Why the University of Belgrade is a top-notch institution.
What makes an institution top quality? What are the elements that make any University worth going to? Is it the history? It’s Professors? It’s technological or research capacity? Such questions are asked by thousands maybe even millions of students every year across the globe. Any student planning to make the step toward higher education would be forced at some point to address the fundamental question (whether directly or indirectly) as to what defines a ‘top-notch’ University.
This is the time of year when students across the world begin exploring the opportunities concerning their future field of study. In Eastern Europe and in places like Serbia, thousands of students are preparing for what is commonly known as ‘prijemni ispit’ (entrance exam) for the various departments to which they wish to apply. For any diligent student, the quality of a University would be of high importance.
One of the first questions to be asked is: what does the average student look for in assessing a top quality University? In an attempt to gain a wide scope of opinions, we sought to gain the views of a diverse group of students. One of the first persons with whom we discussed the issue was a final year student of Literature in English at the University of the West Indies based on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Tachina Preau, noted that for her, good administration on the part of University staff was a high priority. In addition, a wide range of courses would surely make a University competitive in attracting students. Another student, Kevaughn John, from the State University of New York in Canton noted that he considers a top University as one that affords the student body with sufficient one on one time with Professors and lecturers. In addition, a substantial international student population would make for an attractive destination, while an emphasis on extra-curricular activities like sports would surely ensure the development of a holistic student. Aleksandra Bogojev, a second year student majoring in Social Work at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade noted the importance of practical work alongside theoretical knowledge as a key characteristic of any ‘top-notch’ University.
All of these characteristics noted by those with whom we spoke were not wrong in any fundamental way. However, a fundamental error is usually made on the part of University administrators and even students themselves in assessing University standards - and that is, the placing of insufficient emphasis on the most important element of any University - the student. Any higher-educational institution must recognize the supreme importance of the student body, but most importantly the students themselves must recognize their own importance.
The quality of a University or any institution for that matter is fundamentally dependent on the quality of its members, and specifically in this case – it's students. The main criteria for the evaluation of any University will be for the most part dependent on the quality of students it produces. Furthermore, it is not the institution that largely determines the quality of the student, but rather the student himself. This changes the dynamics of the entire discussion. Because although one realizes that the University must hold up its own end of the bargain by providing the adequate resources for it's students to thrive, it redirects the emphasis to the student body and the importance of self-improvement. The student must independently decide how he allocates his time, how much effort he puts into his work and the quality of work he produces. Regardless of how good an institution may be ‘on paper’, without the full participation and engagement of its students it lacks the impetus to grow and improve.
An exceptional faculty of Professors, staff and the relevant technological resources are all indispensable parts of any University that aspires to be considered of a high quality, but too often a lack of appreciation is given for the capacity of students and the student body in general to improve the standing of their own University.
The reason the University of Belgrade is to be considered a ‘top-notch’ institution is not necessarily because it may be highly ranked on a specific list (as important and laudable as this may be) but more so because it contains within its student body the capacity to consistently improve, in addition to producing graduates of a high quality.
Finally, it should be emphasized that no academic institution could replace its students. The most essential asset of any University is not its physical structure, nor its technological resources, it is not the vast financial assets it may have but rather the multitude of young minds it possesses.
So in answering the fundamental question as to what makes a University great, or ‘top-notch’, the answer is the students themselves. They determine the standards of the institution by the diligence they apply to their studies, and they would determine the image of the University by their levels of success in the future.
EDITOR IN CHIEF - MIKHAIL E.D. BYNG