After financing secondary schools, including the private PORG schools in Prague and Ostrava for the past three years, Martin Roman, CEO of the state-owned power utility ČEZ, has decided to establish a private university specializing in law and economics. The first students could begin their studies in a little more than three years.
Establishing a private university promises to be a more expensive undertaking than the private PORG secondary schools, and Roman has invited others to contribute to the project. During a recent visit to the Jan Kepler secondary school in Prague, Roman, accompanied by Marek Johanes — son of the lobbyist Vladimír Johanes — and Petr Leidl from the consultancy McKinsey, revealed some details about the latest plans for the private university.
Roman previously said that only private schools are suitable for sponsorship projects. Yet given the perception that existing private Not a single student said they would consider applying to a private university.“universities” and higher education institutions generally have low academic levels and poor, if not dubious, reputations, Roman has clearly decided that a fresh start is preferable.
During the discussion with the 50 or so secondary school students present, who were all in their final year, not a single student said they would consider applying to a private university, perhaps due to the various scandals with “express degrees” from private institutions.
Roman and the founders of the new university project, however, insist that their concept would not become a “title factory” or “diploma mill” but will offer a prestigious education based on the model of British and North American universities.
The basic concept for the university has been decided: It is to specialize in law and economics; demands of students will be very high, and prominent figures from various sections of the economy should lecture there. “Ideally, someone like Vladimír Dlouhý will teach economics, and a partner from an elite law firm should teach business law,” Roman told the Jan Kepler school pupils. Dlouhý was Czech minister of industry and trade from 1992 to ’97 and is a lecturer of economics at the Charles University in Prague.
Johanes, who has two degrees from British universities, explained the concept for the planned university in more detail. In addition to the core subjects, students will also study history, languages and other humanities. “Students should graduate from the university with a perfect knowledge of a world language, or with a very good knowledge of two foreign languages,” Johanes said.
Roughly half of the costs for running the university should come from tuition fees of around Kč 100,000 per year. The founders say the university will also take students on scholarships.
One idea for the university is to attract students from across Central Europe, which would mean that the curriculum would be taught in English. On the other hand, if Czech law is to be taught, it would have to be taught in Czech. ‘The school could easily become a factory for managers ... focused on producing employees for a few firms
A considerable number of high school students said they would be unlikely to apply if the university was located too far from Prague’s center. “We will either renovate and enlarge a secondary school in Prague, or we’ll build a modern building with large lecture halls and sports facilities,” Johanes said.
However, doubts remain over whether the narrowly focused university would be too small to need its own campus, and whether it could attract top students to a site on the outskirts of the city.
“The school could easily become a factory for managers. … Cooperation with the private sector could mean that the school will only be focused on producing employees for a few firms,” one high school student remarked.
One of Roman’s potential fellow investors responded by saying that there is a need for such a school in the Czech Republic. “In international companies you meet people from the whole world. Even if you were the cleverest person in the republic, they will still take the person who has a degree from Harvard.”