Promoting academic integrity in Higher Education: IRAFPA's work in Montenegro

The Institute of Research and Action on Fraud and Plagiarism in Academia (IRAFPA*) has become a reference institution in the area of scientific integrity. This is due to the relevance of its operational methodology, its success as both a mediator and in providing individualised support, as well as its institutional certification programme.

The certification at the University of Montenegro

In March 2018, the University of Montenegro asked IRAFPA to certify its commitment and actions towards ensuring the scientific integrity of its teaching and research programmes across a range of disciplines. This request was made at the end of a study visit organized by IIEP-UNESCO in partnership with the Council of Europe. The visit was part of a European Union and Council of Europe co-financed programme "Strengthening integrity and combating corruption in higher education".

The IRAFPA began the process in Montenegro during a presentation seminar hosted at the University of Geneva as part of the above-mentioned study visit, and then through a number of workshops and discussions with Professor Bergadaà, Founder of the Institute, and Professor P-J.Benghozi, the Certification Manager. The certification process itself took place in several stages through a series of seminars in Podgorica, at the University of Montenegro headquarters, ending in the spring of 2019.

These different implementation stages have enabled the University of Montenegro to initiate the institutional structuring and the development of processes necessary to make sure that the university's operational procedures meet the high integrity standards expected of today's universities, as ensured by the IRAFPA certification.

Success factors

This approach, sustained by a strong commitment from the institution's officials, was made possible by the creation of a working group within the University and the implementation of a complete set of charters and mechanisms. The above elements were brought together in a summary paper, entitled "Academic Integrity at the University of Montenegro: Policies and Practices", which was issued by the University and presents the institution’s policy and practice in this area.

Two independent experts were appointed by the Council of Europe in February 2019, to evaluate the overall process and its results, and to assess the quality and relevance of the University’s approach, as well as its competencies and actions in the area of integrity. On this occasion, the experts highlighted the key factors that made the certification process successful, namely:

  • the engagement and the willingness of the university leaders
  • the intensive work done by the team during this project
  • the involvement of the teaching staff
  • the support and the necessary impulse given by the Council of Europe, and
  • the active and vigilant support of the IRAFPA’s experts

The dissemination of results

The certificate was officially presented to the University by IRAFPA experts during the 4th Forum of Rectors of Balkan Universities held at the University of Montenegro in Podgorica, and then at the ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of the University of Montenegro. This was an opportunity to raise awareness among Rectors of the region with regard to the ethical challenges faced by today’s universities in their development and internationalization strategies.

The presence of IRAFPA members at the University of Montenegro also provided the opportunity for a high-level academic workshop to take place for Ph.D. and Master’s students. Participants discussed the challenges confronting higher education institutions today; examined how different academic institutions could tackle the issues of fraud and integrity in a practical way, and heard about real cases of plagiarism in different countries and how they are handled.

*The Institute is a non-profit organization and is located in Geneva.