Building a research university

THE ALEXANDER Dubček University of Trenčín (TnUAD) is among the newer Slovak universities, with a history going back only as far as 1997. However, the rector, Miroslav Mečár, believes that the university has proved its potential to fulfil its vision of becoming a respected educational and research institution in the region, with the long-term goal of gaining an equal position among the best European research universities.

THE ALEXANDER Dubček University of Trenčín (TnUAD) is among the newer Slovak universities, with a history going back only as far as 1997. However, the rector, Miroslav Mečár, believes that the university has proved its potential to fulfil its vision of becoming a respected educational and research institution in the region, with the long-term goal of gaining an equal position among the best European research universities.

TnUAD is currently alma mater to the more than 7,200 students studying at one of its five faculties: the Faculties of Special Techniques, Mechatronics, Industrial Technologies, Health Services, and Social and Economic Relations. During the 10 years since it was established the university has constructed several new buildings as well as new labs that allow students to gain practical knowledge of the automotive industry and the dynamics of economic processes.

According to Mečár, study programmes like Human Resources and Personnel Management, Management of Production Quality, Political Science, and Nursing are among the most popular study programmes at TnUAD. As part of the process of complex accreditation of its study programmes, which will take place in October, the university's management board plans to cut the number of bachelor study programmes and add some new masters and PhD study programmes to the faculties' portfolios. Aside from complex accreditation, the management board is at the moment focused mainly on the financial stabilisation of the university, Rector Mečár said.

"Only once we have solved these two questions [i.e. complex accreditation and financial stabilisation], will we be able to move forward towards further development of the university," Mečár told The Slovak Spectator, explaining that at the moment there are no specific plans to widen the scope of TnUAD's educational or research activities or establish new faculties.

"We would instead prefer to build new laboratories at our existing faculties and work on our programme to build centres of excellence, a business incubator and so on," the rector said.
"The new management of TnUAD is trying to build a modern research and development university based on the achievements of its predecessors and continuing its involvement with the VILA projects related to glass production," Mečár said, referring to the VILA Centre of Glass Competence that functions as a research centre within the university.

Apart from increasing its research and development competences, TnUAD's management board is pondering the educational activities of the university. Among its aims are increasing the number of international students at TnUAD. Every year they contact new foreign partners and present the university and the city, as well as Slovakia, abroad.

"We consider it a great opportunity for our teachers as well as our students to meet students from other countries and cultures as well as to practice their language skills," Mečár said. Currently, international students have the opportunity to study in English and in Russian at the Faculty of Social and Economic Relations, in the field of economics and political science. The Faculty of Mechatronics accepts international students who want to study in Slovak.

"In the future we are planning to prepare a wide range of study programmes taught entirely in foreign languages for foreign as well as Slovak TnUAD students," the rector told The Slovak Spectator. This academic year there are 23 TnuAD students on exchanges at foreign universities and the rector hopes the number will rise in coming years.

"It's a unique chance to experience life in a foreign country, to try and improve one's language skills and to test one's skills and abilities," Mečár said, adding that being able to mention a study stay or internship abroad on their CVs can be very helpful for students when job-hunting.
"We believe there are no real differences between TnuAD and other European universities: our students possess international experience, language skills and the ability to present themselves in various international youth organisations," the rector said. What the university really lacks is public awareness of its activities, and how much it has already achieved through its research projects and the problems it has solved. According to Mečár, TnUAD will focus on these as it tries to improve its standing.

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