The WEMBA business administration course, at $16,600 for the full three years, has educated 52 students.
photo: Courtesy WEMBA
Both Slovak and international business leaders say the need to improve and learn has increased, and that the honing of managerial skills means much more than it ever did under the past regime. Despite the high costs of such training, more and more Slovaks are signing up for management courses run by the two schools, believing the western management skills they will be taught will keep them a step ahead in the job market.
"I work in a highly competitive environment, where for a long time now top European insurance firms have been active in Slovakia," says Gorazd Šimko, head of the Košice branch of insurance company Dopravná poisťovňa, and holder of a professional diploma in management which he obtained from the City University Bratislava Foundation (NCUB).
"Because European giants know the latest management methods in this particular business, there's less and less room for learning from one's own mistakes. One has to have the management know-how not to make those mistakes in the first place."
The courses have seen climbing attendance rates despite the fact they are relatively expensive for Slovaks. More than 15,000 people have graduated from NCUB's six-month effective management course since 1990, while course attendance numbers have jumped from 41 in 1990 to an annual 1,000. Taught in English, the course costs 37,900 Slovak crowns ($777), about three times the average national monthly wage of $250 per month.
The Comenius Faculty of Management's three-year business administration WEMBA programme, much more expensive at $16,600, has seen 52 students pass through its doors since beginning in 1997, and includes mainly employees of financial institutions and international firms which have come to Slovakia since the fall of the iron curtain.
WEMBA course assistant Iveta Zacharovská says: "Even Slovak firms have started to realise that the competition on the market is tough, and quality management can save companies from making flawed decisions."
Need for quality managers
International firms have said they send their employees to the management courses because they are run by internationally recognised institutions (the WEMBA course is run in co-operation with the Webster University in St. Louis, USA, and the CUB Foundation is based on the British Open University's Business School).
The firms have also highlighted the standard western management skills which are taught at these institutions, and have said that it is this factor, above all, which has helped them to profit in ways which they would not have done had they sent their employees to courses run by domestic trainers.
"One of the advantages of the courses is that the lectures are held in English, which teaches the participants standard managerial terminology," said Martin Čambor, head of the HR department with the DHL International Slovakia courier firm, which is considering sending some of its employees to the courses.
"In an international firm, this means that employees from Slovakia can speak the same business language as their colleagues in western countries."
Another plus Čambor mentioned was that although international firms like DHL usually train their middle managers and supervisors at international headquarters, in the shipping firm's case in Brussels, local education allowed Slovak managers to meet and discuss country-specific problems.
"When western managers meet with Slovak managers it may be that one side doesn't quite understand the specific problems of the other side," Čambor said.
Although five of Slovakia's 20 universities have over the last 11 years started to offer management courses, foreign management trainers at the two courses believe that their advantage over what many Slovak universities offer is based on their practical approach to management studies rather than the traditional Slovak academic, theoretical approach to teaching.
"Our teachers are working professionals in the fields where they teach," said David Pamphlett, MBA director of the Webster University Vienna Campus.
DHL's Čambor agreed that unlike the heavily theoretical education provided in the majority of Slovak universities, the newer institutions offered space for the "practical application of management theory to Slovak managers' daily problems".
"Managers learn how to solve problems in their particular business environment rather than those of some theoretical world," he said.
The interest in the courses seems unlikely to diminish, those involved in the teaching say. "We believe that the MBA programmes will become more and more popular in Slovakia," said Pamphlett.
"Increased foreign investment in Slovakia, together with the move towards membership in the European Union, can only enhance this trend. Corporations want to ensure that their employees are kept up to date with modern management techniques and, on an individual basis, managers want to gain promotion within organisations, or at least want to make themselves more attractive in the global job market."
23. Apr 2001 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová