Academic integrity and honesty are one of the backbones for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Since the beginning of the Bologna Process, EHEA member countries and stakeholders have developed systems and frameworks to enhance compatibility and recognition of the qualifications and degrees issued within the EHEA. It is however difficult to trust in these systems when academic integrity is violated, and more so when its violation is downplayed by political leaders, who should lead by example.
Unfortunately, we follow such a development in Slovakia where a number of members of its newly shaped government coalition have been accused of plagiarism and academic fraud, including the Prime Minister, Minister of Education and the Chairman of the National Council of the Slovak Republic (Slovak Parliament). All three have partially admitted to their errors, but are hesitant to face any consequences (1,2,3). Their theses show insufficient capabilities in proper citation, academic writing and in upholding academic integrity.
The European Students’ Union (ESU) and the Student Council for Higher Education in Slovakia (ŠRVŠ) condemn any violation of academic integrity and specifically the case of plagiarism. This devalues the trust towards degrees and qualifications issued by universities and consequently affects the credibility of the degrees students hold. Losing a trust in the education system means losing the trust in the society as a whole. Thus, it is of essential importance for everyone involved to strive for quality education free from fraud, plagiarism and other forms of dishonesty.
The lack of clear guidelines for credible mechanisms to review cases of academic fraud is evident in many European countries, including Slovakia. This makes it close to impossible for higher education institutions to revoke degrees and academic titles of alumni who have committed academic fraud. ESU and ŠRVŠ thus praise and support all efforts, such as those of the Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education to implement academic integrity into the national accreditation standards. We further urge all higher education stakeholders to contribute in creating the necessary institutional framework capable of initiating fair and transparent investigations into violations of academic integrity.
Moreover, we call upon the authorities and stakeholders in Slovakia to invest efforts in implementing EHEA commitments. Slovakia is one of the few countries across the EHEA that was slow in establishing an independent quality assurance system (4). The lack of progress is apparent in light of scandals and public scrutiny surrounding the lack of political accountability and institutional frameworks to uphold and monitor academic integrity in Slovakia. One of the core objectives of the Bologna Process is to work towards a more coherent EHEA by implementing mechanisms that set quality assurance standards and frameworks to facilitate mutual recognition. With the EHEA Ministerial Conference quickly approaching, we expect for governments to make substantial commitments towards quality and inclusive education.
European Students’ Union (ESU)
Mundo-Madou, Avenue des Arts 7/8
1210 Brussels, Belgium
Student Council for Higher Education in Slovakia (ŠRVŠ)
Staré grunty 52
842 44 Bratislava 4, Slovakia
(4) European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2018. The European Higher Education Area in 2018: Bologna Process Implementation Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Page: 130.
Download the PDF of this joint statement here.