More than just transportation

THE NORTHERN Slovak city of Žilina has been educating transportation engineers for decades. The University of Žilina, originally called the College of Railways and later the University of Transport and Communications, has been contributing to research and the education of the young Slovak technical intelligentsia since 1953.

THE NORTHERN Slovak city of Žilina has been educating transportation engineers for decades. The University of Žilina, originally called the College of Railways and later the University of Transport and Communications, has been contributing to research and the education of the young Slovak technical intelligentsia since 1953.

According to rector Ján Bujňák, science and research have always been the priorities at the University of Žilina. There are now seven faculties with more than 50 departments and seven institutes in Žilina.

The research carried out here is mostly focused on transportation, telecommunications, communication management and marketing, mechanical engineering, high mountain biology and many other fields. Within these fields, there are 63 bachelor, 49 masters and 31 doctoral full-time study programmes. Almost all faculties offer either single subjects or whole programmes taught in English or German on all three study levels.

In a way it's a necessity, because the university has been part of the European Union's Socrates/Erasmus programme since 1997. According to Bujňák, it is one of Slovakia's most active universities in this programme.

"Currently one of the most important tools of international cooperation in Europe is the new lifelong learning programme," Bujňák said.

Erasmus now falls under this new programme. According to Bujňák, more than 80 students and 80 teachers will spend a semester or two at different European universities this academic year, and at least 50 foreign students will come to the University of Žilina.

Most of the university's accredited programmes are of a technical nature, but other specialised programmes are becoming more popular with prospective students, Bujňák said. Those include security and crisis management, rescue services and the new BSc Ranger programme.

In the future, Bujňák also expects graduate students to be more involved in scientific and research activities at the university.

"Since the results of research activities significantly influence most of the university's activities, in the near future we want to more intensively support the creation of excellent university-wide research laboratories, centres and institutes based on interdisciplinary teams," Bujňák told The Slovak Spectator.

The research centres and institutes will not only let students and researchers from the University of Žilina interact, but also foreign experts and institutions from outside the university, Bujňák said.

The school is also paying a lot of attention to finding ways to improve the research and development infrastructure, especially the laboratory equipment.

"Good infrastructure, together with quality research staff, creates the basic prerequisite for success in competing for projects from national and multi-national grant programmes," Bujňák said.

Even though the school must improve its research infrastructure, Bujňák says, there are already working groups at the university where internationally-recognised, high-quality projects are carried out by experts from various fields.

Some of these activities resulted in the creation of a centre of excellence at the University of Žilina. The European Commission recognised the university's Centre for Transportation Research for its excellence in science, research and organisation.

Last month the university hosted an international event: the European Productivity Conference 2007 (EPC). It was organised by the Slovak Productivity Centre, one of the university's research centres.

According to Peter Magvaši, a member of the organising board, EPC 2007 focused on EU competitiveness, innovation, the knowledge-based economy and productivity. Besides participants from the University of Žilina and the European Association of National Productivity Centres, the conference was attended by top representatives of the Slov ak government, the International Labour Organisation, the Slovak Academy of Sciences and representatives from the industrial sector.

"The conference confirmed that Slovakia has the potential in science and research to contribute to the European Community, not only in science, but also in industry," Magvaši told The Slovak Spectator.

This was the first time a new EU member state hosted the EPC, and the fact that the conference took place in Slovakia shows that the European Association of National Productivity Centres recognises what the Slovak Productivity Centre has accomplished, Magvaši told The Slovak Spectator earlier this year.

The conference let the University of Žilina prove that it is a suitable environment for an international exchange of ideas, Bujňák said.

The university has a strong position in the field of European education and research, he added: graduates have no problem finding a job on foreign labour markets, around 100 teachers take part in exchange programmes to teach at the biggest European universities, and the university has been home to research projects of an international importance.

"The faculties and institutes of the University of Žilina react to the needs of research and development of industrial partners, and the products that are developed are used in the advanced countries of the world," Bujňák told The Slovak Spectator.

The faculties will re-evaluate their activities under a complex accreditation of the university planned in 2008, he added.

University of Žilina
Rector:Ján Bujňák

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