Making a move: Internationalisation
In the field of internationalization within the University of Ljubljana, the Faculty of Economics has held a pioneering role. It is one of the strongest pillars in the internationalization of Slovenian higher education. However, there have been complaints about disregarding the Slovenian language due to the delivery and teaching in English. How do you cater for your mother tongue at the FELU?
Metka Tekavčič: Internationalization has many dimensions and providing a pedagogical process in English is just one of them. Learning in English enables students to have a high quality, international study experience and exposes them to the global environment where they will subsequently live and work. The introduction of study in English is a natural response to the demands of globalization, which is now a daily fact rather than a future prospect. Essentially, we are aware of the importance of the Slovenian language, which is the foundation for maintaining our national and cultural identity. I am astonished to see the modest level of the Slovenian language used in various documents produced in state and governmental institutions. It appears that basic errors in Slovenian are made by the very individuals who, paradoxically, oppose the use of English for the fear of neglecting our mother tongue. In my opinion, this is sheer hypocrisy and there is simply no excuse for it. My wish is for students to socialize with their colleagues from different parts of the world during their studies, to learn about cultural differences as well as to learn tolerance in cohabitation and cooperation. We need to ensure that visitors coming to Slovenia are acquainted with our history and culture and gain knowledge of Slovenia while studying here. Our students make many new friendships while building foundations of subsequent business relations.
The more Slovenia will succeed economically, the easier it will be for us to provide funds for the prosperity of culture and art, including the nurture of our mother tongue. For this reason, FELU's door is widely open to internationalization. Students and educators come to Ljubljana to work with us and our students, and FELU's teachers visit our partner organizations around the world. The same applies to our professional staff in supporting our underlying processes. In this regard, by taking care of excellent research achievements, maintaining a high-quality pedagogical process and dynamically cooperating with the business environment, we take care of an exemplary use of our mother tongue while also involving our international students in the Slovenian cultural and art scene. At the same time, it is just as important that our students living abroad master foreign professional languages and communicate efficiently in an international environment, thus spreading good reputation of our institution and of Slovenia.
What changes would you like to see in higher education? What measures should be introduced by the new minister?
Metka Tekavčič: I wish for an environment that supports intellectualism and creative potential representing the essence of the university. The tendencies to contain public universities within the confines of classical business hours are devastating for the university. Such tendencies inhibit internationalization. In a nutshell, it is impossible to operate in the global world if you only teach and work 8 am to 5 pm or 9 am to 6 pm. The new minister should follow the national program guidelines for higher education and, through a coalition in the National Assembly, provide reasonable legal provisions to allow the university to carry out its mission and preserve its essence.
FELU's mission is also to offer young people entry into the business world. How do you participate in the business community?
Metka Tekavčič: Our cooperation with the business community is outstanding. Teachers, together with business representatives, guide students through numerous projects that companies are interested in. The results of these projects are excellent and beneficial to teachers, students, and companies. In addition, through our Career Centre, we help companies seek out students and graduates who are able and willing to quickly start working with companies through various forms of work relationships. It is also crucial that representatives from business participate in programs' steering committees responsible for quality monitoring of program implementation. They also explore opportunities for the improvement and development of new forms of cooperation that boost employers' involvement in the education of future experts in business and economics. Practitioners from domestic and international companies contribute an integral part to our pedagogical process, they transfer their professional experience to our students and enrich our educational content, of which we are very proud.
Tilen Balon (MSc, Secretary General at the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana): We are well aware of the high importance of cooperation with business community that can provide the experiences for students during their studies. This is crucial for the development of high-quality graduates and many companies support it. Cooperation with the business community in the pedagogical process is reflected in various forms of project work, lecturing by lecturers from business practice, implementation of projects in companies and institutions and the like. In this way, students learn about the business environment and expand their network of prospective employers. In the academic year 2017/2018, we successfully participated in the project, Creative Path to Practical Knowledge, which connected students and mentors with the business environment and the public sector as well. The faculty regularly cooperates with the business community in business conferences, events, round tables and by hosting influential and successful individuals from international companies and institutions. The majority of students are strongly aware of the importance of meeting with the business world during their study, they comprehend and successfully use it for their careers.
In addition to the bridge with the business community, what else needs to be emphasised as an important advantage of your graduates?
Tilen Balon: One of the most important advantages of our graduates is their international experience. The aim of the faculty is that every student is exposed to an international environment during their studies, whether it is an international exchange for which there are enormous opportunities, joining the international class in Ljubljana or at least interaction with foreign students in the context of social or sport activities. Among 200+ partner schools over the whole world, it is difficult to find courses or programs that would be completely different from ours, however exposure to an international environment, a six-month or a one-year stay abroad, and multicultural classes , are the key added value that graduates bring from the exchange . The same goes for those who choose to attend courses with foreign students who are on exchange in Ljubljana. Such experiences are also an excellent starting point for understanding the global world and are highly appreciated by employers. For our students, globalisation is not only a German car, a Korean phone, an Italian pair of jeans and an American drink, but writing and presenting group seminar work together with students from at least five different countries, at least three different continents and two different religions. Only then, they can learn what internationality and a multicultural environment really mean.
What else is important for graduates when they pass the faculty threshold and start their career?
Tilen Balon: The study is the preparation for a career path and good preparation is a combination of different activities and factors within the study process. Students, in addition to the learning content, international exposure and links to business world, also learn the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, understanding rules and deadlines. It is important for them to learn how to plan their time and thus develop appropriate values. None of our study programs is easy at any level, some courses are even very selective and students need to put in a lot of effort not only in understanding the topics, but ultimately also in the psychological preparation for the exam. All the excellent schools have one common characteristic, teaching students the importance of hard work, business ethics and perseverenes, which are also qualities valued among employers. Effort and hard work is very quickly recognised and appreciated in professional sport where everyone understands there are no shortcuts and that success does not happen overnight, the same is true for business or career success, it cannot be reaches without immense effort and hard work. . Therefore, students are encouraged during their study to develop both competence and relevant values. Some of our graduates work in multinationals such as Google and BMW. They are competitive on their career paths because they are not afraid of learning and at the same time, during their studies, they have become familiar with the challenges of the international environment, have a good theoretical basis and excellent insight into the operation of companies. This is what distinguishes them.. Therefore, graduates from our faculty have the upper hand with employers, they are able to get to their first good job quicker and easier.