Vaclav Roubicek, CSc., Rector
VSB – Technical University of Ostrava
Ostrava, Czech Republic
Lecture delivered at the International Workshop: Engineering Education in the Global World, devoted to 80th Anniversary Celebration of the Donetsk State Technical University, Donetsk, Ukraine
June 1, 2001
Ten years ago, in Czech Republic, the important social-political and economic changes took place to which our University had to react. This stage of development had both positive and negative sides.
The most important positive features are:
The main negative features are:
VSB - Technical University of Ostrava, even in conditions unfavourable for technical institutions, shows continuous growth in the number of students since 1989/90 academic year. We were the single University in Czech Republic to open two new departments of technical orientation – the Department of Electrical Engineering and Informatics and the Building Department.
To traditional engineering educational programs (they are now called Master's programs) there were gradually added Bachelor educational programs mostly as parallel programs offered besides the Master programs. That is, students could have studied either in the 3-year Bachelor degree programs or in 5-year Master degree programs. The new Bachelor’s programs in 1999-2000 academic year were taken up by 10% of the students enrolled. The Doctoral program was broadened and now approximately 8% of our students study in it.
The direct predecessor of the Bologna Declaration was the joint declaration about harmonic construction of European educational system in higher educational establishments. It was signed in May, 1998 in Paris by ministers of four of the most famous countries of EU and is known as Sorbonna Declaration. This Declaration demands knowledge from Europe as a counterbalance of financial and economic Europe. The Declaration underlines the irreplaceable role and responsibility of universities both in the development of European scales in the field of culture, and in the process of creating European sphere of higher education as the main method of developing citizens' mobility and measure of population employment in the total continent's development.
Bologna Declaration further extends the ideas of Sorbonna Declaration. As a main objective it seeks to raise international competitiveness of European higher educational system and achieve its international attractiveness. This Declaration marks the year 2010 as the target year for implementation and shows concrete steps with the help of which it is possible to achieve the goal. For example, this program includes:
The Declaration was signed by the representatives of 29 countries of Europe, and though it expresses political will to create a European sphere of higher education based on inter-governmental cooperation, it requires the involvement of other governmental and non-governmental organisations active in higher education and the universities themselves.
One of the first results was a document prepared by the European Conference of Rectors (CRE) on behalf of European Union Committee for Higher Education and Research in Strasbourg in March, 2001. This document clearly defines Bologna Declaration as a key instrument in transforming European higher educational establishments.
There are 12 educational programs for Bachelors, 14 for Masters and 16 Doctoral programs accredited at six departments of the University. All of them, with little exception, are present both in full-time and distant forms of education.
Training Bachelors is mostly spread at Manufacturing Engineering (”Machine-Building”) Department (26,6% of registered students) and at Metallurgical and Material Science Department (10,9% of registered students). Here by parallel education it is meant as follows: Possibility to enter Master educational program is provided by the form of compensatory study. Candidates for this study are numerous but the number of those who finish the course successfully is considerably lower.
Master educational programs coming out of Bachelor educational programs are alternatively accredited for standard three-years education at the Department of Metallurgy and Material Science only. At Mining and Geology Department these programs exist for only some of the specialities (Environmental Engineering, Geographic Information Systems and Safety in Industry) and the standard duration of education in these programs is only for two years. At the rest of the departments the so called short Master programs are not accredited.
VSB - Technical University of Ostrava was one of the first universities to introduce credit system of education which is compatible with ECTS. It has been implemented at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Informatics since 1991/92 academic year, at Manufacturing Engineering Department since 1992/93, and then gradually at all the other departments. At the present moment all the six departments use credit system according to 5Th clause of Single educational and examination regulation of VSB - Technical University of Ostrava. Manufacturing Engineering Department and Economic Department made up information packages in English in the framework of the Socrates/ECTS project.
In spite of all rules, agreements and other strong outer forces and pressures, it is necessary to remember that the biggest possible power of changes is in hands of academic staff at every higher educational institution. Transformation has to be prepared and done with our own forces.
The main objectives can be summarized as follows:
It's a paradox, but the decrease of young people's interest in technical specialties of institutions is an advantage for us. We do not experience any pressure while creating private institutions and institutions of technical education and, conversely, we are supported in finding new ways on how to attract students to these branches. In connection with this it is possible, and even necessary, to widen the demand in the sphere of professionally oriented educational programs for Bachelors.
The project of possible multi-stage education originates from serial structured education. We have to distinguish the students who, after finishing a block of obligatory subjects, intend to continue their education to obtain Master's degrees, from those who want to finish their education right after the first stage of education. This differentiation is possible if students choose subjects or a block of subjects in the credit system already created by us.
The condition necessary to continue education in the framework of the Master's program is completion of the Bachelor's education and obligatory subjects in this training, as measured by the number of credits in different subjects. Students willing to continue their education (after some time spent in job training in the home country or abroad) to get Master's degree but who, however, do not respond to the second condition, should attend and finish the so-called compensatory study. This course is a part of Master's educational program. The same approach could be used with Bachelor graduates from other universities. In this connection it will be necessary to re-consider the question of how to accept part of the education received in "Higher Educational Schools" when entering Bachelor's programs in the university.
The project of serial education looks simple, but it's quite difficult to work out its contents and program.
There are some aspects/goals we have to keep in mind:
We think that the real problem is not whether we should do transformation at all but how or in what term to do it. There will be some moderating facts acting against these transformation attempts. They are inherent caution, unwillingness to break traditions, desire to save good old methods and organization of educational process, and also conventionality of estimating Bachelor as adequate for the university. Dealing with the whole range of details connected with overcoming traditions will probably acquire much time. We want the discussion and preparatory work to start immediately as we cannot afford to be isolated from Czech and European higher educational establishments. The other important thing is that preparatory work should be based on strong cooperation inside our university .
Thank you for your attention.
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