Reader feedback: Extra time for students and faculty

Re: Debate ensues over higher education, News Shorts, Volume 10, Number 44

I am happy to see the appearance of the debate on higher education. The hope of expanding educational opportunities for Slovak students has more or less been ignored, because, as in the words of Libor Vozár, there are already "too many" universities in Slovakia. If that were the case, how does Mr Vozár account for the sad fact that far too many qualified and desiring young people cannot find a seat in one of these too many universities? How to account for the fact that the one accredited private university in Slovakia (City University, USA) has a booming student enrolment, with students willing to work, struggle, and sometimes borrow to pay a steep tuition fee rather than forego a university education at all? Which was the option the Slovak government offered? Get in, or go away.

If there are in fact "too many universities" in Slovakia, then let competition weed them out. Slovakia has an educational accreditation agency, and it should do its job, which would easily eliminate the "quality" problem. Only allow those universities that are, or can be, accredited in Slovakia to operate. That is not the same as simply banning them altogether. Aren't there already a few Slovak universities that do not have accreditation? It might be helpful to deal with those first.

Juraj Sinay's claim that "foreign universities" would be forced to import "foreign" professors, who would, for who knows what reason, not "have time for consultations with students or research," is false, based on the example of the foreign university already operating in Slovakia, of which I was once a member of faculty. The "foreign" faculty members spent far more time in student meetings and consultations than did their Slovak faculty counterparts. There was, in my time anyway, a mix of foreign and Slovak faculty - about 60-40 in favour of the foreign.

A common response from Slovak students to their foreign teachers was to praise them for being actual human beings, not just teaching machines, and express their surprise at just how much of their time the foreign faculty was happy to give them. One would think Mr Sinay would have checked this claim with the only students in Slovakia who actually study with a foreign faculty, before uttering it in public.

Also, compensatory time off is commonly granted at Slovakia's one private university for faculty members working on research and publications. I was one of the beneficiaries of this policy. So that claim is also false. The bigger problem in Slovak universities (as well as in many in the West) is that faculty members are under so much pressure for research and publication that they barely even pretend to teach.

The statement by Andrej Salner, supported by the Slovak Education Ministry is the accurate perception of the higher education dilemma in Slovakia, and I hope it is the one that will be taken seriously.

Don Merritt,
Berlin, Germany

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