Five Changes Introduced to Students by the New Edition of the Higher Education Act
A lot has been already said about the new edition of the Higher Education Act (ZViS). The negotiations and the development of a common position of all participants, including the Student Organization of Slovenia (Študentske organizacije Slovenije), eventually led to the collective final project, which was worth the effort of the ordinary students. What does this Act promise to students?
1. The duration of student status until the end of the academic year will not depend on the time of the university studies completion.
In accordance with the existing rules, the student status is terminated at the time when a student graduates from an institution of higher education. In practice, this means that a student between the end of its studies on a Bachelor’s program and a (probable) continuation of studies on a Master’s program is deprived of the student status and all associated rights (subsidized student meals and accommodation, health insurance, etc.) Therefore, the majority of students planned their diploma defence as close as possible to the end of the academic year (September). Such planning led to an increase in the load on the faculties. An increasing number of defences during a short period of time became a technical challenge for faculties. Of course, it reflected on the quality of defended diplomas. In accordance with the new wording of the Act, a graduate retains its student status until the end of the academic year even after the diploma defence completion. Such mechanism will facilitate the life of faculties and allow students to plan their diploma defence at a convenient time.
2. Funding of doctoral programs.
Earlier, the government funded studies on doctoral programs based on the so-called innovative schemes, but such strategy has been absent for the recent years. In accordance with the new wording of the Act, the government instead of “may” will be “obliged” to finance studies on doctoral programs at the expense of budget funds. A detailed funding procedure is currently unknown, but it will certainly pay priority attention to the talented students.
3. The full membership of students in the Academic Councils.
The Scientific Council is one of the highest bodies of a faculty, which is also responsible for the nomination of candidates for the dean position. Until now, the membership of students therein was just a symbolic one without the right to vote. The proposed amendment provides students with full membership in the Scientific Council, and their number is defined as one-fifth of the total number of members of the Academic Council. Students are deprived of the voting rights only during the election of teachers-senators, as students separately elect their senators. This change fixed in the new version of the Act, among other innovations, has a symbolic nature since it recognizes the equal status of students in the academic community.
4. The Act regulates the financing of higher education institutions.
Prior to adopting the new edition of the Act ZViS, the system of higher education was funded through the Government Decree, which was rendered by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia (RS CC) as the inconsistent with the Basic Law. At the same time, it was decided that a separate law should govern funding of the system of higher education. The new edition of the Act, thus, puts into practice the decision of the RS CC, while establishing that the funding level should not be less than the current amounts received by the universities and other higher education institutions, but should gradually rise. In addition, according to the new version of the Act, it becomes impossible to pay for a high standard, which can be interpreted as a veiled form of tuition fees.
5. Improvements in the students’ health insurance system.
Health is a vital resource for each person. Since the health status of students is getting worse from year to year, the new edition of the Act requires mandatory systematic medical examinations for the first-year students. It also provides advice on the compliance of a healthy lifestyle, and describes the forms of its maintenance.