The Slovenia Times

Investment or burden?



The answer must be a clear "NO". Foreigners studying in Slovenia should not be seen through the lens of short-term economic interests, but rather as an investment in the future of the country. Today we often hear words such as integration, networking, cooperation and cultural understanding. What better way to achieve this than to expose our youth to a multicultural environment which only foreign students can bring into our classrooms; to new ideas, new knowledge, and new ways of living, working and thinking? Foreign students should be encouraged to come to Slovenia by Slovenian universities offering high-quality internationally-recognized programmes, as well as providing the students with financial support for their studies. Such an investment in foreign students would have a knock-on effect since it would also benefit domestic students who would have the opportunity of interacting and exchanging ideas with foreign students. After completing their studies and returning to their own countries, foreign students, more often than not, retain a connection with Slovenia, its culture and the people they have met on both a personal and professional level - in science, education, culture and, last but not least, in business, where they represent a tremendous opportunity for promoting Slovenian business and furthering economic cooperation between Slovenia and their country of origin. These are all strong arguments to put more effort into making Slovenia an attractive study destination in the European context. Although European programmes of mobility currently offer the opportunity of short-term exchanges between Slovenia and other EU countries, we need to offer better incentives and opportunities, including scholarships, to attract students from the EU to complete an entire level of tertiary education in Slovenia at undergraduate or, even better, postgraduate level. This will ensure the maximum benefit from the presence of international students in our classrooms and at the same time offer enough time for the creation of life-long connections, which would lead to long-term cooperation between these students and Slovenia, especially important in the business and scientific communities. At the same time, Slovenia as a developed country should and must play an active role in the global arena. This international responsibility includes scholarships for foreign students to obtain degrees in Slovenia. Such efforts would create a win-win situation for all parties. Although Slovenia could and should accept students from all over the world, the region where it can have the biggest impact is in the Balkans, the ex-Yugoslav and other Stability Pact countries. Support to these countries is given in many different forms, including a number of special scholarship programmes for citizens of these countries that have been set up in the last few years. The results of these programmes are beginning to show in the increasing number of students from those countries applying for scholarships to study in Slovenia at different levels of secondary and tertiary education. The question now is: "What are we doing about it?" Slovenia's higher education institutions are no longer included in the top 500 universities in the world, undergraduate programmes are only conducted in Slovene and even today, some faculties still do not have web pages or material printed in English. For some PhD candidates, the time taken between the start of the application process until the PhD thesis proposal is accepted can be over a year and includes a substantial financial investment. There are some bright examples, however. Among them is the Economics Faculty of the University of Ljubljana with its market approach to international higher education and the IEDC Bled School of Management with their truly international professional programmes, with around 70 % of students coming from one of the 56 participating countries other than Slovenia. Much is also expected from the newly established Jozef Stefan International Postgraduate School with their programmes in new technologies.


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