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Higher education: major change after the Corona virus

Higher education: this situation with a virus (crisis education and Transformation of the university) did not surprise experts

Professor Refik Secibovic: Higher education after the corona virus (COVID 19) will have a major change

Refiik-Secibovic-Flexible University

Photo: Prof. Refik Secibovic, Ph.D.


Minister Rajcevic (Minister for Scientific Technological Development, higher education and information society in the Government of Republika Srpska), a few days ago, gave a statement of great debates about the future of higher education in the world. The crisis with the Corona has opened the debate on the need for transformation of the university, but today in a completely new light, which is a question of security and preservation of student health and achieving the quality of studies without traditional classes.

How to get to the on line systems in learning because of this epidemic?

Prof. Marginson of the Oxford University (Prof. Simon Marginson Director – Center for Global Higher Education) is clear, universities in America and Europe, but since autumn, they will watch how to get to the on line systems in learning because of this epidemic, but he insists that long-distance education is a completely different system than a traditional system of teaching face to face Education. However, most experts and leading university managers are increasingly suggesting that this will be a major transfomation, which will greatly alter relations between students, State and higher education institutions. This is in favour of the research that has been made in the world for studies in uncertain times in the last two years, and about creating a smart learning environment (smart learning environments) and especially about the flexibility of the university. Thematic number of magazines for development of Higher education (Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung, Vol. 14/Issue 3 November 2019, Flexibles Lernen an Hochschulen gestalten), whose publisher university in Vienna is dedicated to the flexible education as a new method of working in higher education, before the outbreak of this crisis.

So, this situation with the corona virus (crisis education and Transformation of the university) did not surprise experts in the development of higher education, they had already explored the problem of learning in uncertain times, and published their works in for the past two years, but this theme has been processed for other reasons, primarily economic, (these are the issues of tuition and inability of students to provide for the completion of such expensive studies). However, the crisis has re-actuated some of these solutions, which were the digitalisation of studies and the flexibility of the university’s organisation in the first place.

So who did she surprise? First of all, the management of major universities and civil servants who follow this problem, for several reasons:

First, the outbreak of the virus’s outbreak of viruses (COVID 19) in China and Europe many students in the world (and many of ours) packed their things, and from prestigious universities and the latest planes and trains came home, aware that they were safest at the time of the epidemic. Unfortunately, in the meantime, they met with uncertainty when they will return to their camps or student homes (or rented private apartments) to continue their studies, because their universities were not able to give a clear answer to how long this crisis will last and will continue with normal teaching activities (German universities have announced that the university buildings will be closed by April 19th). Many elite universities (like Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan University and etc.) have announced that they will transfer traditional lectures to the remote studies (Distance Learning System-DLS) and thus end the school year.

Secondly, in recent days, texts on this theme have flooded all known educational portals that are exclusively engaged in high education, saying that there is a high dose of unwillingness of certain universities to organise a quality teaching system (DLS), and learning in this way in times of crisis. It is proven that there is no problem in technology, but in the organization, in the design of the Curicculum, and the time foreseen for the adoption of knowledge. It also proved that the resources of the university in digital form are very limited (libraries, tools for construction, video, etc.).

Thirdly, questions have opened up to the University of the future in relation to the traditional system of work, but also the application of new technologies, as well as the openness of universities in relation to the environment they are in. The clumsy reactions of certain governments have influenced the idea of creating an image of their lack of interest in the position of foreign students in their territory.

It is now clear that the crisis with the corona will leave visible consequences to the modern society (which was written and said by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Zosep Borrell), and in large part will affect the higher education system. These events at the beginning of 2020. will have a strong impact on international trends in higher education. Simon Marginson predicts it will take at least 5 years for the international students ‘ movements to return to this level. In March, after many students urgently had to leave their camps, they suddenly found themselves stuck at airports, border crossings, railway stations, and most were barely able to transport to their homes. It was a stressful situation, but today is also a big reminder for many parents and future students, to think about where they will study.

And the reaction came quickly, through reduced interest in American universities this year. This immediately triggered the reaction of American universities, even during the enrollment, they owe management to change the policy of enrollment (based on the reports of higher education agencies, it said that even 65% of surveyed universities are now changing the policy of enrollment). It is completely changing access to future students, because they are very different requests from parents and future students.

On the other hand, many parents and future students are not in this situation ready to now decide where and whether they will study, and many say they are ready to wait for the development of this situation with the Corona virus. Many university executives therefore opt to extend their entry deadline, expecting the situation to calm down. Generally, watching has dragged the insecurity into the student population in the world (especially when it comes to studies abroad), questions where to go to studies, how to behave, if the pandemia of the virus appears in the fall, and there is no adequate protection (and to finance) such studies. The current forms of studies (and in our case now) depend greatly on the income of the students, i.e. their parents, whether it is a payment of scholarships or appropriation of funds for study in another city (for budget students). The crisis has knocked on all universities and public and private, both in both our and the world.

Anna Fazackerley in Gardian from 17 March this year, clearly indicates that universities will have to adapt as soon as to a long-term coronary crisis. Dr Dough Clow, on the other hand, points out that the Open University (Open University – which has only DLS classes) in London, took a year to move on to distance studies (DLS), that what is now being done is essentially temporary, because a large number of teachers do not have experience with this teaching.

In fact, everyone points out that the system of long-distance studies was a backup variant of the traditional form of teaching (face to face) at large universities, so now this organization of the university is too rigid and inadaptable to this new situation. In order to accept this system of work it is necessary to establish a more flexible work system and the new forms of knowledge measurement, and it takes a certain amount of time.

The author of this article, in an interview with the portal BUKA of 11.10.2017.  noted that this system of higher education is unsustainable in many segments, the highest in the one that relates to measuring the teaching process and the position of students and teachers. We noted that the knowledge transfer process is outdated and that there is not enough development of personal learning and career development, that mostly everyone is just in the universities, without serious access to innovative teaching methods.

Clearly, our universities did not follow (some knew about these solutions, but ignored them), that in Europe (especially Scandinavian countries) are seriously dealing with the change of the university organization from various viewpoints: digitalization, security, personal of learning, application of all types of educational tools, design of curricula, etc.

Although the author of this text with his team in December 2018, in the premises of the Bosniak Academy of Sciences and Arts, presented innovation (similar European researches – flexible network for career project has attracted the attention of some foreign experts, but no one from our universities, and the media), was just talking about possibilities of crossing from one vision of studies to another, although in a completely different context (this innovation was published this year in the Journal of Limes in Belgrade) to connect education, training and learning through the practice of elementary studies. But in the whole innovation, we insisted on strengthening the form of universities in changing the environment. The Corona virus has just opened up as a major problem of the university’s relationship with its surroundings. Because this crisis has forced the public to ask a question that moves the governments of many countries towards higher education.

Our assumptions are that it will go in the following direction:

– Higher education will be even more tied to the state, together with health, science and Social Policy (Žižek discusses a kind of new communism, but this is about the state’s policy towards young people, i.e. their safety, and to obtain Quality education). This will only be in high education by strengthening the public sector of higher education and declaring all types of education and training in non-profit activity.

– The need is to guarantee the safety and quality implementation of new technologies in higher education, which will be a condition for the state to direct students to institutions that will be able to secure it. Which will lead to the institutions ‘ rebutting, which will be under the direct control of the partner of high regard.

– The state will have to bring new legislative measures that will press universities to open up towards innovation in the continued, partnership in transmission of knowledge (employers, local communities, NGOs etc.), stronger connectivity of student work with Scientific projects, introduction of a staircase curriculum, strengthening adult education in universities, networking with other institutions (professional schools, institutes, etc.).

– Connecting private universities in terms of lowering costs and adapting to a new situation, even with the elements of tuition restrictions, new licensing forms, public-private partnership development. Private universities will soon have to seriously negotiate with authorities about accepting their rules or leaving the territory where they are (the best example is the ratio of Central European university and Hungary).

The innovation on flexible career networks, which is shown 2018, is now talking about the transformation of the university towards digitized personnel learning and relation to the environment. Its basic characteristics are as follows:

-Introduction of flexible career education for students, but also for adult programs, which will be digitized and based on building competencies, according to special programs and topics, which may differ from the pace of traditional study (a great example of programs developed by the NORDPLUS Educational Network, funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which passes over 10000 students each year;
-Introduction of organizational units titled Studio for Learning, whose basic purpose is personal learning, digitized learning and career education;
-Learning by stairs curriculum, which will evaluate primarily the competences that students acquire, and thus allow them to come out of their studies when they win certain competences, but also to return to their studies without problems.
– Strengthening adult education at the university, because through flexible networks can be studied and normally worked in the company, but also to connect regular studies with different types of training and development in practice;
– A new way of measuring knowledge, through measurement of competence, outcomes, practical work, graduation attributes, specialist improvement;
– A new way of organizing the university through the formation of advisory services for digitized learning, career, measurement of knowledge.
– Creating a free occupation of teachers who can help universities through different forms of work with students (what we talked about in the interview in the BUKA magazine of 2017).
In this research, we advocate merging online education with career education ( in this case we are tied to the Social-Cognitive Career Theory – SCCT), because this would give us greater opportunities to combine the nature of the study, but also what is more important to preserve the quality of the studies, which is based on the introduction of different partners into the study process.

In fact, for universities, the project of flexible career networks is a networking of different institutions and organizations (faculties, employers, NGOs, professional societies, educational centres, secondary schools) in order to develop personal learning with students in different situations (for example, as it is now in the time of the virus). And that the pace of adopting knowledge for all does not have to be the same, and all that is with the help of digital technologies. The properties of this personal education are to be based on measuring competence, and to ignore the time of acquisition, as a teaching plan. All this is possible with the help of new technologies dealing with the process of education (introducing artificial intelligence in the processes of developing new types of learning).

Learning studio

That is why it is also intended for universities to create their learning units – a Learning Studio that already has prepared materials, digitized programs, task banks, which are prepared for the mentoring of the individual, but also for the creation of virtual communities. It is already being investigated in some universities in Europe, an excellent example is the Learning centre at Hochschule Osnabrück (see more:, where at the closure of the University of Applied Sciences everything is transferred to the Competences of the e-Learning centre.

If we had a digitized learning study today, all major universities could, within 48 hours, completely go to this work system. Everything would be prepared and the moment when the universities were closed, these centres would take over further coordination of the teaching process.

However, in order to achieve this, it is necessary to prepare for changes in the structure of work, preparation of learning materials, creation of a smart learning environment, a career centre with student monitoring. That is, everyone should be prepared (both students and teachers) on these forms of work.

A crisis conditioned by a Corona virus has opened a new issue, which is a question of organized monitoring of an individual at the university. Career monitoring of individuals would be more like credit tracking of clients in banking, with digitized system of movement through studies. Flexible network of careers gives the possibility of combining different forms of learning, which does not exclude and traditional approaches to work (face to face), but introduces new logic of thinking about transferring and acquiring knowledge with an individual. There are no personal estimates, but the teacher is a mentor in acquiring knowledge, a student when fulfilling a certain standard goes further into the conquest of competence. This leads to a flexible university, which is already a well-known topic that was processed by the University of Vienna half a year ago, and that is the topic that, in November this year, will be discussed at the European Association of Universities (EQAF-European Quality Assurance Forum), where it will be the main topic – flexible forms of work at the university.


“I am aware that our academic community should be clear, that this rigid, non-adaptable and traditional system of organization of the university has no perspective, the crisis that is created by an anti-virus will affect the relationship of the State towards young people in general, so that the Institutions and how to turn the issue of human resource development in society. This means that the changed role of the university implies openness to all segments of society in order to solve the community problem, but also the more adequate inclusion of youth in it, and during the studies, but also after them.”

Refik Secibovic is a professor at the College for Tourism and Management in Konjic and a member of the Bosniak Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Source: BUKA Magazine, 28/03/2020


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