More than 100 participants attended the International Conference on Professionally-oriented Higher Education which took place on 9th October 2018 in Bratislava. The conference was organised in the framework of the pilot activity of the EDU-LAB project, led by the European Foundation for Education, which has just reached an important milestone: the launch of the first professional Bachelor`s programme in Slovakia.

The conference was organised by the Slovak-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in cooperation with the Automotive Industry Association of the Slovak Republic under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic.

The event focused on current priorities, challenges and opportunities of the implementation of professionally-oriented higher education in Slovakia and steps already taken in the process. The conference was opened with speeches by EDU-LAB partners Peter Kompalla, CEO of the German-Slovak Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Alexander Matušek, President of the Automotive Industry Association and EDU-LAB project director Dr. des. Ágnes Sebestyén.  All speakers underlined that EDU-LAB reached a key step in providing labour relevant education by introducing the new professional Bachelor`s programme in Slovakia. Oľga Nachtmannová, State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport also confirmed her support for the implementation of more professionally-oriented study programmes in Slovakia.

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Peter Obdržálek (Education Management Center FM UK) presented statistics regarding the professional employability of Slovak graduates from the point of view of universities, business and students were presented. The figures are alarming: around 57% of university graduates do not work in their field of study and 35% of them end up working in positions requiring only a secondary education degree. The Slovak higher education system is obviously not able to meet the actual demands of labour market.

During the afternoon session, speakers shared best practices of already existing dual education programmes in Hungary and Germany. Torge Fischer, Project Manager of the International Development of Dual Study Programmes at Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) opened this session by explaining the concept of the university. DHWB is an institution offering dual-education undergraduate programs in various disciplines in close cooperation with renowned corporate partners such as Adidas, Deloitte or Porsche. The university has an extremely low drop-out rate and its alumni enjoy high employability on the job market as well.

Another prime example of a dual education programme can be found in the Hungarian town of Kecskemet, where automotive giants Mercedes and Knorr-Bremse are the strategic partners of John von Neumann University. Dr. Pal Lukacs, Head of Department of the University shared his experience with the “Kecskemet model”, started in 2010. Dr. Lukacs pointed out the strengths of the model such as gaining up-to-date technical knowledge and workplace guarantee, while also drawing attention to challenges and weaknesses such as the difficulties of scheduling work and studies and room for improvement for teaching materials.

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Finally, EDU-LAB`s Slovak pilot activity, the launch of a new bachelor`s programme in the automotive industry was discussed, explain in detail in this post. The programme can serve as an inspiration for other partner countries in the programme as well, to close the gap between higher education and the demands of the labour market, step by step.