A case of “Romanian uniqueness”?

What is the problem of universities in Romania? I am sure everybody who studied in Romania could come up with some very interesting points when answering this question. At least for me the lack of basic academic approaches is more than obvious. Nobody questions the lousy teaching, the badly equipped libraries, corruption, the widely spread ignorance about research methods… Until now a deep reform of the Romanian university system was not on top of the agenda. Now, this debate gains momentum again and I hope it will find its way also into the Romanian political discourse. More than just academic’ is the title of an article by Cristina Bradatan which grasps the most important points in this debate:

Despite the impressive increase of student numbers in the last year, Romania only spends 0,5 % of its GDP on research and development. This is very little compared with 0,6-0,7% in Eastern Europe (Hungary, Bulgaria) or even 1,9%, the European average.

But another aspect of the Romanian university system is more striking:

Doctorates are easily obtained by students lacking minimal scholarly credentials, and many dissertations have been revealed to be based on plagiarized research.

For Cristina Bradatan a worrying divide exists…

…between those academics who perform well and are productive, and those who are poor teachers and generate low-quality research. The way out of the impasse is to put a merit-based promotion system in place, ensuring, in time, that only outstanding scholars rise to be full professors.

Andrei Cornea, a well known “intellectual” in Romania questions the very relevance of this promotion system that actually ensures quality within science. (I assume that he is afraid of the system of peer-reviewed articles and the subsequent international visibility.)

“The promotion system needs flexibility, not rigid bureaucratic rules” Cornea argues. Although it is far from clear where this flexibility should stop in a promotion system that is already too flexible, Cornea’s ideas are shared by many others. Recently, more than 200 full and associate professors who rose through the ranks despite not having doctorates loudly denounced a new law requiring a PhD for holders of those academic positions. Predictably, other commentators took aim at Cornea’s argument, trashing the idea of “Romanian uniqueness” as a disguised apology for cultural pathology and a cheap way to avoid serious reform.

So where is the “Monica Macovei” for the Romanian education system?


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