North Macedonia

RegionSouthern Europe
CapitalSkopje
LanguageMacedonian
Albanian
Population2,077,132
Expenditure on higher education2,3 %
Unemployment23,7 %
EuroUniversities in top 1000
EuroUniversities in top 2500
EuroUniversities in top 5000
EuroUniversities in top 10000
Students65,000
Foreigner students1,6 %
Enrollment rate in higher education71,2 %

North Macedonia is a country in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. Higher education is of public interest for North Macedonia as part of European Higher education and research area. (EHEA and ERA). The country has joined the Bologna process at the Berlin Ministerial meeting in 2003, committing to start the major systemic reforms in higher education- the introduction of ECTS, three cycles of study programs of easy readable and recognizable degrees, diploma supplement, effective quality assurance system, promotion of social dimension and European cooperation, international mobility of students and teaching staff. Currently, higher education study programs in the country are offered at total of 28 (public and private) higher education institutions (universities, faculties, art academies, higher vocational schools, scientific institutes and single higher vocational schools).

According to the State Statistical Office, a total of 53 677 students (30 352 or 56.54% of them are females) enrolled at Macedonian higher education institutions in the academic year 2018/19. This is a decrease of 5.73% from the previous year and 15 % decrease from 9 years ago. There has been an increase in the gross enrolment rate in tertiary education from 29.9% in 2009 to 35.35% in 2017/18), which is measured as ratio between all students in tertiary education and the population aged18–23. 87 % of the enrolled students study at public, while 12.4% study at private higher education institutions. 95% of the Macedonian students are enrolled in first cycle of tertiary education (ISCED 6), 6% at in second (ISCED 7) and only 0.46% in the third cycle programs (ISCED 8).

Source: Adapted from State Statistical Office (2018)

The new Strategy for Development of Education 2018-2015 has been adopted by the Government in February 2018 with the following key priorities for higher education, research and innovation:

  • Ensure Quality and Effectiveness of Higher Education in accordance with European good practices;
  • Improve the Content of Higher Education;
  • Improve Availability and Enrolment System of Higher Education;
  • Improve Management and Funding of Higher Education;
  • Support Research and Innovation.

The new Law on Higher Education (Official Gazette 82/2018) stipulates the following 10 basic principles for higher education provision:

  1. Autonomy and academic freedom;
  2. Unity of the teaching, scientific and research activities;
  3. Openness towards citizens and the public;
  4. Respect for the humanistic and democratic values of the national and European tradition and values of cultural heritage;
  5. Respect of the human rights and freedom, assuring equality and protection from discrimination;
  6. Advancement of the academic mobility of the teaching staff and the students;
  7. Participation of the students in the university governance and decision making, particularly on issues related to quality of teaching and learning and the student standard;
  8. Strive for universal knowledge whose imperatives are science, freedom and truth
  9. Assuring of a system of lifelong learning;
  10. Quality assurance and efficiency of studying

Bachelor

Macedonian higher education is provided through short cycle-vocational education and higher education study programs. The first cycle of higher education study programs includes academic and professional studies. The first cycle of academic study programs (undergraduate studies) lasts 3–4 years, offers 180 to 240 credits (60 ECTS credits for one year), and awards a bachelor degree. The academic studies in the area of arts lasts 4 years. Duration of studies for regulated professions depends on the faculty – the study programs for nurses lasts minimum 3 years, for medicine lasts 6 years,  whereas veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and architecture, last 5 years. The First-cycle professional degree programs can lasts 3 years and can offer 180 ECTS credits, but can also provide short cycle study programs with 60 to 120 ECTS.  

Admission requirements are set by the university /independent higher vocational  institution and for the first cycle of studies involves successful completion of secondary education (school grades) and   results from the passed  State (or International) Matura exam.

The study program at the first cycle may foresee student final work/ graduate thesis (diplomska rabota). A student that completes the academic undergraduate studies earns title graduate [in respective area], internationally recognized as bachelor or baccalaureus, while the earned competences corresponds to the level VI B for the three year undergraduate program and VIA for the four years undergraduate program from the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level VI from the European Qualification Framework (EQF).

A student that completes first cycle professional studies earns a degree (diploma) in relevant profession, known as bachelor or baccalaureus. The earned competences corresponds to VI B for the three year professional studies and VA for the short cycle programs from the National Qualification Framework (NQF) as well as to the level VI and V respectfully from the European Qualification Framework (EQF).

The universities also provide students with a Diploma supplement, at the student’s demand. Diploma supplement offers all data needed for the nature, degree, content, the status of the studies completed and the results achieved and provide for international “transparency”, for academic and professional recognition of qualification and greater mobility. It is issued in Macedonian, English language and in Albanian language for the students that completed the studies in Albanian language. According to article 154 (9) of the Law, If determined by the university Statute, the diploma and diploma supplement for members of the community that speaks an official language other than Macedonian, spoken by at least 20% of the citizens, and whose language of instruction is other than the Macedonian language are issued in Macedonian and in Cyrillic script and in the language and alphabet of that community.

The undergraduate study programmes are designed on the basis of learning outcomes and equip students with competencies and methodological skills in one or more scientific or artistic fields as well as ability to work autonomously in their profession. The content and learning outcomes of the first cycle study programs should:

  • Introduce the student in academic disciplines in one or several fields of science or art by including theories and methods so that a student can acquire broader academic knowledge and skills;
  • Provide the student with academic knowledge, theoretical and methodological qualifications that will said student to autonomously identify, formulate and solve complex problems within the relevant constituent parts of the subject areas and
  • Develop the capacity of the student to apply the necessary basic skills to practice the profession at certain vocational posts and to enter the second cycle of academic studies.

The study programmes in all study years of the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies include compulsory and elective courses, except the study programmes for the regulated professions as well the study programmes for legal studies and for the initial teacher training study programmes. Elective courses comprise minimum 10% and maximum 30% of the number of ECTS credits in the study programme. The content elements of the study programmes are regulated in more details by the Rulebook on the contents of the study programmes adopted by the National Council for Higher Education and Research.

The study programs for the first, second and third cycle are adopted by the University Senate on the proposal of the Teaching-scientific Council of the faculty, the Teaching council of the higher vocational school or the Scientific Council of the scientific institute within the university, the Teaching Council of the single higher vocational school. Accreditation of the study programmes of the first, second and third cycle is carried out by the Accreditation Board and is issued for a period of five years.

Language of instruction is Macedonian. Members of the small ethnic communities, for the purpose of preserving and nurturing their identity, have right on higher education in language other than Macedonian (article 144), in line with the Statute of the HEI. Teaching at the HEIs that educate preschool educators and primary school teachers, as well as the teaching of didactic-methodical subjects for the high school teachers may be offered at the languages of minority ethnic communities.

When teaching is delivered in the languages of the members of the communities that are not a majority in the country or in the world languages, the Macedonian language have to be studied as a separate subject and teaching is conducted in Macedonian language for at least two courses from the study programme. The state provide funding for higher education in Albanian language. The Law on HE also provides possibilities for higher education in some of the foreign languages. In order to encourage and support the internationalization, the Law stipulates a mandatory requirement for universities to organize teaching instruction for at least two first cycle study programs and at least two second cycle study programs in English language.  

The workload of students is 1.500 to 1.800 hours annually within maximum of 40 weeks per academic year. The study programmes of the first cycle contain minimum 20 and maximum 30 hours of lectures, exercises and seminars weekly and 30 weeks a year. As an exception, if the study programme contains practical training, the total student’s workload must not exceed 40 hours per week and 45 weeks per year and it includes lectures, exercises, seminars, individual classes and other forms of studies (practical training, internship, performances, fieldwork etc.), consultative-instructional classes, forms of continuous examination of knowledge and exams which are considered as contact hours, as well as individual study work (sporting activities, literature review, seminar work, project work), autonomous learning, as well as the preparation of the student final work/ graduate thesis (diplomska rabota).

Student’s assessment is carried out during the teaching process and is expressed in points. The student receives a grade expressed in numbers from 5 (five) to 10 (ten) for passing (part or whole) exam. The grade 5 (five) marks a failure. Student’s assessment is determined by the subject teacher, included in the study programme and is implemented within the deadlines determined by the Statute of the higher education institution. It is the university, or the single higher vocational school that prescribes the possible ways of assessment of student’s knowledge with a General Act adopted by the university Senate/ Teaching Council of the higher vocational school. The final assessment is recorded in the index/ some other document or electronically. The average achievement of the student is the arithmetic mean of the grades awarded in the final assessment in all subjects during the studies of the study programme, including the final exam if required in the study programme.

Second Cycle Programmes

The second cycle of academic (graduate) study programs lasts between 1 and 2 years, offers 60 to 120 credits (60 ECTS credits for one year), and awards a master degree. A student who completed a relevant undergraduate, first cycle study program can enroll in the second academic study cycle. The universities set the enrollment requirements and determine which first study cycle programs are relevant for the particular second cycle study program.

One year master program is intended only to students who completed 4 year undergraduate studies and have earned at least 240 ECTS credits. In order to complete a master study program, a student should attain at least 300 ECST credits from both, the undergraduate and mater programs. Special requirements for the graduate studies in the area of arts are set by the higher education institution’s acts.

The study program at the second cycle of the academic studies has a compulsory requirement for developing a master thesis (magisterski trud) and a public performance/exhibition (for the arts students) as final part of the studies. Each student is assigned a mentor accredited by the Accreditation Board to guide her/him through the process. The master thesis is subject to a public defense, in front of the three members’ commission. A student that completes the academic second cycle studies earns title master in respective area, internationally recognized as master, Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Arts (MA), while the earned competences corresponds to the level VII A from the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level VII from the European Qualification Framework (EQF). The University issues a Diploma for completed higher education from the second cycle of university studies.

Professional studies at the second cycle lasts one year, offers 60 ETCS credits and awards a specialist degree Specialist (Spec.) A student who completed a relevant undergraduate, first cycle academic and professional study program can enroll in the second professional study cycle. The final part of these studies entails compulsory requirement for developing a specialist thesis (specijalisticki trud) and a public performance/exhibition (for the arts students). The earned competences corresponds to the level VII B from the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level VII from the European Qualification Framework (EQF). The University issues a Diploma for completed higher education from the second cycle of university studies.

The study programmes in all study years of the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies are designed on the basis of learning outcomes and include compulsory and elective courses, except the study programmes for the regulated professions as well the study programmes for legal studies and for the initial teacher training study programmes. Elective courses comprise minimum 10% and maximum 30% of the number of ECTS credits in the study programme. The content elements of the study programmes are regulated in more details by the Rulebook on the contents of the study programmes adopted by the National Council for Higher Education and Research.

The study programs for the first, second and third cycle are adopted by the University Senate on the proposal of the Teaching-scientific Council of the faculty, the Teaching council of the higher vocational school or the Scientific Council of the scientific institute within the university, the Teaching Council of the single higher vocational school. Accreditation of the study programmes of the first, second and third cycle is carried out by the Accreditation Board and is issued for a period of five years.

Accreditation of second cycle study programmes includes the list of the mentors at master study programme. During one academic year, one university teacher (academic staff member) may be appointed as mentor to up to 12 candidates that prepare their master thesis.

Language of instruction is Macedonian. Members of the small ethnic communities, for the purpose of preserving and nurturing their identity, have right on higher education in language other than Macedonian (article 144), in line with the Statute of the HEI. When teaching is delivered in the languages of the members of the communities that are not a majority in the country or in the world languages, the Macedonian language have to be studied as a separate subject and teaching is conducted in Macedonian language for at least two courses from the study programme. The state provide funding for higher education in Albanian language. The Law on HE provides possibilities for higher education in the foreign languages. Teaching at private higher education institutions may also be delivered in the languages of the members of the communities that are not the majority in North Macedonia or in the world languages. In order to encourage and support the internationalization, the Law stipulates a mandatory requirement for universities to organize teaching instruction for at least two first cycle study programs and at least two second cycle study programs in English language.  

The workload of students is 1.500 to 1.800 hours annually within maximum of 40 weeks per academic year. It includes lectures, exercises, seminars, individual classes and other forms of studies (practical training, internship, performances, fieldwork etc.), consultative-instructional classes, forms of continuous examination of knowledge and exams which are considered as contact hours, as well as individual study work (sporting activities, literature review, seminar work, project work), autonomous learning, as well as the preparation of the final Master’s paper.

Student’s assessment is carried out during the teaching process and is expressed in points. The student receives a grade expressed in numbers from 5 (five) to 10 (ten) for passing (part or whole) exam. The grade 5 (five) marks a failure. Student’s assessment is determined by the subject teacher, included in the study programme and is implemented within the deadlines determined by the Statute of the higher education institution. It is the university, or the single higher vocational school that prescribes the possible ways of assessment of student’s knowledge with a General Act adopted by the university Senate/ Teaching Council of the higher vocational school. The final assessment is recorded in the index/ some other document or electronically. The average achievement of the student is the arithmetic mean of the grades awarded in the final assessment in all subjects during the studies of the study programme, including the final exam if required in the study programme.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

The third cycle of studies (doctoral studies) lasts at least 3 years, offers at least 180 credits and awards a Doctor of Science (dr.sc, PhD) or Doctor of Arts (dr. art) degree .

A student who completed a relevant postgraduate (master), second cycle study program and have earned at least 300 (or for some study programs a total of 360) ECTS from both previous (first and the second) cycles of studies can enroll in the doctoral studies. The universities may set the additional enrollment requirements and may also organize third study cycle with duration less than 3 years that leads to a specialist (spec.) degree, i.e. a specialist in respected area.

A doctoral study program mainly entails active, mentored research work that includes:

  • Academic training of advanced and professional courses;
  • A mentored, independent research projects (doctoral project);
  • International mobility and at least  one week study stay abroad;
  • Lecturers and other type of activities;
  • Publishing in referent scientific publications and active participation at international gatherings related to the doctoral dissertation;
  • Public defense of the doctoral dissertation.

The study program for doctoral studies has a compulsory requirement for developing a doctoral dissertation (doktorski trud/doktorska disertacija) as final part of the studies. The HEIs’ acts regulate the awarding of ECTS and prescribe the credits needed for application/registration for doctoral thesis. Each doctoral student is assigned a mentor accredited by the Accreditation Board to guide her/him through the process. The doctoral thesis must be posted on the web site of the home HEI and on the publicly available Open Education and Scientific Resource Database of the Ministry of Education and Science. The latter has not become operational yet, due to the delay with the Law implementation. Doctoral thesis is also subject to a public defense, in front of the five members’ commission in academic ranks of full professor or associate professor. Public defense will not be allowed unless the doctoral candidate has published at least two academic papers in referent scientific journals.

Qualifications earned after completing the doctoral studies correspond to the level VIII from the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level VIII from the European Qualification Framework (EQF). The University issues a Diploma for completed higher education from the third cycle of university studies. Promotion of the persons who have been awarded the title of doctor of science is performed by the university Rector, according to a procedure regulated with the university Statute.

Doctoral studies may be organized only by the seven highest ranking universities/HEIs at the national university ranking. If the university/ HEI loses the status of being among the seven highest ranking HEIs at the next subsequent ranking, the university will no longer be entitled to enrol candidates in the third cycle doctoral studies. If the university enrol new candidates, the Accreditation Board will mandatorily issue a decision to revoke the accreditation decision for all the study cycles for which it has been accredited.

The study programmes in all study years of the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies are designed on the basis of learning outcomes and include compulsory and elective courses, except the study programmes for the regulated professions as well the study programmes for legal studies and for the initial teacher training study programmes. Elective courses comprise minimum 10% and maximum 30% of the number of ECTS credits in the study programme. The content elements of the study programmes are regulated in more details by the Rulebook on the contents of the study programmes adopted by the National Council for Higher Education and Research.

The study programs for the first, second and third cycle are adopted by the University Senate on the proposal of the Teaching-scientific Council of the faculty, the Teaching Council of the higher vocational school or the Scientific Council of the scientific institute within the university, the Teaching Council of the single higher vocational school. Accreditation of the study programmes of the first, second and third cycle is carried out by the Accreditation Board and is issued for a period of five years.

Accreditation of third cycle study programmes includes the list of the mentors at doctoral studies. During one academic year, one university teacher (academic staff member) may be appointed as mentor to up to 3 candidates that prepare their doctoral dissertation.

Language of instruction is Macedonian. Members of the small ethnic communities, for the purpose of preserving and nurturing their identity, have right on higher education in language other than Macedonian (article 144), in line with the Statute of the HEI. The state provide funding for higher education in Albanian language. The Law on HE provides possibilities for higher education in the foreign languages. Teaching at private higher education institutions may also be delivered in the languages of the members of the communities that are not the majority in North Macedonia or in the world languages.

The state doesn’t provide financial support for a doctoral training and the new academic posts at state universities in the country are (still) subject to government approval. Therefore, the opportunities for research and/or project engagement of the potential academics during their doctoral studies are limited, alike the employment opportunities (in and outside the university) upon successful completion of the studies.

Mobility in Higher Education

Encouraging mobility for learning and improvement of the international dimension of education, as well as development of international relations among educational institutions, is one of the most important strategic goals for Republic of North Macedonia. National priorities are in line with Education and Training 2020, Bologna Process and Copenhagen process. The organization and implementation of the higher education mobilities falls under responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Science, the universities and the National Agency for European Education Programs and Mobility. One of the basic principles of the higher education in the country, set in the Law on Higher Education, is the Promotion of the Academic Mobility of the Teaching Staff and of the Students.

The legal provisions entail for the universities’ senates to adopt Programmes for International Cooperation. Most of the universities in the country established Offices for International Cooperation which are responsible for planning and realization of the international cooperation. Significant part of their activities is related to establishing bilateral and multilateral partnerships and participation in funding schemes and projects for mobility of the teaching staff and of the students has prominent. The universities are especially active in the projects which promote academic exchange between EU and Western Balkans.

The Ministry of Education and Science has appointed staff for promotion of the mobilities of the academic staff and students through several funding schemes: CEEPUS, Erasmus Mundus, Fulbright Scholarship Programme, National scholarship programme BORIS TRAJKOVSKI, the national scholarship programme for foreign students, and bilateral scholarship programmes with other countries, such as: Russia, China, etc. Since academic year 2006/2007, Republic of North Macedonia is actively involved in CEEPUS (Central European Exchange Program for University Studies).

The National CEEPUS Office is part of the Ministry of Education and Science. It has been established in 2005 when the country has been formally accepted as member of CEEPUS. The CEEPUS Office is responsible for reception and evaluation of the applications, preparation of the process for awarding scholarships to the selected applicants, reception and evaluation of the mobility reports. Eligible candidates for this mobility scholarship are Postgraduate Students, Graduates, PhD Students and Teachers.

Republic of North Macedonia participates also in EURAXESS network with its National Centre, delivering information and support services to professional researchers.

Related to participation of the country in the Erasmus + program, in the key actions KA 103 Higher education student and staff mobility within programme countries in the period from 2014 until 2018 the National Agency for European Education Programs and Mobility signed 72 contracts with the Macedonian universities for funding of the mobilities of their staff and students. In the same time period, Erasmus+ Programme invested more than 6 million euro in over 1550 mobilities of the students and staff in the Republic of North Macedonia.

In the key actions KA 107 Higher education student and staff mobility between programme and partner countries in the period from 2014 until 2017 the National Agency for European Education Programs and Mobility signed 14 contracts with the Macedonian universities for funding of the mobilities of their staff and students. In the same time period, Erasmus+ Programme invested 63.920 euro in the mobility with non EU countries.

The number of Universities which received Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE) for the Erasmus+ programme is increasing. This demonstrates clear intention of the HEIs for involvement into EU mobility programs. At the end of 2018, 24 out of 25 HEIs are holders of valid Erasmus charter – ECHE.

• 1 Student mobility

In the Law on Higher Education, in area of universities study programs in direction of the promotion of student mobility it is stipulated that the study programmes of higher education institutions, in the area of compulsory and elective courses, may also contain “mobility windows”, that is, courses where the language of instruction may also be English. The largest share of funds spend on students’ mobilities in the country were provided by the Erasmus+ Programme. There are two types of mobilities: Student Mobility for Studying and Student Mobility for Traineeship (both between institutions from Programme Countries). More than 1200 student mobilities were realized in time span of four years (2013-2017) out of which about 1050 were Student Mobilities for Studying. The first type of mobility lasts usually one or two semesters, whereas the duration of the traineeship mobility in a company may last between 2 and 12 months.

The sending and the receiving institution of the mobility must have signed bilateral cooperation agreement. The improvement of the bilateral and multilateral cooperation has become one of the priorities for the HE system and as such is set in the Action Plan of the new Education Strategy (2018). The support for the students is provided at university level by the Offices for International Cooperation and their appointed Erasmus+ Coordinator and by the incumbent staff of the National Agency for European Educational Programmes.


• 2 Academic staff mobility

In the Law on Higher Education, academic staff mobility is stipulated as sabbatical leave on following direction: staff elected to the scientific teaching, vocational teaching, scientific, teaching and associate title, upon its own requests, every five years, may be allowed a paid leave for a duration of one year, or unpaid leave for a duration of up to three years for professional development, that is, research in the appropriate scientific or artistic field, or a residency at an appropriate institution abroad, while its teaching duties shall be reassigned.       

Erasmus+ Programme also provides funding for the academic staff mobilities abroad. Within the programme countries, there two types of mobilities: Staff Mobility for Training and Staff Mobility for Teaching. In four years (2014-2018) the National Agency financed about 72 projects of the Macedonian universities which involve these two types of mobilities, staff mobility for teaching and staff mobility for training, enable more than 250 teachers to realize mobility at universities across Europe in a Programme Country. Apart of this, there is a separate action of the Programme, International Credit Mobility, which provides opportunity for mobility on a global scale for the university teachers, but with significantly lower amount of funds.

European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.