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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 1997

A New Bosnia Means Rebuilding its Universities

Ronald Hancock

A program of summer courses at the University of Tuzla in 1996 was so successful, another series has been planned for 1997.

A program of summer courses was held at the University of Tuzla in July-August 1996 to contribute to its recovery after the Bosnian tragedy and to demonstrate international moral commitment to a university and city which have maintained a tolerant and multicultural identity.

The courses reflected the most urgent needs of the university and included social sciences with emphasis on multiculturalism and social reconstruction, new developments in science and medicine, and english language, and were contributed on a voluntary basis by thirty professors from fifteen different countries recruited and remarkably well organised by a small student organisation in Amsterdam (YSY) with cooperation from other european student groups and limited funding from the Dutch government and the European Community.

The course on recent developments in molecular medicine and diagnosis which I gave at the University Medical Centre, together with colleagues from Bern, was timely and appropriate according to the students’ enthusiastic reactions, and provided a basis for setting up a modern diagnostic and research laboratory and for future courses in the medical faculty.

The universities in Bosnia suffered severely during the four-year period of Serb aggression, and were targets of deliberate destruction like other cultural symbols such as libraries and mosques. In Tuzla the university hospital and library were shelled frequently, and about forty students were killed; eighty per cent of Sarajevo University’s infrastructure and its library’s 1.8 million volumes were destroyed; Banjaluka University was "ethnically cleansed" and non-Serb students and faculty were arrested or driven into exile. Many professors were obliged to flee, and according to the Students Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina more than 1000 students became refugees of whom about 40 per cent lost a close member of their family and 80 per cent lost contact with their parents. Moreover, during the four years the universities were cut off from all outside contacts and from access to new books and journals. In this context it is remarkable that 5000 students obtained a Masters degree and 20 a PhD in Sarajevo during the nearly four years of siege.

Many universities and student organisations in Europe and the USA have set up and financed exchange and training programs to aid students and universities in Bosnia, but I was surprised to learn from the Canadian Embassy in Sarajevo that there are no similar programs in Canada. I would like to encourage universities and student organisations to contribute to this effort, especially by:

  • arranging to support and host Bosnian students and professors for one to two month visits to help them to complete their interrupted studies and to acquire the latest information in their fields (YSY has a list of interviewed candidates with a sufficient knowledge of english);
  • contributing a course to the Summer University to be held in Tuzla in July-August 1997;
  • contributing surplus journals, reference works, and books (1990 onwards) in all academic fields, for which I can arrange shipment to the University and Medical libraries in Tuzla

For further information, please contact Ronald Hancock, Centre de Recherche de l’Université Laval, 1 rue de l’Arsenal, Québec G1R 2J6; (418) 691-5281, fax (418) 691-5439;

Foundation YSY which organises the Summer University in Tuzla is at Herengracht 516, 1017 CC Amsterdam, The Netherlands, phone/fax (31) 20 5252495,

The address of Tuzla University Library is Ms. Enisa Zunic, Director, Narodna i Univerzitetska Biblioteka, Miska Jovanovica 1, 7500 Tuzla, BiH; tel (387) 75 33170; fax (387) 75 223343.

Other university libraries in Bosnia which need assistance include the National and University Library, Sarajevo: Dr. Enes Kujundzic, Director, Narodna i Univerzitetska Biblioteka, Obala Maka Dizdara 3, 7100 Sarajevo, BiH; tel/fax (387) 71 533204;

The Library of the Faculty of Medicine, Sarajevo: Edina Vlasic, Librarian, Institut za Naucno-istrazivacki Rad i Razvoj, Klinicki Centar, Marsala Tita 32/III, 71000 Sarajevo, BiH; (387) 71 4 72623 or 71 534 767; fax (387) 71 664954 or 472 447;

And the Library of the Center for the Blind, Sarajevo: Mustafa Karabasic, Director, Biblioteka za Slijepa i Slabovidna Lica, Sahinagica 14, 7100 Sarajevo, BiH; (387) 71 538243.