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International University of Sarajevo is a foundation university that has been active in our country from 2003. It was founded by the Foundation for Education Development Sarajevo, and it has five faculties with 21 study programs. Some of the programs are

Dr. Ahmet Yıldırım for “Oslobođenje”: The best “reconciliation” is looking at the benefits

International University of Sarajevo is a foundation university that has been active in our country from 2003. It was founded by the Foundation for Education Development Sarajevo, and it has five faculties with 21 study programs. Some of the programs are internationally accredited by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ Austria), a full member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). IUS has also taken part in many projects, whose implementation at the international level is conditioned by accreditation.

We talked with the rector of IUS, Dr. Ahmet Yıldırım, about the (renewal of) accreditations at higher education institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has become a hot topic recently, about the importance of quality assurance, and the issue that we should be caring most about – the future of students, to whom the loss of accreditation would affect the most.

1. Issue related to the accreditation of higher education institutions in BiH is current again. RS entity and the state level cannot agree on what is within its jurisdiction, and the profession warns that the entire system of higher education in our country could be paralyzed. How do you see this problem, which lasts for years?

Unfortunately, the obstruction of the accreditation processes, if not solved in a foreseeable future, may have a lot of adverse effects, domino effect, not only on higher education sector, but much wider. The victims of this situation will be all universities in BiH and I hope there will be enough prudence to overcome the stalemate we have now. I believe that all parties understand that only a quality higher education can bring benefit to society as a whole.

2. There are mutual accusations between entity and state accreditation agencies. In your opinion, who should "reconcile" the opposing sides? According to you, what is this about?

We hope that institutions involved into negotiations will understand what is in stake. It is the very future of generation of students. The current stalemate could jeopardize years of efforts and investments into the higher education throughout the country. The best “reconciliation” is looking at the benefits. IUS is a non-profit higher education institution established by the Foundation for Educational Development. All profit IUS makes is being reinvested into education processes. For example, important to mention is the fact that on annual bases IUS provides scholarships to BiH students of approximately BAM 6.5 million. These students are coming from both entities, but IUS also has many foreign students who might be particularly hit by lack of the state accreditation.

3. If this story does not end up positively, how much IUS University is in danger? When your accreditation expires? (Which of your faculties have managed to get accreditation in other countries?)

I sincerely hope that the process will end up positively. IUS institutional accreditation expires this year and we have been working on self-evaluation processes and documentation preparation for 5 months now. IUS will abide with all legal requirements and submit its application to the competent Ministry in order to initiate the re-accreditation process, despite the current unfortunate situation. In line with IUS Strategic Plan 2016-2021, IUS obtained voluntary international accreditation for bachelor and master level of the following study programs: Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Genetics and Bioengineering and International Relations from AQ Austria.

4. If the worst scenario happens, what would your university and students lose? How much this dimension does is really taken into account?

Certainly, it would negatively affect the education market and industry in BiH, as well as its image, because a large number of foreign students are studying at our University, coming from all continents and over 40 countries of the world. In addition, trust building process is a long process where IUS has invested enormous efforts and resources. Let me just mention a few partners of IUS: Istanbul Technical University (ITU) with which IUS recently established joint degree programmes, AQ Austria which granted international accreditation of several IUS study programmes. Moreover, there are ongoing negotiations with some universities in Europe in terms of creating joint degree programs to attract more international students. Bosnia, especially Sarajevo has a high potential to be an international education hub and our efforts have been intensified to succeed this goal. If the worst scenario happens, we will lose all gains and future chances for improvements.

5. The voice is always turned towards private universities. Are you able to influence the work of the competent authorities of the Agency? Or is it in the hands of politics?

We believe that all academic community in BiH is united in view that situation has to be solved as it is harming Universities in all BiH. It is a fact that we employ a large number of eminent professors and educate a large number of students shows our commitment and interest to appeal for a quick resolution of the mentioned dispute between the competent Agencies. Any further deepening of the conflict can damage the education system, students and the reputation of BiH in Europe.

6. In which international projects are you currently involved? What they imply?

IUS is hugely active in student mobility. We promote participation of students and staff in the Erasmus+ mobility program, its Council of Higher Education counterpart the Mevlana program and the free mover concept, especially aimed at reaching out to the Bosnian diaspora. Although we have been involved in mobility only since 2015, we have realized 794 exchanges of students and staff. We are running several research and developing projects funded by different funding agencies but also industry partners. Horizon 2020 SAGE gender project, funded by EU Commission, Dijaspora za razvoj, funded by UNDP, several projects funded by our long-term partner Siemens, to name just a few. Without genuine institutional accreditation it will be more difficult to get such projects on already very competitive market.