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Students’ rights ignored in Serbia

BELGRADE – The European Students’ Union is appalled by the Serbian Government’s recent amendments to the National University Law and strongly condemns the entire process. The students of Europe stands united behind the Serbian Union of Students’ (SUS) attempt at overturning the amendments.

Recently, just ten days before the beginning of the new academic year, the Serbian Government introduced a number of amendments to the national Law of Higher Education Law that among many things limits the number of exam periods from six to five and cuts the funding for the students’ fifth year of studies. The changes were announced in the middle of the exam period and enter into force immediately, effectively removing the students’ chances to protest or accommodate the changes in their studies. This is a major breach of article 12 of the Students’ Rights Charter of the European Students’ Union (ESU) that states that “students have the right to be informed about all higher education affairs in a transparent manner.”

The Serbian Union of Students (SUS) together with Students Conference of Universities of Serbia (SKONUS) took to the streets across the country on 8 October in order to protest the amendments. More than 3.000 students showed up in Belgrade alone and the protests received wide media coverage. In a move to silence the students the management of University of Belgrade has attempted to dissolve the Students’ Parliament. A move which neglects the management’s responsibility to obey to article 10 of the charter: “all students have the right to organise themselves freely in legally recognised entities. Students must not suffer academic, financial or legal consequences stemming from such involvement.”

Those are some of the worst examples of a breach of ESU’s Students’ Rights Charter that Europe has witnessed in recent years. Additionally, the decisions fly in the face of the commitments made in the Bologna process by the Serbian government to the European Higher Education Area. A quick withdrawal of student support and cutting down on student democracy go directly against the Bologna Process commitments.

ESU stands united behind SUS and the Students Conference of Universities of Serbia (SKONUS) in their efforts to overturn the amendments and to initiate a process of developing a new Law of Higher Education with students as a stakeholder. Once again ESU wants to remind the Serbian Government about article 13 of the charter: “All students have the right to have their opinion considered as that of a stakeholder on equal footing in higher education.”

Further, ESU calls for the Serbian Government to take decisive actions against the management at University of Belgrade and to protect the Students’ Parliament from being dissolved. Nothing less can be expected in a situation like this.

Education is what builds the foundation of future societies, but we will only be able to see strong foundations, when students are respected and have influence over their own education.

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For more information, please contact:

Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU Chairperson: +32/479.591.499 // or Robert Hlynur Baldursson, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 //

The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.


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