Pursuant to Article 67 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Science and Higher Education Act (Official Gazette, No. 123/03, 198/03, 105/04, 174/04, 2/07, 46/07, 45/09, 63/11, 94/13, 139/13, 101/14, 60/15 and 131/17), Par. 1.c. of the Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education of 10 September 1988, Principle 2 of the Magna Charta Universitatum of 18 September 1988, Points 17 and 18 of the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel of 12 November 1997, Point 14 of the Recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe No. 1762 1762 (2006) on academic freedom and university autonomy of 30 June 2006, Point 20 of the Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)6 . of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to member states on the public responsibility for higher education and research of 16 May 2007, Points B–L and 1.a, 1.b, 1.c and 1. of the European Parliament Recommendation on Defence of Academic Freedom of 29 November 2018, Articles 43, 78, 81, 8., 90 and 95. of the Statute of the University of Zagreb and Articles 9, 10, 29, 33, 50, 51 and 53 of the Statute of the Faculty of Croatian Studies, after conducted a preliminary public debate on the reform of the science and higher education system (Class 602-04/22-2/0001, Reg. No. 380-1/1-22-0021 of 3 March 2022), at the proposal of the Dean, Faculty Council of the Faculty of Croatian Studies of University of Zagreb, at its 38th session held on 14 March 2022, under item 12 of the agenda, unanimously adopted a Conclusion on the occasion of the preliminary public debate on the reform of the science and higher education system. We publish it in full.
I. It is being determined that the Higher Education and Scientific Activity Draft Bill, set by the Ministry of Science and Education before the Croatian Rectors' Conference on 24 February 2022, containing 47 pages and 120 articles, was made contrary to the name, mandate and task of the Commission for the Drafting the Scientific Activity and Higher Education Bill, referred to in points I and III. of the Decision of Minister Fuchs on the Appointment of the Commission for the Drafting the Scientific Activity and Higher Education Bill of 17 November 2021 (Class 023-03 / 18-06 / 00009, Reg. No. 533-01-21-0044) and of 17 December 2021 (Class 023-03 / 18-06 / 00009, Reg. No. 533-01-21-0045).
II. It is being determined that changing the name of the act indicates the abandonment of the Humboldtian model of higher education on the functional connection and unification of research and teaching work, the abandonment of public universities in Croatia as research universities and turning them into so-called "teaching" universities, which would essentially reduce them to colleges, and university studies to professional studies. This fundamental fear is supported by extremely dangerous ideas about the nationalization of public universities, giving management instead of supervisory powers to university councils, encouraging dissolution and disintegration of large functionally integrated universities in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek and abolishing scientific-teaching titles.
III. It is established that the Higher Education and Scientific Activity Draft Bill, which the Ministry of Science and Education submitted to the Croatian Rectors' Conference on 24 February 2022:
- is unusable for further action, referral to online counselling, Government and parliamentary procedure;
- does not contain any of the four mandatory elements referred to in Article 174 of the Standing Orders of the Croatian Parliament and Article 29 Par. 3 and 4 of the Rules of Procedure of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, because it lacks: 1. constitutional basis for passing the law, 2. assessment of the situation and basic issues to be regulated by law and the consequences that will result from passing the law, 3. assessment and sources of necessary funds for the implementation of the law and 4. explanation of the proposed text of the law;
- undermines the constitutional values of the guarantee of encouraging the social well-being of citizens; guarantees of the creation of social, cultural, educational, material and other conditions that promote the exercise of the right to a dignified life; guarantees of access to education for all, under equal conditions, in accordance with their abilities; guarantees of university autonomy, independent decision-making of the university on its organization and activities, guarantees of freedom of scientific, cultural and artistic creativity, development of science, culture and art and protection of scientific, cultural and artistic goods as spiritual national values and
- under the pretext of reform, systematically destroys the science and higher education system with unclear objectives.
IV. It is established that the Commission for Legal Acts Regulating the Science and Higher Education System of the National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development, appointed on 20 December 2020, on 13 October 2021 completed the Scientific Activity and Higher Education Draft Bill, with the scope of 182 pages and 243 articles; that the draft in the Introductory Explanatory Memorandum contains the following chapters: Constitutional basis for the enactment of laws, Legislative and institutional framework, Reasons for passing the law – the responsibility of the academic community, Assessment of the situation – self-responsibility of the academic community, Science and Innovation, Higher Education, Croatian higher education scientific system and labour market, Objectives and basic reform solutions, Final assessment and sources of necessary funds, and the Draft Bill envisages merging the fragmented matter of the law into one whole: on scientific activity and higher education, on quality assurance in science and higher education, on the student body and other student organizations, on academic and professional titles and academic degree and part of the law on the recognition of foreign educational qualifications. The Faculty Council determines that this draft should serve as a basis for a broad discussion in the academic community on the reform of the science and higher education system.
V. It is therefore established that initiatives to comprehensively change the legal framework of the science and higher education system are underway. The current process of drafting a new act on scientific activity and higher education in the Ministry of Science and Education has been secretive and non-transparent, which has raised various doubts about the goals of the new law. When the Draft Bill finally became available at the session of the Rectors' Assembly on 25 February 2022 in Rijeka, the suspicions were confirmed, as it turned out that the proposed provisions endanger not only the constitutional value of university autonomy and the integrity of the University of Zagreb but also professional and personal interests of the university staff such as the abolition of scientific-teaching titles. The Draft Bill prepared by the Commission of the National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development offers alternative solutions, but also different, i.e. complete instead of a partial approach to the reform of the system.
VI. It is established that the Minister of Finance Zdravko Marić on behalf of the Republic of Croatia and the Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni on behalf of the European Commission on 9 February 2022 signed the National Recovery and Resilience Facility – Operational arrangements between the European Commission and Croatia for the implementation of the Recovery and resilience plan for Croatia 2021-2026 (https://planoporavka.gov.hr/UserDocsImages//dokumenti//Countersigned-croatia-rrf-oa_0.pdf) whose items 273-275 (page 121–122) as part of the reform of the education system (subcomponent C3.1.R2) deal with "Modernization of higher education" (https://planoporavka.gov.hr/UserDocsImages/dokumenti/Plan%20oporavka%20i%20otpornosti%2C%20srpanj%202021..pdf, page 872–877), or which 633 million HRK is planned to be invested in higher education institutions, student dormitories/campuses, higher education teachers and students from June 2021 to August 2026, and the precondition for this is that the new Science and Higher Education Act enters into force.
VII. We demand the responsibility of state bodies and officials for the fact that the formal adoption of a new scientific activity and higher education bill, without the indicated content of changes or reforms, is presented as a request of the European Commission.
VIII. With indignation we reject any blackmail and intervention in the law under the blackmail of allocating financial resources.
IX. We demand an urgent establishment of a dialogue between state policymakers for the science and higher education system and the academic community to find a solution to withdraw funds under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, without destroying the system, undermining the professional dignity of employees and without abolishing university autonomy.
X. We demand that, in order to respect the fundamental principles of democratic procedure, transparency and publicity and the common good, a sufficient time frame is given to the stakeholders of the system (employees, teaching and research staff, students and external associates) and its beneficiaries (business and public sector) for a real public debate before the e-consultation process as an essential prerequisite not only for a democratic procedure but also for achieving quality and sustainable legal solutions. As the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia has already established (Report U-X-5730/2013 of 26 November 2013, Narodne novine, No. 144/13), this is an issue that is closely linked to the character of a democratic state based on the rule of law. On this issue, it is accepted that the European legal standard is: transparency, openness and inclusion, an appropriate time frame and conditions that allow pluralism of views and a valid debate on contentious issues that are key requirements of the democratic process; a broad and meaningful debate involving various political forces, non-governmental organizations and citizens' associations, academia and the media. Too rigid time constraints must be avoided, and a calendar of actions to pass a new law must follow the progress made in the debate. The Venice Commission warned that a worrying sign of the instrumental approach was not only frequent changes in the law but also the lack of a genuine effort to build a broad consensus and the lack of appropriate public hearings. The enactment of a law governing science and higher education must be accompanied by an awareness that it is a fundamental normative document, not just a random political declaration by the current party constellation. Therefore, both the way it is adopted and the way it is implemented must create in society the belief that, by its very nature, it is a stable act that is not subject to easy change due to the whims of the current parliamentary majority. The duration of the law must not be based solely on arithmetic considerations arising from the relationship between the numerical strength of the ruling and opposition parties in parliament. In the light of these legal standards, the Constitutional Court recalls that the enactment of regulations according to prescribed rules and/or democratic procedural standards is a fundamental requirement arising from the rule of law in a democratic society. The procedure in which this requirement is not respected is not in accordance with Article 1 of the Constitution, i.e. the democratic system of the Republic of Croatia, and Article 3 of the Constitution, i.e. the rule of law as the highest value of the constitutional order of the Republic of Croatia. In the Decision, U-II-1118/2013 of 22 May 2013 (Narodne novine, broj 63/13) the Constitutional Court reiterated its principled legal position: "the essential principles on which a democratic society is based, within the meaning of Articles 1 and 3 of the Constitution – the principles of pluralism, tolerance and freedom of thought – also have their procedural aspect. In other words, the democratic nature of the procedure, within which social dialogue takes place on questions of general interest, is what the act itself, as the outcome of that procedure, may define as acceptable or unacceptable in Constitutional law." A democratically organized institutional procedure is a precondition of the process of legal formation of norms. A public debate is conducted within a democratically organized institutional procedure. The process of amending the law regulating the system of science and higher education must not be shackled by formal deadlines to the detriment of the fundamental values of a democratic society, and especially not to the detriment of a broad consensus on constitutional values derived from pluralistic public debate.
XI. We consider it particularly problematic that the Higher Education and Scientific Activity Draft Bill of 24 February 2022, prepared by the Ministry of Science and Education, abolishes scientific, scientific-teaching, artistic-teaching, teaching, associate, professional titles. It is thus:
- Contrary to the Article 121 Par. 5 of the Croatian Constitution ("The State Judicial Council shall consist of eleven members, of whom... two university professors of law...").
- Contrary to the Article 121a Par. 6 of the Croatian Constitution ("The State Attorney Council shall consist of eleven members, of whom... two university law professors...").
- Contrary to the Article 122 Par. 1 of the Croatian Constitution ("The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia shall consist of thirteen justices elected... among notable... university law professors...")
- Contrary to the Article 10 Par. 2 of the Constitutional Act on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia ("A university teacher of law (assistant professor, associate professor and full professor) elected as a judge of the Constitutional Court may, on a part-time basis and to a lesser extent, continue performing educational and scientific work as a university teacher of law.").
With the abolition of the titles, the possibility of applying these constitutional provisions ceases.
By proposing the abolition of the title, the proponent shows that neither the letter nor the spirit of Article 67 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia follows. In a series of its decisions, the Constitutional Court interpreted the scope of university autonomy in a binding manner and set standards that the legislature must adhere to in order to limit university autonomy in accordance with the Constitution "in accordance with the law":
Decision U-I-902/1999 of 26. January 2000 (Narodne novine, No. 14/00 and 26/00)
Decision U-I-843/2000 of 13 September 2000 (Narodne novine, No. 94/00)
Decision U-II-1811/2000 of 12 March 2003 (Narodne novine, No. 43/03)
Ruling U-I-1441/2001 of 23 October 2003 (Narodne novine, No. 177/03)
Decision U-I-4585/2005 of 20 December 2006 (Narodne novine, No. 2/07)
Decision U-I-1707/2006 of 20 December 2006 (Narodne novine, No. 2/07)
Decision U-III-1745/2007 of 30 October 2008 (Narodne novine, No. 137/08)
Ruling U-IIIB-2656/2014 of 18 June 2014 (Narodne novine, No. 81/14)
Ruling U-IIIB-2598/2014 of 18 June 2014 (Narodne novine, No. 84/14)
Decision U-I-5578/2013 of 18 July 2014 (Narodne novine, No. 101/14)
Ruling U-IIIB-5860/2014 of 12 August 2014 (Narodne novine, No. 108/14)
Decision U-I-7431/2014 of 13 May 2015 (Narodne novine, No. 60/15)
Decision U-I-351/2016 of 20 April 2016 (Narodne novine, No. 41/16)
Decision U-II-6251/2016 of 25 April 2017 (Narodne novine, No. 46/17)
Decision U-I-2854/2018 and U-I-2855/2018 of 10 March 2020 (Narodne novine, No. 47/20).
Zagreb, 14 March 2022
Reg. No.: 380-1/1-22-030
Assoc. prof. Ivo Džinić, PhD, m. p.
Conclusions of the Senate of the University of Zagreb of 22 March 2022 on draft bills on science and higher education in the context of a comprehensive reform of the science and higher education system (Croatian)
Fakultet hrvatskih studija Sveučilišta u Zagrebu visokoučilišna je ustanova i znanstvena organizacija, koja ima poziv: istraživati i proučavati hrvatsko društvo, državu, prostor, stanovništvo, iseljeništvo, kulturu, hrvatsko civilizacijsko i povijesno naslijeđe u europskom i općesvjetskom kontekstu; o postojećim znanjima i novostečenim spoznajama poučavati u sustavu visokoučilišne naobrazbe te njegovati hrvatski nacionalni i kulturni identitet.Adresa: Borongajska cesta 83d, Zagreb