IF THE government is going to insist that students pay for their university tuition they must ensure that the students see value for money. Without it, these "customers" will simply go elsewhere, and if Slovakia joins the European Union next year, they can do just that. Already 8,200 study in the Czech Republic and Austria.
As paying customers, students should not have to put up with crumbling buildings, ancient textbooks, and non-functioning or non-existent equipment. But will any of that really change in an education sector that is more firmly rooted in its communist past than its European future?
Under present conditions the new charges would simply bring higher bonuses for higher management at the universities, higher numbers of students per class, lower entry requirements and lower standards. And, of course, it would only be a matter of time before state budgets for education are reduced in response to the university's new income.
Each year the university sector looks more like the secondary-school sector; a teaching machine with higher teaching loads and little focus on real research. The new proposals will simply accelerate that process by putting even more emphasis on quantity rather than quality.
If Slovakia is going to be able to compete in a unified Europe it needs to realise that its skilled workforce will be its best asset. In order to maintain that workforce, Slovakia must reform its ageing university sector and give Slovaks an education that they can be proud of - and willing to pay for.
31. Mar 2003 at 0:00