These City University students won't be eligible for a Slovak degree.
photo: Matt Reynolds
City University (CU) Dean Keith 'Carlos' Gutiérrez said on November 24 that he was "ecstatic" about the decision. "It's like building a house," he said. "What really counts, what everyone is really interested in, is the finished product. But of course, this [the accreditation] is a big step in the right direction in terms of our foundation, something that we can build on."
CU Vice-President Ján Rebro said that the school had to do three things to secure accreditation - change its name to a Slovak title (Vysoká Škola Manažmentu, or 'Management University'), promise not to request funding from the government and make minor changes to its course structure.
City University has already begun the process of establishing Vysoká Škola Manažmentu, which according to Peter Mederly, director of the Education Ministry's Universities Section, would begin functioning as of January 1, 2000. Once Vysoká Škola Manažmentu is fully established, all current students at City University will be automatically transferred, although their lecturers, administrators and classrooms will remain the same.
Courses at Vysoká Škola Manažmentu will be taught in both English and Slovak, depending on availability and student preferences. After three years of study, and upon successful completion of a thesis and final exam, students will be awarded a Slovak bachelor's degree. At that point they can head to the workforce, continue their education elsewhere, or complete only one additional year at City University to obtain a United State's bachelor's degree. School officials point out the unique opportunity of earning two bachelor's degrees in only four years.
Those presently attending the university will not be eligible for a Slovak diploma.
Students currently enrolled at City University, all of whom matriculated not knowing if City University would ever be accredited, were largely indifferent to the recent decision. Although most said they were pleased when interviewed by The Slovak Spectator on November 23, they added the issue was primarily a matter of pride, since school graduates had always been viewed favourably by multinationals in Slovakia as well as companies and educational institutions abroad.
Labour market professionals agree that in practical terms, accreditation will have little effect on the job opportunities of City University graduates. Stanislav Fančovič, a consultant for the human resources firm Take It, said that the recent decision probably wouldn't affect the thinking of employers, who were much more concerned with the skills and experience job candidates had to offer.
"City University graduates already have a good reputation mainly because of their fluency in English," said Fančovič. "So while accreditation might be good for them [City University] in terms of enrolment, reputation, and so on, I don't think many employers will notice."
Others not so lucky
The decision comes on the heels of a refusal by the government's Accreditation Commission in October to accredit various academic departments at three universities founded by the former government, a decision the schools themselves say was politically motivated.
The Education Ministry's Mederly said that both decisions had been based on "quality of education and professors, not politics. As far as the timing of the two [to accredit CU and not the three Mečiar-era schools], they are separate issues. City University is private and is not seeking to be included in the state system."
City University was established in Trenčín in 1991 and in Bratislava in 1992 as Slovakia's only full-time university-level insitution offering instruction exclusively in English. The school's curriculum consists primarily of business courses towards an American BSc degree in Business Management. Enrollment at both campuses has risen from 154 in the 1992-93 academic year to 732 in 1998-99.
In the past, students attending City University were not eligible to receive a university diploma recognized by the Slovak Education Ministry after finishing their three-year courses of study.
At the time of the school's inception, however, City University students were given the same tax and employment status that the country's state system students enjoyed.
In 1996, under the government of Vladimír Mečiar, the country's higher education laws were amended so that all universities had to be in accordance with requirements for Slovak state schools. Faced with the possibility of being shut down, City University applied for accreditation within a month of the passage of the new amendment.
This accreditation was given to CU on May 25, 1998 by the Mečiar government's Accreditation Commission, but was not voted on in parliament until this month.
Gutiérrez said that at times the drawn-out accreditation process felt like a "dance party where no one knows the music," explaining that Education Ministry officials had no rules or precedents to follow in accrediting a private university. "When the new government came in, things began moving more smoothly," he said. "It was like a log jam being broken."