Nikola Baketa is a doctoral student at the University of Zagreb – Faculty of Political Sciences, doing his PhD within the NORGLOBAL project "European Integration in Higher Education and Research in the Western Balkans." In the interview below, Nikola shares his motivation to pursue a PhD in the field of higher education, his choice of topic, the challenges he has faced so far, and his future plans.
What motivated you to apply for this PhD programme?
There are several reasons that influenced my decision. First of all, this was the opportunity to work with the people who are the leading experts in the higher education research area. When you work with this kind of people you can only improve your knowledge and develop your ideas better than before. Second of all, I see the regional cooperation as important factor for the improvement of science and this project ensured it in the best way possible.
Which higher education topic are you addressing in your PhD research project and why did you choose it?
My goal is to see too which extent Bachelor diploma holders, as a product of European higher education initiatives and its implementation on the national level, are recognizable and employable at the labor market. It is going to be a case study of Croatian higher education system and it should provide important answers for research community and policy makers. The problems related to the employability and recognition of Bachelor diploma holders were covered in high extent by researchers in other European countries. However, this problem in Croatia was not covered enough until now.
I've chosen this topic because during my studying in Croatia I noticed that there wer certain deficiencies with the new system of higher education (especially with the BA cycle) and I was not able to find the main reasons of that. Since now I have an opportunity to research topics in higher education I have decided to try to provide some answers within this relevant topic.
What did you do before embarking on this programme and how does your PhD course build on it?
My current research interests are the reflection of my scientific development and education. I have finished the Master program in Political Science at Central European University with a specialization in Comparative Politics (Thesis title: “The European Union’s conditionality mechanism and democratic consolidation in the post-communist EU candidate countries”) and Master program in Political Science at Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb with a specialization in Public Policy (Thesis title: “Europeanization of adult education – the case study of Croatia”). During the theses writing and research I was dealing with the concepts of Europeanization, conditionality, education, learning, public policy, education policy, the open method of coordination etc.
As far as I see, this project and PhD programme offered me to combine public policies and comparative politics in order to research higher education policies in Western Balkans which is, in my opinion, one of most important, but also highly neglected area of research in WB science communities).
What have been the highlights of the your PhD journey so far?
Probably it sounds cliché but I would say that the group of people involved in the project have been the brightest moment. Their enthusiasm, knowledge and readiness to help give impulse to work harder and a feeling that you are part of something important. Professors Maassen and Stensaker are big shots in this area and it is great to have an opportunity to learn from them and discuss problems. Also, it is nice to see that there is a great group of young researchers who work on this project and they are big support.
What are your career plans after you finish the dissertation?
Since I really like to work with young people one of the goals is to stay at the University and teach. I see that as the opportunity to share my knowledge with the other people who are interested in this area. Apart from that, I would like to work on the projects through which it is possible to improve the higher education system and influence decision makers. These two activities (teaching and practical work) I see as complementary. In order to be able to teach you need some practical knowledge and experience. It makes much easier to explain theoretical problems to students if you can connect them with the concrete, real-life examples. These are some basic career plans, but we will see how my interests will develop in the next few years.