Slovenia: The Slow Decline of Academic Inbreeding. Manja Klemenčič and Pavel Zgaga - PDF

KLEMENČIČ, M., ZGAGA, P. (2015). Slovenia: The Slow Decline of Academic Inbreeding. In Maria Yudkevich, Philip G. Altbach, and Laura E. Rumbley (eds.) Academic Inbreeding and Mobility in Higher Education.

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KLEMENČIČ, M., ZGAGA, P. (2015). Slovenia: The Slow Decline of Academic Inbreeding. In Maria Yudkevich, Philip G. Altbach, and Laura E. Rumbley (eds.) Academic Inbreeding and Mobility in Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Chapter 7, pp Available at: Slovenia: The Slow Decline of Academic Inbreeding Manja Klemenčič and Pavel Zgaga In a country with only one major university for a long time, academic inbreeding was necessary and inevitable. As part of socialist Yugoslavia, Slovenia was its most developed region and professors of Slovenian universities were rarely graduates of the Yugoslav universities. Further, due to the non-aligned character of Yugoslav foreign politics, borders with Western Europe were open and study at foreign universities was not impossible, especially in science, technology and medicine. Nevertheless, the possibilities for study abroad were fairly limited due to economic conditions. Moreover, study abroad has often led to brain drain. Despite rising enrollments since the 1990s, Slovenia is still a small higher education system (with only four universities) and academic inbreeding is a recognizable feature. There are no aggregate statistical data on this phenomenon, nor do the higher education institutions specifically trace academic inbreeding. However, we have some evidence of the extent of this phenomenon from the EUROAC 1 survey on the academic profession in Slovenia that was conducted in 2013 (Klemenčič et al. 2014). In this survey, 50.6 percent of respondents confirmed that they are employed at the same institution 1 where they obtained their PhD (Klemenčič et al. 2014). The highest share of inbred academics (67.6 percent) was reported at the university in the capital, the University of Ljubljana (established in 1919); and somewhat lower (47.5 percent) at the University of Maribor (established in 1975), which are the two oldest universities in the country. The two newer universities, one public and one which is formally considered to be private (i.e., established by a municipality and not by the state but largely financed from the state budget), were founded after 2000, and established PhD programs only within the last few years. Hence, by definition, they have very few inbred academics. The EUROAC survey does not include data for the private university, but does for the new public institution, the University of Primorska (established in 2003). The University of Primorska shows only 16.4 percent of in-bred academics among EUROAC respondents (Klemenčič et al. 2014). The fact that there are inbred academics at all in such a new institution suggests that new institutions are also hiring some of their very own recent PhDs. 2 We do not have data from the private university and a number of colleges (self-standing faculties or higher schools, in Slovenian legal terminology), but our expectation is that, given their more recent emergence, we will find less academic inbreeding in these institutions. Data from EUROAC also show that academic inbreeding is the highest in the fields of engineering, manufacturing and construction (62.5 percent), then agriculture, forestry, fishery and veterinary sciences (58.1 percent), followed by natural sciences, mathematics and computer science (57.0 percent), and medicine and social services (56.3 percent). The lowest share is in education and teacher education (36.8 percent), and 2 social sciences, business, and law (43.9 percent). Arts and humanities with 47.7 percent lie somewhere in-between (Klemenčič et al. 2014). In terms of academic rank, we found the highest numbers of inbred academics among associate professors (64.5 percent), then assistant professors (62.6 percent), while inbreeding among full professors appears to be the lowest among the senior staff (52.6 percent). The evidence of a gradual phasing out of academic inbreeding perhaps lies in a lower share of inbred academics among assistants and young researchers: 41.2 percent of our respondents in this category report having obtained PhD at the same institution where now employed (Klemenčič et al. 2014). This chapter analyses the causes of academic inbreeding in Slovenia and its consequences. There are a number of structural conditions, which continue to impair a more radical extraction of academic inbreeding. These are discussed in the following section, which also introduces the general characteristics of the Slovenian higher education system. The next section discusses hiring and appointment practices, which indeed have become more open, transparent, and more meritocratic, yet have not brought about major change in academic inbreeding practices. The final section introduces the consequences of inbreeding. The data for this chapter have been obtained from national legislative documents and institutional statutory documents. We have also drawn on the data obtained through the EUROAC survey of conditions of academic work in Slovenia conducted in 2013, which involved sending an online survey to 5,791 academic staff employed at Slovenian higher education institutions. This survey was fully completed by 728 3 respondents; thus, with a 13 percent response rate. Partial responses to the survey were excluded from the sample. Given the highly complex and long questionnaire, the low response rate is not unexpected; indeed, it is similar to the response rates obtained by the same survey conducted in other European countries (Teichler and Höhle 2013; Kehm and Teichler 2013, Teichler et al. 2013). We draw here on the observation by Horta (2013) (citing Krosnik 1999) suggesting that while a low response rate could be problematic, studies demonstrate that datasets resulting from low response rates can yield more accurate measurements and quality than those with greater response rate levels (Horta 2013, 493). Furthermore, the survey resulted in a nicely representative sample including all main categories of academic staff, across disciplines, departments where employed, gender, academic rank, etc. (for details, see Klemenčič et al. 2014) thus, meeting the criteria that representativeness is more relevant than response rate for generalizability of survey research (Horta 2013). Finally, the EUROAC survey and the present study present the first in-depth analysis of the academic profession in Slovenia and, as such, represent a great deal of ground work in this area. As such, we are unable to draw from other studies in the Slovenian context. Structural Conditions for Academic Inbreeding: Higher Education in Slovenia With a population of 2 million in south/central Europe, Slovenian higher education institutions enroll in total 84,300 students, of whom 81 percent are full-time students (SURS 2013). In , there were 5,596 ranked academic staff, assisted by 3,050 assistants, language preceptors and other non-ranked staff academic staff (SURS 2013). 4 The student-staff ratio is, on average, 1 ranked academic staff member to 19.3 students; or, if we include all academic staff, 1 ranked or non-ranked faculty member to 11.6 students. Among academics at higher education institutions, 37.8 percent are women; 20.8 percent of all academics are over age 60 (SURS 2013). All three public universities are comprehensive research universities, albeit different in age, size, research impact and also reputation. Together, they form a small and highly stratified system, which is particularly conducive to academic inbreeding. The University of Ljubljana was established in 1919 and served for seventy years as the national university (Zgaga 1998). Upon its establishment, all professors came from foreign universities; therefore, at least initially, it was impossible to speak of inbred staff. Its role as the national university, closely connected to emphasizing the national language (which was, in modern history, a generally sensitive political issue), further strengthened after 1945 and more and more of its professors completed their PhD studies at home. There was little competition between, or division of work with, other Yugoslav universities due to the highly decentralized higher education system of socialist Yugoslavia and the traditional cultural differences (Zgaga 1998). In the 1990s, during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, some of academics from other universities in the region found shelter and employment in Slovenia. Only in 1975 did the Slovenian higher education system change significantly with the establishment of the second university the University of Maribor. The third public institution, the University of Primorska, was established only recently, in 2003, and the private University of Nova Gorica emerged from a previously freestanding faculty, 5 which acquired the status of a university in In addition, different types of nonuniversity higher education institutions exist: one public freestanding faculty and 39 private freestanding faculties and higher professional schools (all of them very small). The freestanding institutions have been legally allowed to operate since 1993; the first one was established in 1996 but most of them have emerged only recently (Zgaga 1998). The majority of enrollments are still at the public institutions: about 86 percent of all students are enrolled in public institutions and about two-thirds of all students are enrolled at the University of Ljubljana (Zgaga et al. 2013). The possibilities for a highly mobile academic labor market within Slovenia are somewhat curbed simply due to the small number of institutions and the fact that some third cycle (PhD) study programs in are conducted only at one of these institutions. Furthermore, the system is highly stratified: most (but not all) faculties or departments at the University of Ljubljana are perceived to be of higher academic quality and hold more academic prestige than other institutions in similar fields elsewhere in the country. The stratified system, with the University of Ljubljana at the top of the pyramid, explains why the highest level of inbreeding is at this institution. PhD holders from Ljubljana have often found appointments at other universities in the country, as well as abroad). Movement in the opposite direction i.e., those with PhDs from other Slovenian universities securing employment at the University of Ljubljana is less common because most (although certainly not all) faculties and departments at other universities do not enjoy the same level of prestige. 6 Of course, for a small portion of domestic professors, it was always possible to gain a PhD abroad. Besides this fact, somewhat lesser rates of academic inbreeding among full professors in our data could be an indication that, at the time of their first academic appointment, the mobility between the two only universities Ljubljana and Maribor might have been more fluid than was the case a generation or more later. It can also mean that currently, with the establishment of new institutions, full professors are the ones more likely to change institutions. On the other hand, it could also be explained through the fact that those generations of academic, in particular, still think of their faculty as their true alma mater, and not the university. Until 1990s, individual faculties enjoyed full legal and financial independence and the university served more as a network of independent faculties (Zgaga 1998; Zgaga 2013). Hence, moving from obtaining a PhD from one faculty to employment at another faculty at the same university may well be considered as changing institutions in the minds of full professors. Those academics that currently hold the rank of full professor built their careers in a system where faculties held independent legal and financial identity. Before the 1990s, the deans of the faculties negotiated funding directly with the Ministry. The feeling of belonging and formal affiliation was to the faculty and not to the university. The university had neither much decision-making power over the faculties, nor much symbolic value. It is likely that academics internalized that value system and have not shifted their perception of belonging in the wake of the university governance reforms. Hence, for them, changing from one faculty to another within one university really means a change of institution. 7 The establishment of Slovenia s two newest universities diminishes somewhat the overall rate of academic inbreeding at the system level. Both new universities created new academic openings that were filled predominantly by academics coming from Ljubljana and Maribor. However, both new universities are of marginal size especially when compared to the University of Ljubljana. In the absence of historical data, it is difficult to establish when a decrease in academic inbreeding began and whether it occurred with the massification of student enrollments, which led to an increase in study programs, a rise in instructional needs and thus more academic hiring. Our impression, supported by data on the present state of academic inbreeding at both older universities, is that this was not the case. Until the late 1970s, there was only one university, and later there were only two universities, producing potential future academics. Both institutions had at the time tendencies towards fairly closed academic recruitment practices, as opposed to open and solely meritocratic hiring. Until the 1990s, when higher education was still in the elite stage and academics were few and had high social status, academic favoritism certainly marked the hiring practices at universities. Nepotistic practices in hiring were common across independent faculties. The 1990s brought about significant changes: the formulation of the new higher education system in the newly independent state happened simultaneously with rising student enrollments and a transition from elite to mass higher education (Zgaga 1998; Zgaga 2013). However, in the two old universities there were no real professional incentives for academics to move to other universities in the country; at least, there were no incentives for the best academics to do so. To put it 8 differently: the job security, public recognition, good salary and other fairly satisfactory work conditions dis-incentivized academics from seeking positions elsewhere, once they had made it into the system. The following section analyzes the contemporary labor market conditions and the impact of these on academic inbreeding. Labor market conditions Slovenia has a higher education system where the academic job market has not taken on (so far) market characteristics. Academics in public universities are employed as civil servants. They have fairly similar salaries across institutions, tend still to be relatively generously paid, and thus have little financial incentive to change institutions. According to legal requirements, all academic vacancies must be publicized externally on relevant national online platforms, and there is a fairly open and transparent selection process stipulated in legislation. There are several bodies of legislation regulating employment of academics. The Constitution of Republic of Slovenia ensures the right of all employees to social security and health insurance, participation of workers in the management of their organizations, and the right to form and participate in representative bodies. Academics and researchers in public higher education and research institutions in Slovenia are civil servants and their status and remuneration provisions are defined in the Civil Servants Act and in the Act on the Civil Servant Payment System. This means that their base salary and bonuses are set through a comprehensive collective bargaining framework for the whole of the central government and public services. Centralized negotiations 9 result in a mandatory agreement with syndicates (unions) regarding base salary, bonuses and the code of conduct. By law, syndicates must be consulted regarding working conditions, the employment framework, the right to strike (or minimize service), the introduction of new management tools and government restructuring. The last such comprehensive collective bargaining framework between the government and the Higher Education Syndicate [Visokošolski sindikat Slovenije] was established in January Based on their rank and length of service, academics are categorized into different pay-scale grades. There is some flexibility in terms of bonuses for performance [dodatek za delovno uspešnost] but not much, and the issue of merit pay is somewhat controversial. Employees are entitled to full social security support and have fairly robust guarantees with regard to job protection and dismissal. Consequently, the salaries for ranked academic staff in public universities are similar across institutions; i.e. fixed according to academic rank and number of years worked in the rank (Altbach 2000). As such, salaries do not necessarily factor in to academics choices of employment. In addition to regular salary, academics can get additional payments (e.g. for additional workload, teaching part-time and PhD students, research and development projects, consultations, etc.). The academic salaries at public higher education institutions in Slovenia are widely believed to guarantee a comfortable middle-class standard of living. In other words, the overall academic salary (base salary and bonuses) for full-time academics is still fairly comparable to salaries of higher-ranking professionals in other sectors. However, this trend might be changing with increasing salaries for top-tier managers, 10 lawyers and medical doctors. Still, academics in ranked positions are not financially pressured to seek additional employment, although they often do so because there is opportunity for additional income. The professoriate in Slovenia enjoys a relatively high social status and tends to be respected by the public. Hence, academics are frequently invited to serve in ministerial and similar positions, on the boards of companies, and in other influential posts. In the EUROAC survey, 14.8 percent of respondents confirmed having additional employment at another public research or higher education institution, 4.7 percent reported working at another private higher education or research institution, 6.5 percent worked at other public education institutions, 4.4 percent also worked in business organisations, 4.3 percent were also self-employed, 3 percent worked for government, and 1.2 percent also worked in private non-profit organizations (Klemenčič et al. 2014). Public universities have adopted competition clauses, according to which academics who wish to teach at other Slovenian higher education institutions have to ask for permission from the rector or dean of the institution where they are employed. In 2013, media brought to public light a discussion on academic salaries, which were depicted as rather high. In the data offered, an assistant (pay-scale grade 30 to 35) earns as base salary between EUR 1,373 (equivalent to PPP$ 1,716) 3 to EUR 1,670 (PPP$ 2,087), and up 20 percent more for additional weekly workload. An assistant professor [docent] (grade 48) earns, on average, a base salary of EUR 2,572 (or PPP$ 3,215) and up to 15 percent more for additional teaching. Full professors salaries are (grade 50 to 55) between EUR 3,009 (PPP$ 3,761) to EUR 3,661 (PPP$ 4,576) and up to 15 percent extra 11 for additional teaching. These figures correspond to our survey, where respondents reported their average net income (EUR 2,128 (equal to PPP$ 2,671) for full professors and EUR 1,115 EUR (or PPP$ 1,394) for assistant. These data position Slovenian salaries somewhere in the middle of the European countries (Altbach et al. 2012). Salaries tend to be highly taxed, but social welfare arrangements ensure that expenses such as health care, retirement funds, schooling for children and paid vacations are provided by the state. The above data show also a hig
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