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Battle joined on quality criteria

IN FUTURE the Education Ministry plans to allocate more money to higher education on the basis of quality, which should go hand in hand with financial contributions from students. The private sector will certainly add its support, making university education a lucrative business, with institutions competing for funding.

IN FUTURE the Education Ministry plans to allocate more money to higher education on the basis of quality, which should go hand in hand with financial contributions from students. The private sector will certainly add its support, making university education a lucrative business, with institutions competing for funding.

Therefore, the tools used to measure the quality of universities - evaluation reports - and especially the criteria they use will be closely watched and hotly debated.

The evaluation report presented to the public by the independent ARRA agency on December 14, the first complete and publicly available report on the issue, sparked heated reactions from critics who said it had combined "incompatible" criteria in its final rankings and therefore had come to the wrong conclusions.

"The worst thing about the ARRA report is that the agency used its chosen methodology only partially," said Comenius University Chancellor František Gahér.

"It introduced many criteria but didn't use them in the final evaluation."

Therefore, he said, "instead of judging the quality of schools based on the quality of its products, i.e. graduates, only a partial evaluation of university activities [education, research, etc.] was submitted. Hence, the final evaluation - the quality of students - is missing."

Gahér argued that "the methodology is problematic in itself and especially in its incomplete application". He said the part of the report judging the science and research field did not measure the foreign grants the schools had acquired - a dimension that he said testifies to the international reputation of scientists and researchers at each university.

The Comenius University head and the chancellor of Košice's Technical University, Juraj Sinay, agreed that the report lacks the decisive quality indicator - the success of graduates on the job market. The omission means the report is misleading, Gahér said, as the ratio of employed to unemployed graduates varies widely from university to university.

"Saying that universities in Slovakia lack quality without analyzing the success of their graduates [on the job market] is surprising," said Sinay. "I know many top experts, graduates of our technical programmes, who are recognized experts not only at home but also abroad. Many firms I have talked to say our graduates are well-prepared for work."

The ARRA's Michal Fedák said it was too early to talk about changes to the methodology the agency used. The agency first needed to evaluate the reactions to its recent report, he said.

"We can only say that the methodology won't be substantially changed," he said. "We followed the rankings used elsewhere in the world. Of course, the methodology we finally used was adjusted to Slovak conditions based on the accessibility and credibility of the data."


- Zuzana Habšudová

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