Can higher education access and higher education quality be improved at the same time? How can we visualize this difficult trade-off?
For the Studio summer fellowship, my technological goal is to learn how to build a choropleth map that includes a time slider element. The reason I want to learn this skill is to tell the story of the rapid enrollment changes at public universities in Kosovo.
At the start of the 2010s, as a measure to improve quality of higher education institutions, the Republic of Kosovo passed a regulation that effectively required that universities must employ three PhD-holders for each accredited degree program . If a university could not maintain this requirement, the noncomplying program would lose accreditation and be prohibited from enrolling new students. For a country that founded its first university in 1970s, whose people experienced segregation and systematic exclusion from formal education in the 1980s, that faced war in the 1990s, and formally declared independence in the 2000s, there has not been much opportunity to build the quality national educational infrastructure required to mint new PhDs in Kosovo. As such, the three-PhD quality assurance requirement led to the dis-accreditation of degree programs around the country. While we have some idea of what this quality assurance policy has meant for the degree programs, what has this meant for students – or potential students – across Kosovo?
As a student at Iowa, I feel a deep connection to Kosovo. Iowa and Kosovo have a Sister State relationship, Kosovo was the first country to open a foreign consulate in Iowa, and the connections between sectors in our two states offer a unique approach for post-conflict development work. Given the young population of Kosovo (the median age is 30.5) and the labor market issues young Kosovars face (youth unemployment rate presently at 49.4%), the work of understanding how higher education serves today’s students in Kosovo is an urgent matter . Mobilizing the resources of the University of Iowa through this fellowship seems like a small way I can contribute to developing this understanding.
In just the initial weeks of the project, with the skillful guidance of GIS Specialist Jay Bowen, I have already learned some technical vocabulary (like the word ‘choropleth’!) and acquired several digital tools to make a rudimentary map to help tell this story. Over the course of the upcoming weeks, I hope to polish this map into a format that can be useful for educational leaders in Kosovo seeking to improve both quality and access in the new nation.
 Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. (2013). Administrative instruction: No. 0212013 for accreditation of higher education institutions in the republic of Kosova. MEST website: https://masht.rks-gov.net/uploads/2016/01/02-2013-ua-mbi-akreditimin-e-institucioneve.pdf
 National Qualification Authority. (2016). EQF referencing report of the Kosovo national qualification framework for general education, VET, and higher education. National Qualification Authority website: https://akkks.rks-gov.net/uploads/kosovo_eqf_referencing_report_2016.pdf
 Central Intelligence Agency. (2020). Kosovo. In The world factbook. CIA website: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kv.html
 Kosovo Agency of Statistics. (2020). Labor force survey in Kosovo, 2019. Kosovo Agency of Statistics website: https://ask.rks-gov.net/en/kosovo-agency-of-statistics/add-news/labor-force-survey-in-kosovo-2019