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Bridging the gap: Private universities charting new territory

Many Slovak universities, especially the newer, privately run schools like the British-model City University Bratislava (CUB) and the American-style City University Bellevue (CU), have begun to address the 'personality gap' (see lead story, page 7). Carlos Gutierrez, Associate Dean of European Programs at CU, said that in his experience, Slovak students lacked the very self-confidence and independent thinking that are essential for business success. "Students here have problems with their attitudes," he said, "and our task is to challenge these attitudes."
Ján Rebro, CU's Director of Central European Operations, concurred with Gutierrez's diagnosis. "Slovaks from history tend to be shy, closed to new ideas, afraid of making decisions," he said, "but we force them into situations where they have to rely on themselves and defend their decisions."

Many Slovak universities, especially the newer, privately run schools like the British-model City University Bratislava (CUB) and the American-style City University Bellevue (CU), have begun to address the 'personality gap' (see lead story, page 7). Carlos Gutierrez, Associate Dean of European Programs at CU, said that in his experience, Slovak students lacked the very self-confidence and independent thinking that are essential for business success. "Students here have problems with their attitudes," he said, "and our task is to challenge these attitudes."

Ján Rebro, CU's Director of Central European Operations, concurred with Gutierrez's diagnosis. "Slovaks from history tend to be shy, closed to new ideas, afraid of making decisions," he said, "but we force them into situations where they have to rely on themselves and defend their decisions."

Rebro said that CU's basic three year degree course was based on an American model, but that it had been developed specifically to target the needs of corporations operating in Slovakia. "Before we started our branch in Trenčín," he said, "we did a lot of research among local businessmen to see what was really needed in the labor market." What the school found, he said, was that "there is a big demand for people with communications skills and basic business skills; and of course, in today's business world, without English you are lost."

The orientation of courses towards communication skills had not been to everyone's liking at first - "some of our students complained about all the communications courses they had to take" - but the courses have eventually proven their merits.

But not everyone is sold on CU's methods. Marián Kubeš, a founding partner of Bratislava recruitment firm Maxman Consultants, said that "City University Bellevue says that it covers both aspects - formal education and personal skills. I say it's not true." The problem, Kubeš explained, was that "it's not just enough to teach these skills as academic material - you have to develop them through practice, through feedback and intensive, small-group courses."

Nevertheless, CU can lay claim to be something of a pioneer in personal skills education in Slovakia. "Our state educational system absolutely doesn't focus on skills like communication, negotiation, conflict resolution," said Kubeš. "At least, when we train business people who have graduated from City University, they know what the term 'interpersonal skills' means."

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