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Professorial shortfall

LACK of money, though it is the most commonly cited reason for Slovak universities lagging behind their western counterparts, is definitely not the only problem higher education institutions are grappling with. Another shortage – of qualified teachers and researchers – showed up recently in an unlikely place: Comenius University (UK) in Bratislava.

LACK of money, though it is the most commonly cited reason for Slovak universities lagging behind their western counterparts, is definitely not the only problem higher education institutions are grappling with. Another shortage – of qualified teachers and researchers – showed up recently in an unlikely place: Comenius University (UK) in Bratislava.

UK takes pride in being the biggest and oldest university in Slovakia, and thus a renowned research and educational institution. Many were therefore taken by surprise when its Faculty of Philosophy (FiF) announced that it would not be able to open five master’s study programmes: andragogy (adult education), cultural science, marketing communication, religious studies and journalism.

The current accreditation of these study programmes expires in August 2009 and FiF has not asked to have it renewed since the faculty management is already aware that it cannot be granted due to the lack of professors to serve as guarantors.

The lost accreditation affects students finishing their bachelor studies this year and students in the first year of their masters’ programme. Those expecting to graduate from the master’s programme this year will not have a problem getting their regular diplomas if they finish by the end of August, when the current accreditation expires, the Sme daily wrote.

The heads of the respective departments refused to comment when approached by The Slovak Spectator, referring instead to an announcement on the FiF website that states: “with regard to the actual personnel situation at some departments of the faculty, the FiF UK has not asked to be conferred the right to realise the master’s study programmes andragogy, cultural science, marketing communication, religious studies and journalism in the process of comprehensive accreditation. The other study programmes for bachelor’s (65 programmes) and master’s (46 programmes) degrees, a list of which is published on the website of the faculty, will open in the academic year 2009/2010.”

In order to open courses and be able to issue diplomas with the state’s recognition, study programmes need to be accredited by a committee which comes under the Ministry of Education. One of its requirements is that a department must have a regular professor of less than 65 years of age in order to guarantee the accreditation. According to the Education Ministry, five study programmes at the UK do not fulfil this requirement.

“In this case, regular professors should have been inaugurated,” Andrea Stoklasová from the media policy department of the ministry told the TASR newswire. “If they haven’t done so yet, it is within the competence of the faculty to terminate the functioning of the study programmes.”

The president appoints new professors two or three times a year. First, the scientific council of the faculty nominates the new professors. After the nominations are approved by the Education Ministry the president can appoint the professors, who can immediately serve as accreditation guarantors. TASR reported that the president appointed 49 new professors in January 2009.

An alternative solution could be to hire professors from abroad, said Viktor Smieško, the chairman of the Council of Universities.

However, the problem with foreign professors is the financial compensation: salaries at Slovak universities are not comparable to those paid to professors at western universities.

“The schools will have to turn to the east rather than to the west,” Smieško said, referring to another possible source of foreign professors, as quoted by TASR.

For an interview with Renáta Králiková from the Slovak Governance Institute about the problems with accreditations go to www.spectator.sk.

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