas on 2 July 2011.
The agreement was proclaimed under the maxim “Ensuring students’ access to education programs and employment opportunities throughout the region as to make the best use of their skills and talents” and it was necessary because Kosovo and Serbia do not recognize each other’s education systems.
For years, Kosovo Serbs pursue their university studies in Serbia or in the north of Kosovo, in the University of North Mitrovica (known for Kosovo Serbs as the University of Pristina with a temporary seat in North Mitrovicë/a). This university, although located in the territory of Kosovo, operates under the Serbian education system; which is why the Government of Kosovo deems it a parallel institution.
Once someone graduates from a university in Serbia, his/her diploma is not recognized in Kosovo; which complicates the situation for the Serbs who studied there and returned to Kosovo. The same used to apply to diplomas issued by University in North Mitrovica.
Vice versa Albanians, primarily located in for Presevo Valley, chose to study at the universities in Kosovo, but once they graduate and return to Serbia, they cannot verify their Kosovo-issued university degrees in Serbia.
As a result, Kosovo Serbs and Presevo-Valley Albanians are not able to continue their education or find a job in Kosovo and Serbia. This pushes them to seek employment or continue their studies elsewhere.
According to the agreement, the process of recognition would go through the following steps:
- Applicants submit their application for diploma recognition to the Implementation Partner (IP), which manages the technical aspects. SPARK, a Dutch NGO focused on higher education and entrepreneurship, was chosen as implementing partner for the period 2012-2014.
- The IP (or SPARK) forwards the applications to the European University Association (EUA), which certifies the diplomas. Serbia and Kosovo agreed to have EUA to certify their diplomas in the arrangement concluded on 21 November 2011 (A mandatory step before the authorities of both countries can proceed with the recognition of diplomas).
- Serbian or Kosovo authorities pursue the procedure of recognition.
Between 2012- 2014, 408 applications for recognition were submitted in Pristina and 25 in Belgrade. Of those, EUA certified 362 in Pristina and 13 in Belgrade. In Serbia, the recognition of 13 certifications fell through because the Constitutional Court of Serbia, in 2014, ruled the agreement to be incompatible with Serbian law and Constitution.
Although not required by this agreement, to facilitate the recognition of diplomas issued by the University of North Mitrovica, Kosovo took a step forward. In 2015, the Government issued the Regulation (QRK) Nr. 21/2015 for temporary recognition of diplomas issued by the University of Mitrovica to address the reintegration of the Serb community into Kosovo’s system. Following this regulation, a Commission (which is multiethnic in composition) for the Verification of Degrees issued by the University of North Mitrovica, started to function in May 2017. In this regard, Kosovo has accepted 1703 applications for recognition by the University of North Mitrovica, from which 1629 were recognized. For the first time since 1999, Kosovo Serb students who studied at University in North Mitrovica could have their diplomas recognized and could seek public employment in Kosovo.
On 19 January 2016, Serbia and Kosovo renewed their efforts to address these issues and clarified the procedures for recognition.
They agreed to:
- Divide the recognition into two categories: professional (for employment opportunities) and academic (for the continuation of studies);
- Extend the scope of the agreement to include all levels of education: Higher Education (BA, MA, PhD) and Pre-University Education (elementary, secondary, vocational education and the fifth level of qualification as per EQF; and to
- Establish a tripartite implementation group (to monitor the implementation).
However, despite all arrangements, the recognition of diplomas is not materialized.
On 4 September 2020 Kosovo and Serbia reached the Agreement on Economic Normalization in Washington D.C. Through this agreement, they renewed their commitment to mutually recognize diplomas and professional certificates, but until concrete steps are taken, students continue to suffer the consequences of limited education and employment opportunities.