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Romania - Higher Education

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Since the revolution in 1989, scholars report that higher education has grown dramatically in both enrollments and numbers of institutions (Eismon et al. 1999). Enrollments have particularly grown in the fields of the social sciences. This is due, in part, to an ideological shift in education from technical, scientific, and industrial education since the fall of socialism. Part of the growth of institutions has been found in an exponential increase in the number of private colleges and universities. With this increase in demand for education, Eismon and his colleagues report that there have been difficulties with finding resources for higher education. In addition, the growth of private education, coupled with a lack of qualified teachers, has led to concerns about the quality of these institutions. Therefore, there have been a number of reforms instituted by the Ministry of Education and other national councils for higher education.

As of 1998/1999, there were 58 private higher education institutions and 54 state universities operating in Romania. As to participation, Romania ranked poorly in Europe being "last but two in Europe in 1994/1995, with only 1,483 students per 100,000 inhabitants" (Romanian Education System 2000). In 2000, Romania registered a rate of 1,990 students per 100,000.

Structure: Higher education is organized into universities, colleges, academies, faculties, conservatories, and other postsecondary vocational institutes. Higher education is primarily structured into graduate education and postgraduate education (The Educational System in Romania 2001).

Graduate Education: Graduate education is broken into types: short and long duration. Short duration education is found in colleges and generally takes from two to three years. Colleges are usually organized in parallel to the long duration form and their mission is to prepare executive specialists for business careers and others. Long duration graduate education is found in universities, institutes, academies, conservatories, and faculties. This education is generally four to six years in length and prepares students for employment as higher executives and specialists.

Graduate classes are generally offered in the day, evening, and by distance learning. Students who wish to study in a public or private institution of this sort must take an admission exam and have a high school leaving certificate (The Educational System in Romania 2001). This exam consists of several written exams on a variety of subjects and will often fit the specialization of the institution. Graduate education studies are generally completed with a "license" exam, which includes a series of written exams and a paper or project.

Postgraduate Education: Postgraduate education is designed to provide training in more specialized fields and is typically done through further education studies, postgraduate, postgraduate academic studies, and specialization studies and courses (The Educational System in Romania 2001). Access to postgraduate training is typically through an admission exam for further education, postgraduate, and postgraduate academic studies. Further education studies is typically one to three years in duration and after graduating, students obtain a "master" or "magister" diploma. Students may take several masters simultaneously or successively. A student may be granted a scholarship for only one master studies.

The postgraduate (PG) is the highest form of scientific professional education in Romania. The duration of PG is typically four years for day courses and about six years if studying through distance learning. The postgraduate education is coordinated by two graduate school advisors. These advisors can both be from Romania or one may be from a foreign county. The Ministry of National Education approves foreign coordinators and approves any decisions for the study to be in a foreign language.

PG programs typically begin with two years (four years distance) of preparation for gathering material, data, and other studies. The thesis preparation is generally another two to four years depending upon whether or not the student is studying by distance.

Students enter the PG on an admission exam and most students who qualify can obtain a variety of scholarships for study including Praiseworthy, Study, and Social Support. Social support scholarships are typically awarded to students who are orphans or who have financial or medical deficiencies. The other scholarships are based on testing and on the basis of prizes won in international competition.

Postsecondary Vocational Institutes: Students who fail to gain entrance to a public university or who cannot afford entry into private universities typically attend postsecondary vocational institutes (Eismon et al. 1999). Postsecondary training typically ranges from one to three years in duration. By 1993, Eismon and his colleagues report that over 420 vocational institutes existed in Romania—up from 161 in 1990-1991. These institutes are typically attached to secondary schools and train students in teaching, technical training, tourism, and business administration.

Growth of Higher Education after Reform: Higher education has grown dramatically since the fall of Romanian communism in 1989. Higher education participation rates have doubled and about 20 percent of college aged students are enrolled in public or private institutions (Eismon et al. 1999). The 1993 enrollment statistics for vocational students were 37,000, which was an increase from only 18,000 students in 1990-1991. However, Eismon and his colleagues also report that the number of entering students is declining as opportunities for university spots grow. In public higher education, enrollments grew from 164,507 in 1989-1990 to over 240,000 in 1992-1993. The number of institutions grew in this same period from 44 to 56.

There have also been great shifts in enrollments based on field of study. Because higher education used to be focused primarily on technical and scientific training, reform has brought an increase in study in new fields. Enrollments have shifted away from science and engineering toward business, law, and the social sciences (Eismon et al. 1999). From 1980-1990 to 1992-1993, Eismon and colleagues reported a drop in engineering enrollment from 65 percent to 38 percent. On the other hand, study in the arts tripled from one percent to three percent, sciences, social sciences, and humanities increased from 10 percent to 25 percent, and economics increased from 9 percent to 20 percent in the same time period.

With these changes in enrollments, there has been a severe problem with resource allocation and with staffing. Although the overall student to faculty ratio changed very little, the shift of enrollments to other disciplines led to real staffing problems. For example, as economics and business enrollments doubled, the number of staff members in the field remained constant (Eismon et al. 1999).

Reform of Higher Education in Postcommunism: Early reforms in higher education after 1989 included changes to public universities. Public universities amended their charters, declared themselves politically autonomous, adopted participatory governance in administration, and purged the Ceausescuappointees (Eismon et al. 1999). Admissions constraints were lifted at most universities and the strong attachment to the central state was minimized. Finally, a very large number of private universities formed and began graduating students.

With the enormous growth of higher education, there have been problems with a dearth of instructional resources, a lack of full-time staff, and diversity in educational training. In response to these and other problems, there were reforms in the early 1990s and the Ministry of National Education adopted a strategy of higher education reform in 1994. This strategy, according to Eismon (1999) and his colleagues is now being implemented in the country. This strategy consisted of the establishment in 1994 of the National Council on Higher Education Financing that sought to find ways to diversify the financing of higher education (Eismon et al. 1999). A portion of the finance strategy was to improve efficiency by cutting instruction hours from 36 to 22-24 hours per week for undergraduates and from 24 to 12 hours for graduate students. As to budget reforms, in 1999 Romania began to move from financing its schools based on the amount of university inputs (staff, physical plant, administration) to a more competitive system based on students (Romanian Educational System 2000).

There were also severe staffing problems in public and private higher educational institutions. Staff shortages led to high employment opportunities, but many jobs were filled by young faculty without doctoral degrees. In most universities and colleges, there were heavy teaching loads that discouraged faculty research and development. Some of the reforms made in this area include an increase in the number of faculty that may supervise doctoral degrees (an increase of seven times from 1990 to 1992), the development of a differentiated higher education system by changing academic employment (e.g., promotion and tenure, changing faculty responsibilities), and changes in salary structure.

Diversity in higher educational opportunity was (and will likely continue to be) a real problem in Romania due in large part to the educational policies during the Ceausescu era. In prereform Romania, most of the higher educational opportunities were in technical fields and in the sciences. In postsecondary vocational education problems included unclear educational missions, overspecialized programs in technical fields, and poor articulation of their programs (Eismon et al. 1999). Among the problems in the PGs and other institutes is a shortage of professors. This has made it difficult to diversify the studiees in higher education. Among the government reforms in this area are: 1) encouraging the development of short and long-cycle courses; 2) the phaseout of many overspecialized undergraduate programs; 3) allowing multiple specialization in certificate and degree programs; and 4) establishing masters programs as a prerequisite to doctoral studies. These reforms, however, are thought to be contingent on the role of the state in allowing institutions more room to manage themselves and on reform in financing higher education. The growth of private universities as alternatives is also a hope of some scholars for diversity in the subject areas that are taught in higher education in Romania.

Finally, study abroad opportunities have increased as well in postreform Romania. Romanians living abroad and foreigners have access to all levels of education in Romania. Foreign applicants are regulated and handled by the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Education (The Educational System in Romania 2001). Students wishing admission are usually tested in a written or oral fashion and they start their studies by learning the Romanian language. Study abroad opportunities are numerous for Romanian citizens and are encouraged with scholarship support. These opportunities have increased with the advent of the European Union (EU) in such programs as ERASMUS, which offers opportunities for student and teacher mobility among European universities. In addition, the LINGUA program offers opportunities to study foreign languages within the EU. Finally, there is the TEMPUS program that is a trans-European program of cooperation in higher education. TEMPUS is designed to promote exchanges to promote economic and social reconstruction in Central and Eastern European countries (a program called PHARE) and to promote similar reconstruction in the new independent states of the former USSR (a program called TACIS).

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