Education has been an important, almost crucial, part of the Serbian culture since the late 12th century when the youngest son of then Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja decided to rebel. The young Rastko Nemanjić chose a peculiar path of rebellion, one of knowledge and spirituality, and ran off to join an Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos on the Chalkidiki Peninsula in Greece at the tender age of sixteen. His father joined him a few years later and both men devoted their lives to spreading Christianity and knowledge throughout the land. Rastko took on the monastic name of Sava and his father took his monastic vows as Simeon. They were both canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church as St. Sava and St. Simeon respectively.
Throughout history, St. Sava has been celebrated as the father and patron saint of education in Serbia. Yes, even during the long socialist era, during which elementary, secondary and even higher education were free and available to anyone.
Higher education is still available to most in Serbia today and at quite a low cost. Serbia has several state universities throughout its larger cities and quite a few, mostly specialized, private universities. These institutions of higher education are quite respected throughout the world, although there are a few downsides. Lower tuitions do open the doors to those who could almost certainly never afford this level of education in most developed countries, but also creates a great lack of funding. This in turn leads to the slower innovation and development of new sciences, technology and branches of existing studies, creating a diminished choice for our future college and university students.
Most people who wish to pursue either a graduate or undergraduate degree in fields that are supposedly non-existent in Serbia, decide to do so abroad, if and when they can afford it. Many of us, however, don’t like to see this massive outflow of young intellectuals, an occurrence that has become known as the “leakage of brains” in Serbia. The most popular informational local website for students and graduates, Infostud.com, offers quite an extensive list of colleges and universities throughout the world, along with some words of advice, for those who wish to take this road.
The institutions of higher education in this country, however, have had long standing cooperations with relevant institutions worldwide for decades. With the implementation of the Bologna Convention (Bologna Process) here and in other European countries, this cooperation has expanded and strengthened. This now affords local students the oportunity of pursuing at least a portion of their studies abroad. This has recently become a second option for those who wish to continue their education in fields or techniques not yet available here. There are also many foreign and locally owned private universities such as European University in Belgrade and The University of New York in Belgrade, both of which are a part of international networks of highly respected schools.
The third choice and one people seldom seem to even know of, much less choose, is that of external or distance studies. There are quite a few schools abroad that offer this option today, enrollment requires nothing more than it otherwise would, and the degrees offered are exactly the same as if the student was attending on campus. Of course, independent study always requires a bit more willpower and personal organizational skills than the usual route. This is why some foreign schools offer additional classes, training and exam periods right here in Belgrade.
I believe my personal favorite, the External Programme of the University of London, has been around these parts the longest. UoL has been working in cooperation with the British Council in Belgrade for years, offering an “internationally recognised Diploma, Bachelors and Masters courses, available wherever you are in the world by distance learning and flexible study” and with exams held once a year in Belgrade. Other universities, such as the University of Leicester, also offer simillar distance learning programs. Sites like HyperStudy.com and the above mentioned Infostud.com will help perspective undergraduate and graduate students in finding a school in their desired location and field.
Whether you’re a foreigner living here or a local, whether looking to attain a Bachelor’s degree or to improve your current educational status, we hope you do that here in Serbia. Let’s start creating a new confluence of minds here instead of the all too common drainage of brains.