Bonum Certa Men Certa

An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part VII: An Academic Institution With a Political Mission

Series index:

  1. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé -- Part I: A New EPO Balkan Affair?
  2. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part II: A Mysterious Fist-Bumping Masquerade in Skopje
  3. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part III: A Longtime Associate of the Doyen
  4. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part IV: A Party Political Animal
  5. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part V: Sharing Out the Spoils of Public Office
  6. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part VI: A Learned Legal Luminary
  7. You are here ☞ An Academic Institution With a Political Mission


The State University of Tetovo

Summary: The State University of Tetovo – an academic institution with a political mission

In this part we take a closer look at Safet Emruli's alma mater, the State University of Tetovo.



Prior to 1994, there were no Albanian-language higher education institutions in Northern Macedonia.

"Sulejmani's unilateral attempt to establish an Albanian language university caused North Macedonia's ever-present inter-ethnic tensions to flare up."The situation began to change with the founding of the University of Tetovo on 17 December 1994 upon the initiative of Fadil Sulejmani, an Albanian nationalist hard-liner, who started organising the university without any consultations with the government.

Sulejmani's unilateral attempt to establish an Albanian language university caused North Macedonia's ever-present inter-ethnic tensions to flare up.

"Shortly afterwards, the police raided the university again, destroying parts of the building, confiscating equipment, and arresting several administrators, including Sulejmani."The government declared the institution to be illegal and police raided the premises in December 1994. Despite government warnings, the university reopened two months later and the first lectures were held on 16 and 17 February 1995 in Poroj and Mala Rečica.

Shortly afterwards, the police raided the university again, destroying parts of the building, confiscating equipment, and arresting several administrators, including Sulejmani. One Albanian died in the clashes between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian police.

Sulejmani subsequently received a two-and-a-half year jail sentence for "verbal sedition" but was released on bail shortly afterwards. In the meantime, there were anti-Albanian rallies by Macedonian students in Skopje calling for the closure of the "rival" university.

The university reopened in March 1995 and - as a compromise solution - the government decided it would tolerate its existence as a private institution, but it would not recognize any diplomas which the students might eventually acquire.

"The university reopened in March 1995 and - as a compromise solution - the government decided it would tolerate its existence as a private institution, but it would not recognize any diplomas which the students might eventually acquire."From that point on the university was left to operate under its own steam outside the statutory framework which meant that its degrees were not recognized anywhere, except in Albania.

This situation persisted until 2004 when the Macedonian government finally decided to grant the institution official recognition as a state university.

In 2006, when Nikola Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE selected the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) as their coalition partner in preference to the DUI, the DPA proceeded to conduct a "purge" at the recently accredited State University of Tetovo (SUT) and install its own rector, Sadi Bexheti.

In 2009, it was the turn of the DUI - which had returned to government after the 2008 elections - to conduct its own "purge". Armed with an order from the Education Minister, DUI loyalists entered the university grounds and summarily dismissed the acting rector, Agim Vela, and the entire university Senate (Vice Rectors and Deans).

"In 2009, it was the turn of the DUI - which had returned to government after the 2008 elections - to conduct its own "purge"."This incident was seen as an attack on the university's autonomy and it led to speculation that the SUT might be expelled from the Bologna process, (a multilateral European arrangement for ensuring international comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications).

A cable from the US Embassy in Skopje (accessible via WikiLeaks) dated 10 July 2009 and reporting on political developments in North Macedonia described the situation at the SUT in the following terms:

"SUT [State University of Tetovo] has always been a troubled institution, including its history as an illegal university beginning in 1994. After it became a state university 10 years later, it has been essentially treated as a fiefdom of whichever e[thnic]-Albanian party is in government. Most e[thnic]-Macedonians and many e[thnic]-Albanians tell us SUT is often chaotic and - at best - just another relatively poor public university."


To this day the University remains under the influence of the DUI which has managed to retain its place in government (in the role of a junior coalition partner) since 2008.

DUI leader Ahmeti awarded with an honorary doctorate by the University of Tetovo in December 2020
DUI leader Ahmeti awarded with an honorary doctorate by the University of Tetovo in December 2020



"This gesture which had strong partisan overtones was criticised by certain sections of the Albanian community for "politicising" the university."For example, in December 2020, at a ceremony to mark the 26th anniversary of its founding, the University awarded an honorary doctorate to party leader Ali Ahmeti. This gesture which had strong partisan overtones was criticised by certain sections of the Albanian community for "politicising" the university.

In the case of Safet Emruli, there is a bit of confusion as to when exactly he completed his studies for his primary law degree at the SUT because there are two versions of his curriculum vitae in circulation on the university's website at www.unite.edu.mk.

One of these CVs lists the relevant study period as "1994 to 1999" and the other as "1996 to 2001" (we have made local copies of both [PDF] versions [PDF]). The reason for this divergence is not clear and it might just be a simple clerical error in one of the versions. Whatever the reason may be, it's clear that Emruli's primary degree was awarded before the university obtained official state accreditation in 2004.

"As for the SUT, although it finally obtained state accreditation in 2004 as part of a political deal to keep the Albanian minority happy, it is considered as one of the lowest quality public universities in North Macedonia."These circumstances would have limited his opportunities for pursuing postgraduate study elsewhere. It probably explains why he ended up taking his masters and doctoral degrees at the University of Tirana. It would have been a logical choice given that it was one of the few external academic institutions that recognised degrees issued by the University of Tetovo prior to 2004.

It's also worth pointing out that Emruli himself has never been the subject of allegations of degree falsification of the kind that dogged EPO's Željko Topić, his longtime "buddy" from the Croatian IPO.

As for the SUT, although it finally obtained state accreditation in 2004 as part of a political deal to keep the Albanian minority happy, it is considered as one of the lowest quality public universities in North Macedonia.

"Students also alleged that some of these professors were coercing them into buying their books by threatening to give them low grades if they didn’t."Its reputation has not been helped by the occasional scandal such as the one which erupted in March of this year, when the Faculty of Medicine was the focus of allegations that seven of its professors were implicated in acts of plagiarism. Students also alleged that some of these professors were coercing them into buying their books by threatening to give them low grades if they didn’t. Following these revelations, one of the smaller opposition parties - a socialist party called "The Left" - publicly denounced the SUT as "a den of nepotism, corruption and intellectual crime".

In order to avoid misunderstanding, it should be emphasised here that no attempt is being made to suggest that Safet Emruli bears any responsibility for the SUT's troubled history or for its low public standing.

"As will be shown in the next part, this academic connection landed Emruli in trouble in 2019 and seems have played a decisive role in his sudden and unexpected departure from the helm of the SOIP in October 2020."These matters are merely mentioned here for the sake of providing some relevant background information about the SUT, in view of Emruli's long-standing connection to its Faculty of Law, where he continued to maintain a teaching presence following his appointment as SOIP director in 2008.

As will be shown in the next part, this academic connection landed Emruli in trouble in 2019 and seems have played a decisive role in his sudden and unexpected departure from the helm of the SOIP in October 2020.

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