Romania to abolish term of office for rectors

Romania’s rectors have come under heavy criticism for largely refusing to condemn reforms that would remove their two-term limits, among other changes that critics say undermine the integrity of the sector.

Reforms proposed as part of President Klaus Iohannis’ overhaul of Romania’s higher education law also include an effective amnesty on doctoral plagiarism and a relaxation of rules prohibiting candidates’ relatives from sitting on hiring committees and promotion.

Among the beneficiaries of the changes of mandate is Sorin Cîmpeanu, who suspended his functions as rector for two terms of the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest and president of the National Council of Rectors while he is Minister of Education. ‘Education.

“We have a very strong network of rectors here, and these rectors are all more or less involved in politics,” said Ciprian Mihali, a philosopher at Babeş-Bolyai University who specializes in academic misconduct.

He said many members of this ‘special network’ have cut their second terms short, allowing them to use a recently introduced loophole that states a ‘full term’ must be served, effectively allowing a third term for the leadership. .

Prof Mihali said the reforms had the tacit approval of an “oligarchy” of rectors close to Prof Cîmpeanu. “There is now a very strong alliance between rectors and politicians.”

Romanian academic leadership has become increasingly attractive with the promise of just over €29bn (£25bn) in post-pandemic recovery funding from the European Union, some of which will be channeled towards research and higher education.

Radu Vancu, an associate professor at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, said the changes to hiring conditions and rules were linked. “It’s about being a familyhe said, and to “run a university like a family business.”

“It’s not in the interests of the education system, it’s not in the interests of the universities themselves, to have a group of people eternally connected to university resources, heritage and finances,” he said. continued Dr. Vancu. “It’s an open admission that these laws were written to consolidate power and access to resources for a group of people.”

One of the few rectors to speak out against the changes is Daniel David, who heads Babeș-Bolyai, one of the country’s largest and top-ranked universities, which he says would retain a two-term limit in its institutional rules.

He said that if other countries do not enshrine term lengths in their national legislation, Romanian society is “unprepared” for such leeway.

“In Romania, typically, someone in a position of power is not seen as a representative of the group but as the boss of the group. People are used to being told what to do rather than having a lot of initiative,” Prof David said.

Although the lifting of term limits has raised concerns, Dr Vancu said the “most toxic” part of the bill was the doctoral plagiarism amnesty, which would allow defendants to give up their doctorates and not suffer no further consequences.

As with other changes, many politicians stand to benefit, including Nicolae Ciucă, the prime minister, the third office holder in a decade to face allegations of doctoral plagiarism.

“It’s more than just an academic problem; it becomes a system that openly encourages theft. Not only are you not punished, but you openly gain privileges by stealing. How to build a country on such a system of values? asked Dr. Vancu.

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Helen D. Jessen