In The Republic of Serbia access to higher education is open to every person who finishes a four-year secondary school.
Higher education is divided into three levels:
- First level (Bachelor Studies),
- Second level (Master Studies, Specialized Studies), and
- Third level (PhD Studies).
Higher education in Serbia is provided at universities/faculties and colleges. According to the latest 2011 census, 10.59% of the population of Serbia have higher education qualifications.
Serbia started the reform of its higher education system by joining the Bologna Process in 2003, followed by the adoption of the new Law on Higher Education in 2005. This law formally introduced the European Credit Transfer System, three-cycle system of study and diploma supplement. As a result, from the school year 2007/8, all newly admitted students have studied under the reformed study programmes at all higher education institutions.
The reform process was continued by the adoption of the standards for accreditation, self-evaluation and external quality control in 2006, which set conditions for the start of the process of accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes in 2007.
Types of studies
The higher education system in Serbia has two types of studies:
- academic studies realized at universities, and
- applied studies realized primarily at colleges of applied studies, and occasionally at universities as well.
The academic calendars are determined each year at institutional level, meaning that higher education institutions may have different calendars during the same academic year. The teaching part of an academic year consists of two semesters:
- First semester (winter semester) usually starts in the beginning of October and ends in mid-February.
- Second semester (summer semester) usually starts at the end of February and ends in the beginning of June.
There are 3 breaks during the school year:
- Winter break (New Year’s and Christmas holidays, usually between 31 December and 7 January)
- Spring break (usually 5 work days around Orthodox Easter Holiday in April or May)
- Summer break (between the second semester of the ongoing academic year and first semester of the following).
In addition, there are several one or two-day breaks for national or religious holidays, as regulated by the Law on National and Other Holidays.
Higher education institutions determine the dates and the number of examination periods during the academic year, usually 4 to 6 periods, at the end of each semester and prior to the end of the academic year, after summer holidays.
Key stakeholders of the national higher education system
All higher education institutions must be accredited before obtaining a working license issued by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development. The Ministry is the governmental authority in charge of higher education. It recommends educational policies to the Government, plans admission policies for students, allocates financial resources to higher education institutions, and acts as a general supervisor of the overall higher education development.
Another authority in charge of higher education is the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), which is responsible for strategic planning and decision making regarding key issues relevant to the HE system coherence, such as setting standards for the internal assessment and quality evaluation of HE institutions and establishing standards for the issuance of work permits. The Council is an independent body, consisting mainly of academics proposed by the Conference of Serbian Universities (CSU) and appointed by the National Assembly.
With a view to carrying out tasks related to the accreditation and quality evaluation of higher education institutions and their individual units, as well as those related to the evaluation of study programmes, Government of the Republic of Serbia established the National Entity for Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education (NEAQA) in 2018.
The Conference of Universities of Serbia and the Students’ Conference of Universities of Serbia are the two consultative bodies, which also act as very important factors in the governing of higher education.