Serbia

RegionSouthern Europe
CapitalBelgrade
LanguageSerbian
Population6,963,764 
Expenditure on higher education3,1 %
Unemployment4,8 %
EuroUniversities in top 1000
EuroUniversities in top 2500
EuroUniversities in top 5003
EuroUniversities in top 10009
Students45,300
Foreigner students2,4 %
Enrollment rate in higher education76,1 %

Serbia is a landlocked country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe. Every person who finishes a four-year secondary school has an open access to higher education in Republic of Serbia. The latest 2011 census shows, 10.59% of the population of Serbia have higher education qualifications. 

Higher education is divided into three levels

  • First level (Bachelor Studies);
  • Second level (Master Studies, Specialized Studies);
  • Third level (PhD Studies).

Serbia joined the Bologna Process in 2003. The adoption of the Law on Higher Education supporting the implementation of Bologna Process followed in 2005. This law formally introduced:

  • the European Credit Transfer System;
  • three-cycle system of study;
  • diploma supplement.

All newly admitted students study under the reformed study programmes as of the academic 2007/08.

The reform process was continued by the adoption of the standards for accreditation, self-evaluation and external quality control in 2006. This has set conditions for the start of the process of accreditation of higher education institutions and study programmes in 2007.

Strategy for Development of Education in Serbia until 2020, was adopted in 2012. It seeks to identify purposes, goals, directions, instruments and mechanisms for the development of the education system in the Republic of Serbia until 2020. It includes chapters relevant for higher education.

According to the Law on Higher Education, every study programme is defined through the number of ECTS. Each course within the study programme is valued through the number of ECTS. Total sum of ECTS varies from a minimum of 180 for three year programmes to a minimum of 240 ECTS for four year programmes at the bachelor level.  At the master level a number of ECTS may vary from minimum of 60 to 120 ECTS depending on the length of the programme (one or two year). Programmes at the PhD level comprise at least 180 ECTS.

The higher education system in Serbia offers two types of studies:

  • academic studies realised at universities;
  • applied studies organized either at colleges of applied studies or at universities.

First level of studies includes:

  1. Undergraduate Academic Studies (Bachelor) – lasting for 3-4 years, carrying 180 to 240 ECTS;
  2. Bachelor Applied Studies – lasting for 3 years, carrying 180 ECTS.

Second level of studies includes:

  1. Master Academic Studies – lasting for 1-2 years and carrying 60 to 120 ECTS;
  2. Master Applied Studies – lasting for 2 years and carrying at least 120 ECTS for students who have previously achieved 180 ECTS;
  3. Specialised Applied Studies – lasting for 1 year and carrying 60 ECTS;
  4. Specialist Academic Studies – lasting for 1 year and carrying 60 ECTS, for students who have achieved at least 300 ECTS in previous studies.

Third level of studies includes Doctoral Academic Courses (PhD), including a minimum of 3 years of study or 180 ECTS. In the field of medical science (studies of medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine), integrated courses are organized. They are 6 years long and carry a minimum of 360 ECTS. Pharmacy studies also offer integrated courses that carry 300 ECTS.

There are no short cycle programmes in higher education in Serbia.

Higher education in Serbia is provided by universities and colleges that are either public or private. Academy of Applied Studies has also been envisaged by the law, but no such institution has been founded yet.

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). It 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. It consists mainly of academics proposed by the Conference of Serbian Universities (CSU) and appointed by the National Assembly.

The National Council establishes a separate working body called the Accreditation and Quality Evaluation Commission to carry out tasks related to the accreditation and quality evaluation of higher education institutions and their individual units and those related to the evaluation of study programmes.

The Conference of Universities of Serbia and the Students’ Conference of Universities of Serbia are the two consultative bodies. They also act as very important factors in the governing of higher education.

All students pay administrative fees.  There are two options concerning students’ tuition fees

  • entrance and application fees when enrolling in a higher education institution,
  • fees for issuing diploma and diploma supplement,
  • obligatory payments for exams (in certain cases applicable only to self-financing students),
  • issuing certificates – of student’s status, of passed exams etc.
  • “Self-financed” students are paying both administrative fees and tuition fees. The fees range from 30.000 to 248.500 RSD per year on Bachelor level and 40.000 to 785 492.000 RSD on Master level. This applies for both academic and applied studies.

All students in the Republic of Serbia are full-time students (part-time students are not envisaged by the Law on Higher Education). Their status (budget-financed or self-financed) is determined only by the source of financing of their studies. Student status is achieved through merit-based ranking, determined by the number of ECTS accomplished during previous school year, or total score on the entrance exam for bachelors.

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 usually starts in the beginning of October and ends in mid-February;
  • Second 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 31st of December and 7th of 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 there are 4 to 6 periods. They can be at the end of each semester and prior to the end of the academic year, after summer holidays.

The national action plan in accordance with the Strategy for Development of Education in Serbia 2020 ensures the increased number of students from underrepresented groups on all higher education levels by 2017. This will be accomplished through establishing the system for monitoring availability of higher education higher education programmes and the mechanisms of support for students from underrepresented groups.

As a part of their self-evaluation and external evaluation, higher education institutions are required to provide the data about their students. Also, at the beginning of each academic year, students have to fill in a form in order to enrol in the current year of study. This form is used to collect data about their socio-economic status. The data is collected on the national level for purposes of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia.

Bachelor

Branches of study

Bachelor academic studies are organised at universities (more precisely, faculties or academies of arts that are members of universities) and colleges of academic studies, and can last either three or four years (180 or 240 ECTS). Bachelor applied studies (Bachelor Appl.) last for three years (180 ECTS) and are organised at universities or colleges of applied studies. Upon completion of this level of studies, the student receives a Bachelor degree (or in case of applied studies Bachelor Appl.). A Bachelor study programme can include a final thesis that the student has to defend at the end of his/her studies, yet this depends on the specific study programme curriculum.

Main branches of higher education studies in Serbia are:

  • technical and technology sciences;
  • humanities and social sciences;
  • natural sciences and mathematics;
  • medical sciences;
  • arts;
  • interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary sciences.

Admission Requirements

The completion of a (four-year) secondary education programme and relevant diploma acquisition are a general prerequisite for joining bachelor or integrated study programmes. Specific admission conditions and procedures are individually regulated by higher education institutions.

All candidates applying for the specific study programme are ranked based on the general achievement in the secondary education and results of the entrance exam. Higher education institutions are free to design entrance exams. For specific study programmes (manly within ISCED 2.1 Arts and ISCED 8.1 Sports) an aptitude test may be applied as an addition or alternative to the entrance exam.

Most institutions organise entrance exams that are usually held in early July and early September (the latter option applies to institutions which still have vacancies for new students). The ranking of candidates depends on both the entrance exam results and success in the previous level of education.The number of new admissions is individually determined by each higher education institution, but such a number may not exceed the one specified in the work permit.For higher education institutions whose founder is the Republic, the Government prescribes the number of students to be enroled in the first year of study programmes financed from the State budget.

Curriculum

Higher education institutions are autonomous in the creation of the contents of their respective educational curricula. However, there are some general rules regarding the curricula prescribed by the Commission for Accreditation and Quality Assurance – in every curriculum the list of compulsory and elective subjects should be indicated, as well as their descriptions, the number of ECTS they carry and the number of lessons they include.

For certain professions (primary school teachers, physicians, pharmacists and similar occupations) some elements of the study programmes are broadly defined by national regulations (the Law on the Education System FoundationsLaw on Medical Protection and Law on Medicines). For example, the curriculum for undergraduate teacher studies needs to include 30 ECTS credits of pedagogical and methodological subjects and 6 ECTS of school practice.

Teaching Methods

At the majority of HEIs in Serbia, lectures are held for large groups of students. The Commission for Accreditation and Quality Assurance sets the rules and regulations prescribing maximum numbers of students attending a lecture for every level and every branch of studies (technical and technology sciences, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics, medical sciences, arts). The same regulation specifies maximum numbers of students at workshops and exercises – which are generally held in smaller groups.

There are no specific rules for first cycle studies regarding the teaching methods. Higher education teachers have to organise their lectures in compliance with the curriculum but the teaching methods they should use are not prescribed.

Teaching materials such as books and audio-visual materials are commonly used in the teaching process but they are not always provided to students free of charge. Nevertheless, students are expected to refer to those materials when preparing their exams.

Progression of Students

Students can move on to the next year of studies once they have completed their obligations in terms of obtaining the sufficient number of ECTS. State-funded students have to obtain at least 48 ECTS in order to remain within the state-financed regime during the next year of studies. Self-financed students have to obtain at least 37 ECTS in order to be admitted to the next year of studies.

The list of obligatory and optional subjects is prescribed in the study programme. The student can pass a particular exam at any time from the moment the lectures related to it are finished, up to the start of the next year lectures. If the student fails to pass an obligatory exam before the start of his/her next year lectures, he or she has to enrol in the same subject again. In the case of an optional subject, the student can either enrol in the same subject again or opt for another one.

A maximum number of exam passage attempts is not determined. The number of exam terms per school year is 5. In the event of three successive exam failures, the student has the right to take the exam in front of the commission.

Employability

While cooperation between higher education institutions and employers is not formally regulated in Serbia, this issue has been recognised as a very important one in the recent years.

Some higher education institutions have included internship programmes into their study curricula.

Some universities organise internships for students in cooperation with state authorities, in order for students to experience work in public administration.

On the other hand, there are some companies, mostly in the IT sector, which appreciate the competences of students graduating from certain faculties and offer them jobs immediately after – and at times even before – graduation.

In addition, some higher education institutions have career guidance centres, which help students to find jobs or improve their qualifications in order to increase their employability.

The National Qualification Framework is under construction. The first phase was completed with a draft NQF for primary and secondary education. It has been envisaged that, once completed, the NQF should include all levels of education in Serbia. 

Student Assessment

The success of students is continually evaluated. The student can earn a maximum of 100 points by completing his/her pre-examination obligations and relevant exams.

A ratio of points earned through pre-examination obligations and those earned at the exam is determined in the study programme. The minimum number of points that pre-examination obligations may carry is 30 and the maximum is 70 points out of the final 100.

Student’s exam performance is expressed from grades 5 (failed) to 10 (excellent).Higher education institution may also establish other, non-numerical grading systems by relating the ratio of such marks to the one expressed through grades from 5 to 10.The general act of a certain higher education institution includes precise regulations in terms of exam taking and grading procedures.

Certification

The authority responsible for certification is the higher education institution. Upon completion of the first level of higher education, the student receives a diploma with his/her relevant professional title, average degree and the number of ECTS earned. The student also receives a diploma supplement, which contains information regarding the level, type and content of the studies successfully finished.

ENIC/NARIC Serbia (European Network of Information Centres in the European Region/National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union) regulates the procedures for recognition of diplomas acquired abroad, for purposes of employment. Recognition of diplomas for purposes of continuing education is decided upon by the higher education institutions in question.

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of Study

In Serbia, Master studies can be organised by universities, faculties, colleges of academic studies and colleges of applied studies. The length of studies at this level is either one or two years (60 or 120 ECTS). In order to enrol in a Master programme, students must have completed a Bachelor programme with at least 180 ECTS (if they want to enrol in a two-year Master programme) or with at least 240 ECTS (if they want to enrol in a one-year Master programme). To complete a Master study programme, the student has to write and defend a Master thesis at the end of his/her studies.

Specialist studies last for one year and can be either academic or applied. Specialist academic study programmes can be conducted at universities, faculties and colleges of academic studies. Specialist applied studies may be conducted at universities, faculties, colleges of applied studies and vocational study academies.

A specialist study programme curriculum can include a final thesis. To enrol in a specialist study programme, the student needs to have completed a Bachelor programme.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements and procedures at this level of studies are regulated by individual higher education institutions.

A general condition for those entering the second cycle of studies is that they have completed the first cycle of studies (bachelor level) and obtained a diploma. Another condition is the passage of the exam if so is prescribed by the particular institution. Selection of candidates is based on criteria that are defined by respective higher education institutions. Most higher education institutions use the bachelor’s average grade together with entrance exam results to select candidates. Some higher education institutions impose different criteria for students who completed study programmes that are not closely related to study programme they are applying for. Those students may need to pass additional exams to become eligible to enrol. Some institutions do not organise entrance exams, but make their selection according to other criteria (average grade or other references like working experience or academic activities in the relevant field, etc.).

The admission procedure starts with the advertisement of the higher education institution announcing the number of students that can be enroled in the particular study programme, eligibility details, candidate rating criteria and regulations governing the competition procedure.

The number of students is determined by the higher education institution but it may not exceed the number set in the work permit.

Curriculum

The curriculum is developed at the institutional level. However, for certain professions (primary school teachers, physicians, pharmacists and similar occupations) some elements of the study programmes are broadly defined by national regulations (the Law on the Education System FoundationsLaw on Medical Protection and Law on Medicines). Study programmes consist of compulsory and optional subjects.

The language of instruction is Serbian, but the higher education institution may organise examinations, some parts or an entire study programme in a minority or another foreign language.

Teaching Methods

Comparing to the first level, smaller numbers of students enrol in the second level of studies. Lectures are mostly conducted for large groups of students.

The Commission for Accreditation and Quality Assurance sets the rules and regulations prescribing maximum numbers of students who can attend lectures for every level and every branch of studies (technical and technology sciences, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics, medical sciences, arts). The same regulation prescribes numbers of students admissible at workshops and exercises – which are generally held in smaller groups than lectures.

There are no specific rules for the second cycle studies regarding the teaching methods. Higher education teachers have to organize their lectures in compliance with the curriculum but the teaching methods they should use are not prescribed.

Teaching materials such as books and audio-visual materials are commonly used in the teaching process but they are not always provided to students free of charge. Nevertheless, students are expected to refer to those materials when preparing their exams.

Progression of Students

This part is the same as for the Bachelor studies.

Employability

This part is the same as for the Bachelor studies. For more information, please see Employability in Bachelor section.

Student Assessment

The assessment of students is a continuous process based on pre-examination activities and students’ success at the exam. Students earn a certain number of ECTS for each activity they conduct during the studies. The maximum number of points that a student can achieve is 100, out of which a minimum of 30 points has to be earned through pre-examination activities. Each student’s performance is evaluated from grades 5 (failed) to 10 (excellent).

Certification

The authority responsible for certification is the higher education institution. Upon completion of the first level of higher education, the student receives a diploma with his/her relevant professional title, average degree and the number of ECTS earned. The student also receives a diploma supplement, which contains information regarding the level, type and content of the studies successfully finished.

ENIC/NARIC Serbia (European Network of Information Centres in the European Region/National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union) regulates the procedures for recognition of diplomas acquired abroad, for purposes of employment. Recognition of diplomas for purposes of continuing education is decided upon by the higher education institutions in question.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of Doctoral Studies

The purpose of a PhD study programme is to develop a scientific and critical way of thinking, as well as to educate professionals capable of working independently on scientific research and on the development of new technologies/methods in order to contribute to the overall progress of society and science.

Doctoral studies (PhD) are organised at universities (faculties within universities) and last for three years (180 ECTS). To enrol in a doctoral programme, the student must have completed a Master course and obtained at least 300 ECTS during his/her previous studies, or 360 ECTS in the case of medical studies. PhD programmes involve extensive scientific research and publication of papers in scientific journals. A PhD thesis is the final part of the doctoral study programme, except in case of arts study programmes, where PhD candidates are required to create an artistic project as the final part of their PhD studies.

The PhD thesis carries at least 50% of the total number of ECTS at this level of studies. The preparation procedure and conditions for the defending of the PhD thesis are defined by the particular higher education institution’s general act, subject to the opinion of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development. The institution where the PhD thesis is defended has the obligation to make it available to the public on its web page, alongside a printed version of the work, which needs to be available in the institution’s library at least 30 days prior to the adoption of the commission report and defending of the thesis.

The university is obliged to establish a digital repository containing electronic versions of all defended theses, along with reports submitted by respective commissions for thesis evaluation, data about respective mentors and commission members, and information about copyright protection. All of the foregoing documentation must be made available to the public. A copy of each thesis has to be sent to the central repository of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development within 3 months. Such a repository is expected to be set up in the near future.

Admission Requirements

Higher education institutions individually determine their PhD enrolment rates in line with estimated needs of society for the development of science, education and arts, but also bearing in mind their capacities in terms of space and human resources.

General admission requirements are: at least 300 ECTS, or 360 in the case of integrated medical study programs, and fluency in at least one foreign language. Candidates are also assessed on the basis of their average grades from previous levels of studies, their professional skills and previous accomplishments.

Status of Doctoral Students/Candidates

Both employed and unemployed students have equal rights in terms of eligibility for any particular program and a state-financed status, as long as they meet all other preconditions as required. Unemployed students are entitled to all benefits and rights as those granted at the previous levels of study – health insurance, student subsidies for meals, public transport and scholarships). On the other hand, employed students exercise such rights through their employee status.

Supervision Arrangements

In order to organize PhD study programmes, the higher education institution has to observe the specific selection criteria applicable to PhD teaching staff. Such criteria include the number of published papers and involvement in scientific projects.

A PhD mentor must have at least 5 works published in eminent scientific journals over the past ten years. A PhD mentor can have a maximum of 5 students under his/her supervision at a time.

Employability

While cooperation between higher education institutions and employers is not formally regulated in Serbia, there are examples of good and long lasting cooperation between universities and companies.

Assessment

Students are assessed on the basis of their overall performance and engagement, as well as on the basis of credits earned through their exams and pre-examination activities. The PhD thesis, being the final part of the studies, is assessed on the basis of its scientific or artistic significance and contribution to the field in question. It represents an independent scientific research paper. Each higher education institution sets its general rules of application procedure and PhD thesis defense, which apply to all of its constituent departments.

Certification

Once the student has completed all of their examination obligations and the defended their PhD thesis, they receive a diploma stating their official title – Doctor of Sciences. The competent certifying authority is the higher education institution where the PhD studies took place. The authorities responsible for assessment standards are the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and Commission for Accreditation and Quality Assurance.

ENIC/NARIC Serbia (European Network of Information Centres in the European Region/National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union) regulates the procedures for recognition of diplomas acquired abroad, for purposes of employment. Recognition of diplomas for purposes of continuing education is decided upon by the higher education institutions in question.

Mobility and Internationalisation

Internationalisation and mobility are the two topics that are becoming more and more important in the education system of Serbia, especially at the level of higher education.

There is no particular national strategy dealing with Internationalisation and mobility, but the overall Strategy for Education Development in Serbia by 2020 envisages the adoption of a strategy which will include the mobility of international and local students and teachers.

Some higher education institutions (HEIs) have developed their own Internationalisation strategies, and others have developed rulebooks by which mobility of students is regulated. There are several initiatives, one of them coming from a Tempus project SIPUS coordinated by the University of Novi Sad, which stipulate the adoption of national and university strategies for Internationalisation, and the incorporation of standards for mobility in the accreditation standards for HEIs.

The Strategy for Education Development in Serbia 2020 provides a general framework for internalisation of higher education in Serbia. It defines the following goals without specifying exact targets:

  1. Increasing the number of incoming and outgoing staff,
  2. Increasing the number of incoming and outgoing PhD students,
  3. Increasing the number of international projects,
  4. Increasing the number of study programmes accredited and offered in English for foreign students.

In this document, it is also envisaged that by year 2020 at least 20 % of students should have some international experience during their study period.           

In the last few years, the higher education institutions (HEIs) from Serbia have worked on setting up the conditions for the development of cooperation with the institutions from other countries.

HEIs from Serbia actively participated in the EU programmes for international cooperation, especially in the previous Tempus programme, but also in Erasmus Mundus and Lifelong Learning Programme which provided mobility opportunities and fostered international cooperation.

The same goes for the currently running programme Erasmus+. Student and staff mobility has increased with the introduction of Erasmus+ international credit mobility projects. In just two years of participation in Erasmus+ programme, the number of mobilities for students and staff from Serbian HEIs doubled as compared to the overall number of mobilities in Erasmus Mundus programme until 2014.

Other programmes and projects that enabled mobility of student and academic staff in Serbia are:

Almost all universities and many colleges in Serbia have established bilateral and multilateral cooperation with universities in the EU countries, the USA, Canada, Asia and other regions. This cooperation is focused mainly on mobility of students, study visits, exchange of teaching staff and research.

Mobility and the international cooperation are significantly less developed at other levels of education in Serbia. The situation started to change when in 2015 the eTwinning internet platform (also part of Erasmus+ programme) was made available to teachers from preschool, primary and secondary education employees in Serbia. Currently some 1500 teachers from 500 schools use the platform to cooperate with their peers from other countries. eTwinning has encouraged international cooperation at the pre-university levels of education. Through it teachers could connect and interact with colleagues across Europe with the aim to jointly design and implement virtual projects, share ideas and examples of good practice.

In the upcoming period Serbia is expected to progress towards full participation in all parts of the Erasmus + programme. The preparatory measures have been launched in mid-2016.  In 2017 Call for projects, for the first time the Erasmus+ projects supporting mobility in the field of general education, VET and adult education would be funded in Serbia. In this way mobility of educators, teachers and learners in various institutions in the field of education is expected to increase.

University of Novi Sad awarded the erasmus charter for higher education 2021-2027

In the latest procedure for awarding the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education, the European Commission made a decision that the University of Novi Sad will be awarded the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education 2021-2027 quality […]

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.