Higher Education

Higher education in Romania is less centralized than in many countries in the West, with every university having its own internal policies regarding admission, exams and conditions for graduation. With historically established universities in major cities such as Iași, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Târgu Mureș, Craiova, Romania's higher education institutions form a much looser network than in other European countries, albeit offering most of the qualifications sought after by today's high-school graduates.

Romanian universities have historically been classified among the best in Eastern Europe and have attracted international students, especially in the fields of medicine and technology. However, its system of higher education has suffered both from a lack of qualified professors and from no government initiative to support and expand the network of universities. Romania also has a private system of higher education, with private universities operating in the larger cities. The first modern Romanian universities are:
University of Iaşi (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University) (1860)
University of Bucharest (1864)
University of Cluj (Babeș-Bolyai University) (1919)

In Romania, after 1990, the universities were the first kind of institution to start the reforms for democratization of education. They achieved autonomy, an impossible goal during the socialist regime. Students had been a very active social category participating in the social protests in the years 1956, 1968 and 1989. After 1990, they formed a very radical offensive campaign aimed against communist politicians. The University Square movement began when, around the University of Bucharest, these students proclaimed a 'communist free zone', installed tents around the area and protested for over 40 days demanding that communist statesmen be dismissed from public functions. Additionally, they demanded the autonomy of mass-media. However, Romanian students' movements were a model for other neighboring countries. For instance, Bulgarian students made an alliance with union syndicates and protested through marathon demonstrations and strikes. The difference in that case was that their union syndicates were strong allies of students. Also, their movement was less radical but more powerful and realistic. In this case, they succeeded to dismiss some communist leaders. In Ukraine, the social movements from the end of 2004 against electoral frauds had the same structure. Universities have full autonomy, in stark contrast from the pre-university segment. Each university is free to decide everything from their management to the organization of classes. Furthermore, many universities devolve this autonomy further down, to each department. Thus, there are huge differences between universities and even between individual departments inside a university.

The admission process is left to the Universities, and, as of 2007, there is no integrated admission scheme. Some universities will give an "admission exam" in a high-school subject that corresponds best to the training offered by the university. Others, however, due to the lack of relevance of the system have begun implementing a different scheme, based on essays, interviews and performance assessments. This was done because in most cases tests, especially multiple choice ones, offered just a superficial assessment and a limited outlook of the students' actual performance.

International programs
The professors have been trying to adapt curricula to that of their counterparts from North America or Western Europe. After 1990, Romania has started many projects supervised by countries from the European Union and also in collaboration with the US, obtaining some projects and bursaries. The main goal of the country has been to adapt to the European Higher Education System. Especially notable has been the effort for having their academic diplomas recognised by other European countries and for developing international programs such as: Tempus, CEEPUS, Socrates/Erasmus, Copernicus, Monet, and eLearn. With the US, Fulbright programs have been developed. Tempus is a program for cooperation in Higher Education started between EU member states and partner countries. There are four subprograms (Tempus I, Tempus II, Tempus II-bis and Tempus III between 2000 and 2006). Tempus III is actually a pledge for cooperation in higher education which states to deepen the cooperation on higher education, strengthening the whole fabric of relations existing between the peoples of Europe, bringing out common cultural values. The program allows fruitful exchanges of views to take place and facilitates multinational activities in the scientific, cultural, artistic, economic and social spheres. More specifically, the Tempus program pursues the establishment of consortia. Consortia implements Joint European Projects with a clear set of objectives, financed partially by this program, for the maximum duration of three years. The development is considered in small steps, successful small projects. Tempus also provides Individual Mobility Grants (IMGs) to faculties to help them improve their activities. In addition, non-governmental organisations, business companies, industries and public authorities can receive financial help from Tempus. CEEPUS, Central European Exchange Program for University Studies, was founded in 1994 by countries from the EU and EU candidates. The program provides grants for students, graduates and university teachers participating in intensive courses, networking, and excursions. Project eLearn is being developed by European countries to accelerate and share their strategies in e-learning. Monet is a project which aims to facilitate the introduction of European integration studies in universities. The term "European integration studies" is taken to mean the construction of the European Community and its related institutional, legal, political, economic and social developments. The project targets disciplines in which community developments are an increasingly important part of the subject studied, i.e.,
Community Law
European Economic Integration
European Political Integration
History of the European Construction Process

The Erasmus Mundus program is a cooperation program intended to support high-quality European master courses. These courses are purposed to engage postgraduate studies at European universities. It targets another characteristic, educational mobility, through projects that try to establish consortia for integrated courses of at least three universities in at least three different European countries which lead to a double, multiple or joint recognised diploma.

International recognition of Romanian university diplomas
In the Netherlands

The Netherlands has accepted starting with May 1, 2008 the articles II.2, IX.2 and XI.5 of the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region. Usually, Romanian university diplomas (more precisely, licenses got after four/five years of university study, before the application of the Bologna process), are granted in the Netherlands either the title baccalaureus (bc.) or ingenieur (ing.), which are specific to Dutch higher professional education (called HBO). But there are instances wherein titles like meester (mr.) and doctorandus (drs.), specific for the Dutch research universities (called WO), have been granted based upon Romanian license diplomas (four/five years as nominal study length). In this respect it is a prejudice that one had to do a Romanian university depth study in order to get Dutch titles like drs. and mr. In the post-Bologna Dutch educational system, the title mr. has been replaced by and it is equal in value with the degree LLM, and the title drs. has been replaced by and it is equal in value with the degrees MA or MSc. According to the Dutch law (WHW art. 7.23, paragraph 3), Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, a service of the Dutch Department of Education, service which was formerly called Informatie Beheer Groep, gives the permission to bear a recognized Dutch title to holders of foreign diplomas who graduated from recognized educational institutions, with the condition that a similar faculty and curriculum exists in the Netherlands and that there are no substantial differences between the two educational paths (referring both to the higher education and to the education which usually precedes it in the country of origin).

The European Federation of National Engineering Associations (FEANI) grants the title European Engineer (Eur. Ing.) through its Romanian member (General Association of the Engineers in Romania, AGIR) to AGIR members who graduated a faculty recognized by FEANI and had at least two years of engineering activity.

Graduate programs, researchers and professors
Graduate programs might still be inefficient. Unfortunately, in selecting a graduate program, the best students have already chosen other offers from abroad and consequently, have left the country. After all, in graduate studies, students are responsible to produce the most sentient about inefficiency of programs. Usually, as was the situation for the undergraduate studies, there is a scarcity of courses to choose for further specialization. However, there is still a lack of experience in research, counseling, and management. Programs for graduate students are sometimes ill-designed. The main direction for graduate studies is totally out-of-date. First, they only offer a limited number of courses and less research than their counterparts in North America. They mistakenly identify the assimilation of courses (often old-fashioned also) with the creativity involved in research, which should be mandatory in graduate studies. One could argue that this is often the case in other European countries, where graduate studies remain far behind their US counterparts, but the situation in Romania is lagging behind other European countries. Plagiarism or just worthless compilations can still be found sometimes. Even though the number of graduate students has rocketed, the quality of graduate studies has remained shaky. There is also the question of who will conduct these graduate programs. Especially in the case of Romania, where people were isolated for so long, this question is difficult to answer. In fact there are two situations: The first situation noticed is a lack of qualified researchers. There has been a lack of experience since 1990, which has not been overcome yet. In the better-recognized academic centers, some academic programs succeeded outstandingly, for instance in the case of the University of Bucharest or the University of Cluj-Napoca. Some doctoral programs like Mathematics have had a long established tradition. Many professors and researchers emigrated or obtained work contracts in the US, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand or Canada and continued there the esteemed Romanian tradition. For instance, George Palade obtained the Nobel Prize in biology in 1974. In other fields, especially where a more costly technical infrastructure is involved, Romanian research encounters difficulties. Starting with courses and preparation, now the difference between advanced countries and Romania in the field of higher education is considerable. The outdated materials professors and graduate students deal with are almost the norm nowadays, and the same goes for curriculum development. Consequently, there are a multitude of research works without real value. Because of the coordinators' lack of experience and because of the lack of documentation, the research sustained by Romanian graduates is consequently considered of a lower academic quality.

There is also another argument, namely, even though Romanians have had some remarkable achievements, they have not always received the deserved recognition around the world. Here are some examples:
Ştefan Procopiu was the first to calculate the electron magnetic dipole moment in the hydrogen atom. He published his results in Romanian language around 1910, which remained largely unnoticed. Consequently, the Danish physicist Niels Bohr is credited for the findings (see Bohr magneton).

Aurel Babeş is the inventor of the vaginal smear as screening test for cervical cancer. Georgios Papanikolaou who is generally credited for this discovery, was certainly not aware of the 1927 work by Babeş, published in limited-distribution Proceedings of the Bucharest Gynecological Society.

Nicolae Paulescu discovered insulin in 1921. Two Canadian researchers, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, working in the physiology laboratory of Professor James MacLeod from the University of Toronto, published the same results in 1922. In 1923, the Canadians were awarded the Nobel Prize for a discovery that had been previously made by Paulescu.

Romanian Professor Gheorghe Benga, from the University of Cluj-Napoca, was two years ahead of the Nobel Prize laureate in the research of the cellular protein channel for the human body. As early as 1986, Professor Benga started to publish the results of his research in Biochemistry and European Journal. The American laureate, Peter Agre, who started to publish his researches two years after Professor Benga, did not even quote Benga in his material and claimed absolute priority in this field. Unfortunately, the American is still considered to have absolute priority in the discipline of the cellular membrane, while the international committees never even considered the Romanian professor as one of the pioneers in this discipline.

These situations are regretable and disappointing. They can bring about skepticism about the realistic chances that someone from a mid-sized country may have in achieving international recognition.

The Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) established the National Authority for Scientific Research (Authoritatea Naţională pentru Cercetare Ştiinţifică). This agency emerged from specific requirements designed to promote the development of a knowledge-based society. As in the other Eastern European countries, the higher education system has witnessed major transformations after 1990. As a result of Romania's effort to adapt its national educational framework to the European Union, the educational system has attained many improvements; however, there is still a long way to go.