In my early twenties, spending life in the communist Eastern Europe, and opting between law (I still regret not finishing it, because I think I would be a good lawyer) and some other social studies, I enrolled one of the first private colleges in the country, the Serbian famous “Megatrend”, because it was a brand new thing after the breakup of communism, at the time of the beginning of the privatization of social property. Lectures were held in Sava Center, one of the biggest congress and exhibition centers of Eastern Europe.
As a Tito’s pioneer who sang folk-liberating and patriotic songs in the school choir, a new form of education seemed like a good idea to me at the time. However, quite expensive tuition fees at that time made me stay at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the public University of Belgrade, where I finished graduate school nine years ago and graduated in the grey zone of Bologna Declaration – between the postgraduate studies and the Master degree, not knowing where I am actually. In another surge of education reforms in Serbia, back then in Yugoslavia, at the Faculty of Political Sciences, I have been hanging around with a great band of postgraduate students and professors and “teacher of skills” who have been getting around the communications, internet, media and media legislation very well… and have helped us learn how to put forth, publish, say and transfer what we know. If we observe their political commitment, we will see that most of them were opposed to the current dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic, and therefore the dependence on the Western education system was higher, and for us students certainly better, wider and more liberal than during the former Yugoslavia.
Ten years ago, I did not feel that I had been lacking something because of my university tuition at the public university, except that I had been working 24/7, and the professor and head of the department occasionally criticized me for appearing so often at the college like a Halley’s comet. I was a little bit sulky, I compensated it a little bit with good grades, published works, and everyone was happy and satisfied. My book, the only one in the Balkans region on the topic of fascist radio propaganda, dates back to that period of Masters studies at the Faculty of Political Sciences.
When we began to deal with the topic of PhD studies, the professor concluded that I am more a practical than a theoretical person, and that I should let it go at least for some time. And a PhD degree, I suppose, comes with years of experience?
So for some time I pretended to be academically idle, and then I returned to that field at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts which offered the Department of Culture and Media Management for some time. I was not particularly attracted by culture, because in our turbulent times, I have always perceived it only as a last resort for distressed minds and as a hobby of a minority, but I have never approached it from the expert or the theoretical side. A couple of professors, the ones at PhD studies, motivated me to read more about it, to understand, take a stand. I am grateful for that to them.
On the other hand, in my forty years of life, I have chewed over, dreamed, lived media from various aspects… and for some time I have been contemplating where I will round up, systematize, use and, finally, hand it over to someone … just like I handed it over bit by bit through some sporadic trainings or texts in that field … or, as I was leading the privatization of the “Pancevac” newspaper, the oldest living weekly newspaper in the Balkans, I understood all aspects of a privatization of the media and, at the same time, I was also learning what can be better, what is wrong, what and where it is weak and where we are, in fact, stuck in the process. And Serbia cannot be proud of the privatization, because the social property was torn off by the ones from the first row for small money.
Some private faculties in Serbia or in countries nearby somehow did not come into consideration for a PhD thesis… although I admit that I have regularly been clicking their websites, searching for an alibi to really devote myself to further studies right there, on one of them. But, alas, … the image of the purchased diplomas that they put on their shoulders seemed unbearable. “Is there any serious work there at all?”; “How much does the tuition fee cost, is it not too expensive for what you (do not) get?”; “How are those works evaluated, will anyone post them abroad?”; “Would I really be able to systematize myself?”; “Will this thesis “ruin” everything I have done at the public university so far?”; “And what if I decide to go abroad?”; “Does it…? If…? What…? Oh, come on, Tanja, it’s a private college where almost all the diplomas are purchased…”. Bam, bam, entrance exam, … I am on the list of several candidates who enrolled the Management Department on the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. The tuition fee is 160,000 dinars (1200 €). Three years. Thirteen exams. The thesis. Yeaaaaah…
A tough schedule of consultations or lectures that professors do not want to skip, because, as they say, they all scrutinize them after some sort of affair about buying PhD thesis by all kinds of people … We have to sit there three to four times a couple of hours a week, chew over various subjects and get the professors’ signature that we were present at lectures regularly. Like first graders. Some of the professors are trying to put us in the frame, some of them set the traces of our critical spirit free, and others draw us into the topics which they are familiar with, without the desire to avoid the frame of these familiar things … Write down the hypothesis, make a theory out of it, challenge it and prove it, and that’s it. If you fail methodologically – let’s go over again. Write down the hypothesis, make a theory, challenge it or prove it … prepare the work for publication, help me in researching which came first, the chicken or the egg?, and that’s it … Scientific contribution? Peep. Peep. Who said that a scientific contribution is necessary? They say “it’s all the learning process”. Yes, indeed, but we did not come here to learn, but to put together what we know, to break it up, to put forth our own theory, to innovate methodologies, to really raise the critical spirit to a level that will not be idle criticism for the sake of itself, but an innovative and, perhaps, revolutionary one… I want that for 160,000 dinars per academic year. I want to pay even more if somebody is not going to slap my hands because I know more than they know. At the public university. That’s what I wanted. I was hoping for that. I’m not normal. An idealist. I cannot see beyond my eyes. So I’ve been falling in love with wrong people all my life.
I guess I have had trust in the state (?!) and its institutions since 1980 when I made a pioneer oath? “I give my honorable pioneer word that I will study and work hard …” and that I will not just tumble other people’s theories and pretend to be smart according to the methodologically correct procedure? Yup. In Serbia. Which is dying because 5% of the people is trying to do something, and 95% of them are waiting for someone else to do something for them. (Excuse me, nothing personal, those of you who are reading this are in these 5% for sure or you are not at all from Serbia.)
Something happened and that was why I was scolding private faculties … I got a cat in the sack … Now the situation is such that we know more than some of the professors about some topics, and they try to dissuade it by trying to demotivate saying that they do not know why we are at the PhD studies anyway (even though they have recently let us pass on the entrance examination); that we have to deal with the scientific field they prefer; that we must be silent (do we have to?) when they, without paying attention to their vocabulary, say that “the contents are SLOPPY” because the pages are not well-numbered, and resent us for “insufficiently academic vocabulary” of our work; they tell us that they did not have time until the night before the exam to examine our works (they’d better not tell us anything); they ask us that we send these same sloppy works only in the Microsoft Word format, because in .pdf it is not possible to mark and comment, as they say (!?); criticize their colleagues from the same department who allow the work to be corrected within the same exam period (what about the “learning process”?); they refer to negative cases like “a great student who had a nervous breakdown, this is not for everyone” (I hear that like: “Get the hell out of here! You should not tell us what is right!”); they threaten us with copyright checking by “dragging through Google” (advanced tools, yeah…); they behave as if we were their competitors and … oh, wait … COMPETITION? No way!?
Most students on PhD studies I am talking about are extremely successful in their practical work and earn more or less well thanks to them. Most of them have mastered ideas, projects, experience that some of the professors do not have and will never have it if they continue to hide behind the teacher’s desk and just one published book, which is, in fact, their PhD thesis. Each of these students has already published some work. Some of the have even published books. Each of them works seriously and diligently in one or more fields. Some people do a lot of serious things. Some fight windmills and try to preserve the institutions of culture. Some organize special events at the level of modern and economically developed countries. Some are involved in the creation of legislation. Some implement it in practice, with all the difficulties that the disorganized legislation can cause. Everyone came to the public university, instead of going to a private one because they wanted to get a “better” degree, more fair, more recognized … and they just get demotivation; statements inappropriate to a scholar and a pedagogue; a system that works in a makeshift manner; professors who teach about new tendencies, but they advise that it is nevertheless better to keep up with topics in the field of history … because, I am afraid, they do not know enough what we could consider on consultations or in our works … or, simply, the public colleges lose the race with the private ones and of all the values they have –
a) a few great professors that I take my hat off to because besides teaching they deal with some practical things that contribute to the improvement of this troubled society, which they pass on to students and from them create the 5% that do something, and
b) an image that dates back from the past, subverted with a couple of scandals from private colleges that favor the image of the competition. All this is detrimental to students who could do something in private colleges, innovate, try to get out of the framework that is firmly prescribed by this kind of public institution. I believe they really do it?
Introduction, hypothesis, subject, objective, conclusion … and I came to what I wanted to say. It’s not very methodological. It’s even pretty sloppy, because, like any other meteoropath who has challenging job, is at the end of PhD studies, and even after three years cannot understand that she no longer has a mother, I have sloppy thoughts (pardon my non-academic wording). Not everything is black and white. Private colleges are not necessarily bad. Public ones are not necessarily honest, strong and good. It’s about a man. And people are getting fewer. It’s about the essence, too. And there is more and more form. Privatized.
Attitudes go with years of experience. Like aspic … although I have not arrived there yet. Although I arrive from Eastern to Western Europe. Just in case.
The statements [or testimony] I offer today represent my own personal views. I am speaking for myself and not on behalf of my employer, Microsoft Corporation.