THE HEADS of the 70-year-old Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava are optimistic about the future: applications for enrolment are steady and graduates are finding good jobs after they leave school.
People with a technical education are crucial for foreign investors, and for domestic business on all levels, said STU rector Vladimír Báleš.
"The economy is powered by industry, which has 10 percent of the country's GDP," he said. "That means graduates from technical fields have power, and therefore so does the Slovak University of Technology."
One way to attract students and improve the quality of the study programmes is cooperating with the industrial sector. According to Báleš, STU tries to link research and education with industry in all fields, including electronic technology, information technology, chemical technologies and biotechnologies, civil engineering and infrastructure, mechanical engineering, and architecture.
STU recently extended its links with the energy industry sector by signing an agreement with power producer Enel Slovenské Elektrárne. The partnership will lead to a new interdisciplinary study programme focused on the energy industry, according to a release from Enel.
"These efforts are important in order to make the general public understand the importance of technical education, and the part it plays in developing the economy of the Slovak Republic," Báleš said.
Each faculty creates its study programmes so that they reflect the needs of the industry, he said.
"Young people are especially interested in the trends in mechanical engineering and the related automotive industry," Báleš told The Slovak Spectator. The university's study programmes that are related to those fields have seen a 30-percent increase in the number of applicants, he said.
The producers of cars and car components are looking for young technology experts with university education and language skills, according to Marián Králik, the deputy dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of STU. Employers want graduates from various study programmes - not only automotive experts, but also those who are familiar with mechanical production tech-nologies, logistics, quality control and other fields.
The faculty has close links with industry in these areas as well. The cooperation has gone as far as founding the Economic Council of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering that aims to bring together experts from academia and industry. The council's first session was held in June.
The council aims to forge closer connections between research, education and practice. It also plans to create technology innovation centres that would help to bring industry closer to the school.
"We want to build strong research and development centres at STU, based on the developing areas of industry and society," Báleš told The Slovak Spectator. "This cooperation should bring us an increased amount of financial resources."
Like other university rectors, Báleš says universities in Slovakia are under-funded. But he is taking an active approach to financing. STU has plans to participate in EU projects and apply for grants from structural funds.
The university also wants to improve conditions for foreign students, since they are the ones who bring money to the school's budget. The school heads want to establish an Institute of Engineering Studies for foreign students to coordinate and organise their studies at STU.
"We are continuously working on improving the social conditions for foreign students, such as the comfort of their accommodation, catering and sports opportunities," Báleš said.
The faculties offer a number of study programmes in English in faculties such as Civil Engineering and Chemical and Food Technologies. According to rector, each faculty has sections of particular subjects that are taught in a foreign language.
This year the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering saw a jump in the number of students studying in English. There are three students from Saudi Arabia and around 100 students from Kuwait registered in the first year of the bachelor level, Králik said.
The increased interest from Kuwait is adding extra demand on the teachers, Králik said.
"The teaching must be done by more teachers now, which for many is a motivation to improve the quality of their English communication skills," he told The Slovak Spectator.
And these students, unlike Slovaks, pay tuition fees, which brings revenue to the faculty.
"Therefore we are obliged to take the quality of teaching in English . . . as one of the main tasks of the faculty staff," Králik said.
English is the language of science and research, and using it in the Slovak academic environment can help the schools get closer to European standards - which Báleš said STU is trying to do.
"In terms of enthusiasm, knowledge, achievements and teaching experience, we are at least comparable with the rest of Europe," Báleš said. "But in terms of equipment, and most of all funding, we are far behind."
| SLOVAK UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, BRATISLAVA
15. Oct 2007 at 0:00 | Michaela Stanková