SLOVAKIA’S tradition of higher education in business and economics is not that old. But the field doesn’t need a long history to ensure a bright future, according to the rector of the University of Economics in Bratislava.
When the Second World War broke out, many Czech post-secondary schools were closed. Among them was the Higher School of Business in Prague, which had become a centre of business education for both Czech and Slovak students. Soon after that, in 1940, the Higher School of Business was established in Bratislava. First it was a private institution, but later it was granted public school status.
The school’s status, as well as its name, changed several times since then, yet it kept building the tradition of economics education in the country. Today it is known as the University of Economics in Bratislava (EUBA).
In terms of the number of students and teachers, EUBA is currently the biggest university in Slovakia that provides comprehensive economics and management education, rector Rudolf Sivák told The Slovak Spectator.
The university offers a total of 69 study programmes at all three degree levels. It is the only university in Slovakia that offers some of those programmes, Sivák said.
Among the university’s most popular programmes are finance, banking and investment, offered by the Faculty of National Economy; business activities in foreign trade, at the Faculty of Commerce; and economic diplomacy, at the Faculty of International Relations.
This academic year, EUBA launched three new study programmes, all of them taught in foreign languages. International financial management is taught in German, international management is taught in English, and sales management is taught in French, in cooperation with University Pierre Mendes France in Grenoble.
The German-taught programme stands out, Sivák said, because it was established as a double-diploma programme together with Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg.
The international management programme, taught in English, aims to give students a thorough knowledge of corporate management and business management in an international environment.
The university has made international recognition and cooperation a priority for its future development, Sivák said. To reach that goal, EUBA has become a member of several international organisations, such as the European Association of Universities, the Consortium for International Double Degrees and the International Association of Universities.
“Last year, EUBA signed the Magna Charta, the document signed by rectors of hundreds of European universities that recognizes the role of universities in the development of European civilization, and in that way it expressed its intention to support and enforce the essential values of the European university tradition, and to add to the development of a common European space for higher education and research,” Sivák told The Slovak Spectator.
So far, EUBA has signed cooperation agreements with 70 universities around the world. These agreements allow its students to spend a semester or two abroad.
In 2007, 280 EUBA students studied abroad, and 140 students from other countries came to EUBA, Sivák said. Most foreign students came from Germany, France, Spain, Austria, Italy and Turkey.
Most student exchanges are carried out within the Erasmus and CEEPUS exchange programmes and the National Scholarship Programme of the Slovak Republic. Thanks to international agreements, the university also draws students with Slovak citizenship who come from foreign countries, such as Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania. Sivák said there is remarkable interest among German students who want to pursue their doctoral studies at EUBA.
Besides the programmes that are fully taught in foreign languages, foreign students can also choose from about 50 subjects taught in English, German and French at EUBA. Sivák says the favourite among students is a course called diplomacy in practice, with weekly guest lectures by diplomats accredited in Slovakia.
“We expect the number of foreign students at EUBA to grow in the future, and therefore the university is preparing a wider selection of subjects taught in foreign languages,” Sivák said.
To become more attractive for international students, EUBA is also working to address the quality of its science and research. The European Association of Universities evaluated the school and made several recommendations, which the university is gradually starting to fulfill, Sivák said. Among the steps it has already taken to improve its level of science and research, EUBA has established a research centre for economics and management and a centre of excellence for doctoral students.
“It’s clear that the focus is currently on the young generation of teachers and researchers, who will ensure a higher quality of research in the future, especially in terms of international criteria,” Sivák told The Slovak Spectator. In order to carry out these expectations, conditions need to change, and especially financial conditions – not only at EUBA, but at Slovak higher education institutions in general, he added.