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4 May 2002

Yugoslavia - university debate report to 2002 Worlds Council

At the 2002 Worlds Council countries were invited to submit a report to the council to let other nations know about debating in their country.  It was not compulsory but a number of nations gave reports.

Yugoslavia - university debate report to 2002 Worlds Council

History of university debating in Yugoslavia

Debate as an activity began in Yugoslavia in 1994. with the high school program of the (then) Soros Foundation - the format used was Karl Popper. In 1997, the first generation of the program's participants graduated high school and decided to form a university debate club. To this purpose the "Open Communication" club ( was formed and registered as an NGO - to this day it remains the only club in the country debating according to international programs and standards. After the Open Society Institute (NY) had organised a Parliamentary Debate Seminar, the club began training and debating in the US parliamentary format.

Status of debate in higher education
Debate is not incorporated into the higher education system in Yugoslavia as a part of the curriculum, nor as an extra-curricular activity. At its inception, "Open Communication" attempted to open debate clubs at various faculties at the University of Belgrade, until the passing of the 1998 University Bill which subjected all discussion and criticism of the government to censorship. The club decided to set up it’s own program outside the university and operate independently (which it has done as part of the Alternative Academic Education Network, running a program at the Belgrade Open School). The club is strongly supported in its activities by IDEA.

With the political changes in Yugoslavia, opportunities are opening up for the integration of debate into the higher education system - however a new University law is still pending, as is discussion of reform of the university system.

Open Communication - program and projects

The club has some 80 active members (both students and lecturers at the Belgrade University), while some estimated 300 students have passed through the program. In addition to its regular program (weekly lectures and debates), the club organises public debates on controversial issues, TV debates, lectures by guest speakers. Many of the club's efforts are aimed at spreading recognition and acceptance of debate among the public. Also there is an annual summer camp which incorporates workshops on public speaking, mock trials, psychology, etc with a tournament.

The club co-operates with independently formed clubs in Montenegro with which it established the Yugoslav University Debate Network. Federal Tournaments were held in 1998 and 1999.

"Open Communication" has worked on opening clubs in all university centers in Yugoslavia - to date there are clubs operating at the University of Novi Sad, Nis and Subotica.

The club organises an annual tournament, which in the past two years included teams from ex-Yugoslav republics (Slovenia, Croatia, BiH, Macedonia). Yugoslav students have participated in debate tournaments in Slovenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary. Several debaters attended the World Debate Institute program at the University of Vermont, USA. Yugoslav debaters were first introduced to the UK parliamentary format at Europeans 2000 in Aberdeen, where they ranked in 6th place on the overall tab. Two Yugoslav teams participated in Worlds 2001 in Glasgow, as well as Europeans 2001 in Slovenia where one team ranked 3rd on the overall tab.

Contact information:
"Open Communication"
Address: palata Beograd, Masarikova 5, 16th floor, office 1611

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