Dr Heather Skinner, Chair of the IPM’s Responsible Tourism SIG, has recently returned from 2 weeks teaching in Albania. Heather is one of a number of international academics that contribute to delivering the formal classroom based theory sessions for the BA Business and Economics at the Faculty of Business and Technology at Nehemiah Gateway University in rural Buçimas, a small town in the Pogradec Municipality in the Korçë region of Albania, located around 130 km from the nation’s capital, Tiranë.
by Heather Skinner
Albania, like many former communist countries across the European continent, has found that it is not always easy to overturn the impact of centralization to both education and to the economy, or to turn around educational concepts that have been ingrained over many years of a communist regime.
“Regional development becomes critical for a country where almost 60% of its population live in rural areas, where almost half are engaged in only small-scale subsistence based agricultural activities.”
This makes it difficult for the nation to reap the economic benefits of the creation of a growing liberalized free-market economy, particularly underpinned by forward looking entrepreneurial business and management programmes within an adaptive and supportive HE infrastructure.
Regional development becomes critical for a country where almost 60% of its population live in rural areas, where almost half are engaged in only small-scale subsistence based agricultural activities. The main population is in substantial internal migration from rural to urban areas, mainly to the capital city Tiranë, or abroad, as the younger generation is looking for opportunities wherever jobs opportunities and remuneration are higher.
Pogradec town located 15 km from the closest FYRO Macedonian border and 54 km from the closest Greek border. The region is rich in natural beauties as it is stretched along the shores of Lake Ohrid (which, on the Macedonian side has been a UNESCO natural and cultural heritage site since 1980, UNESCO 2016). However, business initiatives in general, and tourism initiatives in particular, are slow to develop due to limited capacity and capability across the region. Areas such as Pogradec are therefore seeking ways of developing their economy and infrastructure in order to build and develop capacity in its population first, before other such infrastructural and tourism developments may take place in any sustainable way.
HE courses in business and management across almost all the sector in Albania continue to be taught by methods more associated with the former system under communism. Rote learning and large lectures are commonplace, as is a heavy focus on summative assessment via formal written or oral examination. The pedagogic approach of student engagement through in-class debate or the use of real-world case studies is only emerging, and, with only a few exceptions, many HEIs are housed in outdated buildings, with outdated facilities, continuing to rely on outdated equipment, poor library facilities, and with institutions unable or indeed unwilling to embrace developments in technology-enhanced learning.
“Business initiatives in general, and tourism initiatives in particular, are slow to develop due to limited capacity and capability across the region.”
The Pogradec region has a traditional university, established in 1971 in Korçë. More recently in 2008 Nehemiah Gateway University was established in Buçimas. It is the only University in Albania focusing on a dual-system of education (that combines both formal HE-based classroom studies, and time spent gaining experience in the workplace). This University therefore offers a new opportunity for local Albanian students to attend its bachelors programme in business and economy, attracted to stop their journey toward the capital by the dual-system of tertiary education that combines theory input from international guest lectures from prominent universities with the element of practical training in real businesses. The University also attracts an international student market from Africa, South America and Germany. One of the University’s objectives is to increase the number of students from the FYRO Macedonia and Kosovo to broaden the diversity of the student cohort. The wider implications of such increase in student numbers and diversity are that the town of Buçimas itself will develop in order to provide the facilities required by the students and faculty, and more products and services will shift to the region to fulfill the demand, as local alumni are encouraged to start up as entrepreneurs remaining to contribute to the development of their local region.
Findings from further research into how NGU as a regional university in Albania is contributing to effecting positive change to Buçimas in the Municipality of Pogradec, undertaken by Engjëllushe Icka of Nehemiah Gateway University, and Heather Skinner, Chair of the IPM’s Responsible Tourism SIG, will be presented at the 4th Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places, 24-27 April.