Building a culture of integrity in Montenegro’s higher education system

At the invitation of the Council of Europe (CoE), IIEP organized a training workshop for members of the National Ethics Committee of Montenegro and several representatives of public and private national Higher Education institutions. The workshop, which was held at the Abbaye de Royaumont (France) from 12 to 14 September 2022, was followed by a study visit and a series of capacity-building activities carried out by the Institute in the framework of the its partnership with CoE .

The workshop aimed to encourage those responsible for ethics issues at both central and institutional levels to put in place the tools necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the country's recently adopted Ethics Charter.

The discussions focused on five key areas, namely:

  1. the academic process,
  2. evaluation and testing,
  3. the behaviour of members of the academic community,
  4. research, and
  5. the management of academic staff. 

After discussing the implications of the COVID pandemic, which coincided with the emergence of a new digital era and the development of big data on integrity issues, participants were invited to reflect on the following questions:

  • The revision of the codes of conduct for academic staff and students in Montenegro, and the establishment of participatory processes and monitoring and evaluation systems to ensure better implementation; 
  • The establishment of whistleblowing mechanisms that allow rapid action to be taken in the event of violations of the Ethics Charter or codes of conduct, giving priority to simplicity, protection of whistleblowers, as well as ensuring that all stakeholders were fully aware of the mechanisms in place;
  • The inclusion of realistic integrity indicators in existing quality assurance processes, taking into account the internal governance and information mechanisms (including student participation) of each institution.
  • The appointment of a network of scientific integrity officers across each research structure, in order to ensure compliance with sound research protocols in the event of reports of integrity breaches; 
  • The development of ethics awareness and training programmes within the university community, focusing on the resolution of "ethical dilemmas" on the basis of concrete examples, thereby encouraging student buy-in.

The plenary discussions were followed by group work centred around the development of an action plan for Montenegro. Participants were able to benefit from the experience of experts, including Laurence Fabre, in charge of higher education issues at Transparency France, Carole Chapin, in charge of the French Office for Scientific Integrity (Ofis), and Ghislaine Filliatreau, Head of Scientific Integrity at Inserm. 

The conclusions of the working group highlighted the need to address the issue of integrity from primary education onwards, in order to promote greater awareness; and the importance of understanding the impact of economic insecurity the behaviour of many students. In addition, participants identified the need for the following actions :

  • Promote the dissemination of a glossary of academic violations, currently being developed by the National Ethics Committee;
  • Carry out a study to analyse the extent to which existing codes of conduct are disseminated, known and applied in both public and private universities in Montenegro;
  • Establish effective structures for the investigation of integrity violations under strict conditions of impartiality and confidentiality;
  • Diversify awareness-raising, training and exchange programmes on these issues, including through the use of videos and social networks;
  • Improve training of academic staff and students on the rules and methods of scientific writing;
  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities of the different people involved in the writing of academic documents before they are published;
  • Consider correction and retraction of academic articles if necessary; 
  • Strengthen the reliability of the quality control processes of educational programmes more generally.

Following the workshop, the participants concluded their visit to France with a guided tour of UNESCO headquarters, in Paris.