Responsible behaviour of academic community for quality higher education – conclusions of the round table “Academic integrity – condition sine qua non”

The round table on the topic “Academic integrity – conditio sine qua non” was held on Monday, February 20, 2023 at the Cue Hotel in Podgorica.

The round table brought together representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Ethics Committee, as well as numerous representatives of the academic community.

The opening presentation was given by Mr. Goran Danilović, acting director of the Agency for Quality Control and Assurance of Higher Education, who emphasized the importance of strengthening academic integrity, as one of the most important conditions without which the culture of quality at higher education institutions cannot be strengthened. The quality of higher education cannot exist without honest, objective, open, responsible behavior of the entire academic community with respect for freedom in teaching and research, including academic staff, students, but also external evaluators in the procedures for accreditation of study programs and reaccreditation of higher education institutions.

He pointed out that much larger and more developed higher education systems face the same challenges when it comes to applying the principles of academic integrity. On the other hand, he emphasized, that systems characterized by a high reputation, based on high standards and quality of education, gained such a status precisely by strengthening the principle of academic honesty.

During the presentation, Mr. Danilović referred to the results achieved in the previous period, such as the development and adoption of the supplementary standard on academic integrity that will be used during institutional evaluations, which was developed through the “Quality Education for All” project with the support of the Council of Europe office. As a continuation of successful cooperation, he announced the realization of a pilot evaluation of the supplementary standard on academic integrity, which will aim to test the standard through its practical application at higher education institutions. In this way, with the help of higher education institutions, an evaluation of the standard will be obtained, that is, recommendations on whether the standard needs to be improved and adapted to the needs of the Montenegrin higher education system. On the other hand, the pilot evaluation will help higher education institutions to test their internal quality assurance system by assessing the degree of fulfillment of all criteria defined by the supplementary standard on academic integrity.

President of the Ethics Committee, prof. dr. Mara Šćepanović reflected on the results and initiatives implemented by the Ethics Committee, since the adoption of the Law on Higher Education and by-laws. In her presentation, prof. Šćepanović pointed out that in the process of creating and preserving academic integrity, the role of higher education institutions is important, because the institutions are the ones who create graduates as people of integrity and who will pass on knowledge and basic postulates about academic honesty. She concluded that the promotion and formalization, as well as the recognition of the problem of academic integrity and all initiatives and postulates of academic honesty, are extremely important for raising and strengthening the awareness of institutions and through that of individuals.

Mr. Miloš Bošković, a representative of the Council of Europe office, emphasized the importance of the “Quality education for all” project, citing numerous results that were realized through this project, and announced future initiatives that will be realized in the coming period, which will concern the strengthening of academic integrity in the Montenegrin system of higher education. Some of the results that he mentioned were the adoption of the Law on Academic Integrity, the establishment of organizational bodies at institutions of higher education as a result of the application of the Law, the adoption of by-laws as well as numerous promotional activities that were carried out with the aim of raising awareness in the academic environment as well as the general public when it comes to the importance of application of the principles of academic integrity, but also forms of non-academic behavior and eventual situations that arise as a result of such behavior. He also reminded that it is the pilot evaluation of the supplementary standard on academic integrity that will point out the advantages and disadvantages of the Law on Academic Integrity.

The participants at the round table had the opportunity to hear the presentation of Mr. Klemen Šubic from the National Agency for Quality in Higher Education of the Republic of Slovenia, who was engaged as an expert in the development of the supplementary standard on academic integrity and the drafting of the Analysis of the Quality Assurance System in Higher Education and the Law on Academic Integrity. He emphasized that adequate communication and public discussions, such as this round table, which deal with issues of academic integrity and which bring together all participants of the higher education system, are key to the successful implementation of all new initiatives in one system.

In the second part of the round table, the participants had the opportunity to point out the challenges they face in the process of applying the principles of academic integrity, to share examples of good practice, as well as to give proposals and suggestions on how to, through joint initiatives, strengthen academic integrity in Montenegrin system of higher education, but also in society in general.

Examples of practice carried out at institutions of higher education, through promotional elements, development of educational tools for students, establishment of bodies and standardization of rules dealing with disciplinary procedures, etc., are highlighted.

The participants of the round table stated that in the process of strengthening academic integrity, it is important for institutions to develop critical thinking among students, both through a preventive educational role and through strengthening the mentoring roles of professors whose task is to guide and help students in developing a culture of academic integrity. In this process, institutions are very often focused only on students, knowing that the critical aspects of self-evaluation and improvement of quality at the institution and among employees are also missing.

In the end, it was concluded that initiatives such as this round table can only have positive effects when it comes to strengthening academic integrity and raising awareness of the importance of this topic for society, and that the pilot evaluation that will start in the next few days will only contribute improving the culture of quality through evaluation and improvement of supplementary standard respecting the specifics of the Montenegrin higher education system.


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