Within the scope of marking the 50th anniversary of the University of Rijeka, we had the honour to host the 7th Rectors’ Forum of Southeast Europe and Western Balkans, which was held at the University of Rijeka Rectorate on September 4-5, 2023. The Forum brings together universities from the region, and is aimed at improving and widening cooperation between universities in this part of Europe. The Rectors’ Forum is one of the initiatives that came out of the Berlin process, ideas for better integration of Southeast Europe. The Forum is dedicated to the promotion of European policies in science and higher education, the exchange of good practices, and the strengthening of cooperation on joint projects. The Forum was held as a two-day conference dedicated to the current challenges in Southeast Europe, and hosted more than 70 representatives from universities in the region, including rectors and vice-rectors as official envoys:
Prof. Dr. Zdravko Kačič, Rector of the University of Maribor
Prof. Dr. Gregor Majdič, Rector of the University of Ljubljana
Prof. Dr. Ludvik Toplak, President of Alma Mater Europaea (Maribor)
Prof. Dr. Vladimir Božović, Rector of the University of Montenegro
Prof. Dr. Nikola Jankulovski, Rector of Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje
Prof. Dr. Igor Nedelkovski, Rector of St. Clement of Ohrid University of Bitola
Prof. Dr. Nermina Hadžigrahić, Rector of the University of Tuzla
Prof. Dr. Radoslav Gajanin, Rector of the University of Banja Luka
Prof. Dr. Rifat Škrijelj, Rector of the University of Sarajevo
Prof. Dr. Dejan Madić, Rector of the University of Novi Sad
Prof. Dr. Vladan Đokić, Rector of the University of Belgrade
Prof. Dr. Mirjana Nikolić, Rector of the University of Arts in Belgrade
Prof. Dr. Nenad Filipović, Rector of the University of Kragujevac
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Artan Dermaku, newly-elected Rector of the University ”Kadri Zeka”
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dukagjin Leka, Vice Rector of the University ”Kadri Zeka”
Prof. Dr. Jelena Krunić, Vice-Rector of the University of East Sarajevo
Dr. Marko Gutalj, Vice-Rector of the University of East Sarajevo
Prof. Dr. Sanja Bijakšić, Vice-Rector of the University of Mostar
Prof. Dr. Boštjan Markoli, Vice-Rector of the University of Ljubljana
Prof. Dr. Faton Berisha, Vice-Rector of the University of Prishtina ”Hasan Prishtina”
Prof. Dr. Biljana Angelova, Vice-Rector of Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje
Prof. Dr. Irena Orović, Vice-Rector of the University of Montenegro
Assist. Prof. Dr. Selim Daku, professor at the University ”Kadri Zeka”.
On the first day of the Forum, the participants, divided into three parallel working groups, discussed the challenges in higher education and research in this part of Europe. The first group, dedicated to education and science policies advancements in Southeast Europe, was moderated by Dr. Gazela Pudar Draško, Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory in Belgrade. The second group worked under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Marta Žuvić, Vice-Rector for Studies, Students and QA of the University of Rijeka, and discussed the advancement of higher education programmes in SEE. The work of the third group was focused on research and innovation advancements in SEE, and their discussion was moderated by Prof. Dr. Maja Klun, Vice-Rector for Knowledge Transfer, Digitization and Sustainable Development of the University of Ljubljana.
The conclusions and proposals of each working group were presented to the university officials during the General Assembly, which then adopted the proposals and unanimously accepted their programme and confirmed the election of the three working groups chairs. The working groups will continue their work over the next two years.
As the Forum is dedicated to becoming the voice of academic institutions in this part of Europe, member universities strive to get their message across by including national, regional, and international stakeholders. To introduce the members to various ways of cooperation and funding opportunities, this year’s Forum welcomed numerous esteemed guests, including Mr. Lucian Brujan, Berlin Process Coordinator for Education, Science and Education, Mrs. Nada Bruer Ljubišić, Executive Secretary of Inter-university Centre Dubrovnik, Mr. Đuro Blanuša, Head of Operations, ISIC Association, and Ivan Svetlik, Professor emeritus of the University of Ljubljana and the pioneer of the Rectors’ Forum.
Following the applications received, the General Assembly passed the decision to include four new universities in the Forum, i.e. University of Tirana (Albania), University “Kadri Zeka” (Kosovo), University “Ukshin Hoti” Prizren (Kosovo) and “Goce Delcev” University (North Macedonia).
After the Forum was chaired by the University of Belgrade for two consecutive years, the General Assembly elected Prof. Dr. Snježana Prijić Samaržija, University of Rijeka Rector, as the new President of the Rectors’ Forum. Her term of office begins on the first day of October 2023.
The representatives of the member universities also adopted the Declaration, stating their intention to work together to advocate the improvement and strengthening of regional and international connections, as well as joint initiatives and projects, to raise the quality standards of research and higher education, but also to improve academic mobility within the network of institutions.