Republic of Croatia joined the Bologna Process in Prague, in 2001. In 2003 Croatian Parliament enacted the Act on Higher Education and Research (Act on HE&R) promoting European dimension of higher education (HE). The Act requires Croatian HE institutions to introduce the appropriate study scheme harmonized with Bologna requirements by the academic year 2005/06 and to complete the development of 2-cycle study architecture by 2010.
Administrative representatives of 4 Croatian Faculties of Law met couple of times in 2004 and discussed the forthcoming reform. They concluded that all Faculties are very much in favor of the spirit underlying the Bologna Declaration. However, at the same time, they viewed introduction of the possibility of obtaining a Bachelor degree after 3 years of higher education in law as unacceptable in Croatian legal system and reached a consensus that a 3-year degree cannot give immediate access to the legal profession. They jointly opted for a 5-year integrated Bachelor and Master degree program. Such a system has not yet been approved by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (MSES). Notwithstanding, to meet the deadline for introducing a reformed curricula imposed by the Act on HE&R, Croatian Faculties of Law are presently in a hurry adapting their curricula to newly proposed system under assumption that the system according to which they will operate in the next academic year will be a 5-year integrated program.
Due to information gap, fear of change and tight deadlines there is a great danger that the changes will be cosmetic and to a certain extent even inconsistent with Bologna requirements and prevailing trends in higher legal education reform (HLER) undertaken by other European countries.
Appropriate HLER is crucially important for integration of Croatian Faculties of Law into the EHEA (European Higher Education Area). Becoming EU candidate in 2004 made this integration even more important. Since law is one of the essential areas in realizing Croatian integration with EU, the HLER is also important for incorporation of the acquis communautaire into legislation and for its full implementation.
In December 2004 Ministry of Justice (MJ) called a meeting with the objective to initialize a quicker and more radical reform of Croatian higher legal education (HLE) in line with Bologna requirements. At the meeting Zagreb Faculty of Law was urged to apply for Tempus project in order to develop (jointly with MJ, MSES, other Croatian Faculties of Law and EU partners) a national strategy (NS) and action plan (AP) for HLER. At the meeting the MSES promised to include HLER as one of the priorities for Croatia for 2005/06 within framework of Tempus project.
The following summarizes the current situation in higher legal education and research in Croatia:
a) there is no comprehensive strategy for HLER;
b) the model of division of higher education in a 2-cycle system is perceived as unacceptable and incompatible with the needs and conditions of professional education and training in law;
c) a part of faculty staff perceives Bologna developments as threats and directly opposes the changes and a large part of faculty staff remains passive in the process;
e) there is an information gap on a Bologna process itself and on the experiences of other European countries in adjusting their HLE to Bologna requirements;
f) curricula and teaching methods are partially outdated and in discord with EHEA;
g) curricula does not adequately follow needs of labor market and social needs especially in terms of harmonizing Croatian legal system with the acquis communitaire and mobility requirements and opportunities within EU;
h) a quality assurance and accreditation system are not in place, ECST system is neither fully implemented nor understood;
i) education and research are not sufficiently interconnected;
k) the possibilities for lifelong learning are not addressed at all.
The proposed project is devoted to development of NS & AP for the HLER using experiences of EU countries and consultant services of EU partners on the project. NS & AP will address a content and structure of the undergraduate and postgraduate law programs, teaching and exam methods, teaching materials, quality control, accreditation system, ways to bring closer legal education and scientific legal research in the spirit of "European Knowledge Society," introduction of lifelong learning in legal disciplines, etc. Through joint action of partners participating in the project, the project will create favorable conditions for the implementation of the reform, it will increase awareness of current problems and needs related to Croatian HLE, increse awareness of Bologna requirements and different ways of performing transitions in legal education in EU countries and upgrade the institutional knowledge of program transformation. It will contribute to finding new ways of financing law schools and making law schools more self-reliant and entrepreneurial. All these will lead to increased attractivness of higher legal education in Croatia for both domestic and international students and facilitate cooperation between Croatian and EU Faculties of Law.
The project will be implemented within 1-year period as a structural measure action. The 1st phase will comprise a retraining course for Croatian experts and study visits to EU partners for getting necessary information about their experience in HLER. Then a study of current problems and needs in Croatian HLE will be conducted. Based on the gained knowledge, experience and study results, NS & AP will be developed and disseminated through seminars.
The consortium of partners submitting this application includes universities and institutions from Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Italy, which posses necessary capacity, knowledge and experience for implementation of this project, achieving the goal of the project and producing the planned outcomes. There is a national consensus on Bologna implementation in Croatian higher legal education, so the partners on the project are all Croatian Faculties of Law, Ministry of Justice (MJ) and Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (MSES). Our aim was to include the neighbouring countries (Slovenia, Austria, Italy), which have a similar educational tradition, but have gone further in the Bologna implementation and thus will share their experience on different approaches to implementation of Bologna requirements in reforming higher legal education.
Here is the basic data for all the partners involved.
The Faculty of Law, University of Ljubljana (PFLJ - Grant Applicant) is one of the oldest faculties in Slovenia, established in 1919. It represents the nucleus of legal studies and is the centre of legal science in Slovenia. PFLJ offers full-time and part-time undergraduate (72 courses) as well as postgraduate studies. It incorporates about 3,000 students and 60 teaching staff. It is an active participant in the Tempus projects and Socrates programmes. Slovenia started harmonization of its higher education with Bologna requirements and is currently working on its High Education Master Plan, Adult Education Master Plan, National Credit System, etc. PFLJ & PFZ have a similar tradition and a long history of cooperation and thus decided to build this Consortium in order to jointly solve the issues raising in connection with HLER.
The Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb (PFZ - Grant Coordinator) is the oldest (founded in 1776) and largest higher legal education institution in Croatia. At present it has around 100 teaching staff, 5500 students and it offers 76 courses. It is taking a lead in the region in articulating a comprehensive development strategy for higher legal education in accordance with Bologna requirements. It managed 1 Tempus project so far.
Austria started to implement Bologna Declaration in higher education in 2002 by Act UG2002. The Faculty of Law, Karl-Franzens-University of Graz is one of Austrian most prestigious law schools. It has undergraduate (divided in 3 parts («Abschnitt): the 1st and 3rd part last 2 semesters, the 2nd lasts four), couple of postgraduate (Master in European Integration and South East European Law, Mastere conjoint en «Femmes, Civilisation et Systemes Juridiques» entre L'Universite de Foggia, Italie, L'Universite de Graz, Autriche et L'Universite Cadi Ayvad, Marrakech), and a doctoral programme. All programmes are currently undergoing a curriculum reform in order to be harmonized with the Bologna process. It has fully integrated the ECTS system and is an active participant in the ERASMUS-SOCRATES student mobility project. It has been involved in 2 Tempus projects. It has good relations with Croatian Faculties of Law for a long time.
The Faculty of Law, University of Trento, Italy has 2986 students, 54 teachers & offers 92 courses. It has already finished a major part of its higher education reform in accordance with Bologna requirements (modifed its curriculum to facilitate the ECTS system usage, uses the modular course teaching method with lectures and tutorials, etc.) and is now in the process of refining and building upon the new foundations it has created in the past 2 years. It is an active participant of the ERASMUS-SOCRATES student mobility program. It strongly collaborates with numerous Italian and foreign law schools offering joint degrees with some of them.
The Faculty of Law, University of Rijeka (PFRi) was founded in 1973. It offers 42 courses. The total number of students is around 2000. It employs 43 teachers & manages 2 Tempus projects. PFRi consideres implementation of the Bologna Declaration an important task requiring thorough preparation.
The Faculty of Law, University of Split (PFSt) was founded in 1974 and has approximately 3500 students and 45 teaching staff. Redesigning study programs towards more effective education and improving scientific impact and relation with practice have constantly been main priorities of PFSt. Implementation of Bologna Declaration is recognized as a main priority for the coming period.
The Faculty of Law, University of Osijek (PFOs) was established in 1975. PFOs has 48 teachers, about 2500 students and offers 29 courses. A very important task in the forthcoming period is harmonization with the European higher education system in line with the Bologna process.
MJ is very much interested in integration of higher legal education into EHEA and sees it as an important step in Croatian integration with EU. It expects the reform to adapt curricula in a way to facilitate incorporation of the acquis communautaire into legislation and secure its full implementation. MJ is in particular interested in establishing lifelong education. For this reason it has recently established Judicial Academy and would like to develop and strengthen cooperation between Academy and Faculties of Law in this area.
MSES is newly blended Ministry (Ministry of Science and Technology & Ministry of Education and Sports). The Bologna Promoters Group and Bologna-Follow Up team are already in the process of formation at MSES. Both groups are ment to help realization of the requirements of the Bologna process. MSES plans to include HLER as one of the priorities for Croatia for 2005/06 within framework of Tempus project.