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ALTHOUGH the cultural world in Slovakia seems, in general, to suffer from endless financial difficulties, the University of Performing Arts in Bratislava is coping well. It offers a wide range of courses in theatre, drama, puppetry, music, dance, film and television, and it's still attractive to students who wish to pursue a career in the performing arts. Since it was the first and has for a long time been the only institution providing university-level education in the performing arts in Slovakia, many famous Slovak artists call it their alma mater.

ALTHOUGH the cultural world in Slovakia seems, in general, to suffer from endless financial difficulties, the University of Performing Arts in Bratislava is coping well. It offers a wide range of courses in theatre, drama, puppetry, music, dance, film and television, and it's still attractive to students who wish to pursue a career in the performing arts. Since it was the first and has for a long time been the only institution providing university-level education in the performing arts in Slovakia, many famous Slovak artists call it their alma mater.

The University of Performing Arts in Bratislava (VŠMU) was founded in 1949. The founding act passed by the Slovak National Council stated that the school should provide education in four specialisations: music, drama, dance and film. Initially only two branches, music and drama, were opened. A few years later they were turned into faculties.

Today, the VŠMU comprises three faculties - Theatre and Puppets, Music and Dance and finally Film and Television, which was established in 1990 as the only university-level school for the audiovisual media in Slovakia. In addition, a stand-alone Language Centre works within VŠMU, providing language training for students from all three faculties.

The faculties of VŠMU offer artistic study programmes, such as dance, singing, dramaturgy, screenplay writing, film directing, theatre directing, puppetry, acting and many others. However, there are also more theoretical subjects - as well as entire theoretical study programmes - taught at VŠMU. These include film theory, theatre theory and theory of music. According to the rector, Ondrej Šulaj, all the existing study programmes are consistently popular among students.

"We have never experienced any radical decrease, on the contrary in the last couple of years interest - particularly in artistic study programmes at the Film and Television Faculty - has increased among candidates," Šulaj told The Slovak Spectator. None of the VŠMU faculties is planning to launch any new study programmes in the coming academic year, he added. Despite the variety of study programmes available to students at the VŠMU, it is among the smallest universities in Slovakia when it comes to the number of students.

Interestingly enough, there are 122 foreign students studying at VŠMU at the moment, which is more than 10 percent of all its students. VŠMU is thus one of the few schools for whom increasing the number of international students is not a priority.

Nonetheless, Šulaj says conditions for international students at VŠMU are improving. In the last academic year the Music and Dance Faculty launched a pilot project offering English- and German-taught alternatives to all the study programmes in its curriculum.

"There is a remarkable level of interest among students in this kind of study," Šulaj told The Slovak Spectator.

Most of the present foreign students of the VŠMU come from within the EU, but there are also Japanese, Korean and Chinese students at the university. They come to Slovakia with the support of various government stipends and scholarships. However, many students use their own resources to finance their studies, Šulaj said. There are exchange programmes, such as the European Commission's Erasmus scheme, which offer the opportunity not just for international students to do a semester or two in Slovakia, but also for Slovak students of VŠMU to go abroad. According to Šulaj, in the field of art, such exchanges have even more value.

"Personal contact between a student and a significant foreign artist plays an important role here as well," he told The Slovak Spectator.

Regular participation in international festivals and presentations presents students with a similar chance to compare the results of their work with the artistic outcomes of the most advanced art schools in the EU.

"The dozens of awards won by our students prove that we are among the top art schools," Šulaj said. These awards are the pride of the VŠMU. As an outstanding artist the rector mentioned soprano Adriana Kučerová, a third-degree student of the university, who has been very successful on European and world opera stages.

In general, Šulaj expressed satisfaction with the outcomes of the work of the VŠMU's faculties. In one year the school produces around 800 concerts, of which 200 are performed abroad. In addition, the students put on around 150 theatre performances and produce around 150 films of different genres.

"These productions are regularly presented to Slovak and foreign audiences," Šulaj said.

It seems the only remaining problem is to pay for all this. In fact, VŠMU needs grants and sponsors' support for many of its activities.

Topic: Spectator College


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