The first university in Central Europe was founded in Prague in 1348: Charles University. The Technical University of Prague also has a long history. According to agooddir, the higher education landscape in the Czech Republic is therefore rich in traditions, which is still reflected today in rituals and traditional clothing such as the gown during doctoral studies. At the same time, technology, innovation and research have played an important role since the early 20th century. During the communist era strongly centralized and ideologically influenced, academic freedom and self-administration have long been back at Czech universities first of all. They are now firmly integrated into the European higher education landscape and have for the most part implemented the provisions of the Bologna Process.
The Czech higher education landscape has developed rapidly in the last few decades without, however, giving up its traditions and specific characteristics. The mixture of tradition and innovation attracts more and more students from abroad. Not least because more and more universities in the Czech Republic are also offering courses in English, including in popular subjects such as human medicine or dentistry. While the proportion of foreign students was still below 5% in 2000, in 2014 it was already almost 12%. No question about it: the university landscape in the Czech Republic has a lot to offer.
Types of universities in the Czech Republic
In the twenty years after the fall of the Wall, the university landscape in the Czech Republic was in a major process of transformation, which is now considered largely complete. While the number of higher education institutions in our neighboring country was once quite manageable, the range on offer has now become a lot more diverse. After the fall of the Wall, there were two waves of start-ups that have changed the university landscape in the Czech Republic:
- Regionalization of the university landscape in order to enable comprehensive higher education throughout the country
- Liberalization of the Higher Education Act in 1998, which made the establishment of private universities possible
There are currently 73 recognized universities in the Czech Republic. These are either public, state, or private.
In contrast to Germany, there is no vocational training in a dual system in the Czech Republic. Both vocational training and academic training belong to the tertiary education sector. The Czech university landscape also does not recognize the distinction between university and technical college. Univerzita and vysoká škola are therefore often used synonymously. This is one of the reasons why we have to distinguish between two different types of universities with regard to the university landscape in the Czech Republic:
- University type (28 universities in total)
- Non-university type (45 universities in total)
Czech universities of the university type have either the designation univerzita (university) or vysoká škola (university) in their name. The name univerzita is protected in the Czech Republic, which means that higher education institutions in the Czech Republic must meet certain requirements in order to be able to call themselves univerzita.
There are currently a total of 28 recognized universities of the university type in the Czech Republic:
- 24 public universities
- 2 state universities: Police and Military College
- 2 private universities
University types of higher education offer study programs at all three levels of the study system in the Czech Republic: Bachelor, Master and PhD. Almost all public universities in the Czech Republic are of this type. Due to their size, they are divided into different faculties and usually have a very wide range of study programs. In addition, they are characterized by intensive research achievements.
Non-university type of university
Some universities, which usually have the designation vysoká škola in their names, do not belong to the university type. There are currently 45 Czech universities of the non-university type:
- 2 public universities
- 43 private universities
Non-university universities primarily offer bachelor’s programs and only in some cases also master’s programs. However, they do not have the right to award doctorates and are not divided into different faculties. The number of study programs offered is limited and focused on certain subject areas. In this sense, they are somewhat similar to German universities of applied sciences.
The so-called vyšší odborná škola (German: Higher Technical School) and the konzervator (conservatory) are to be distinguished from the above-mentioned universities of the non-university type. Although these can be assigned to the tertiary education sector, they are not universities at which one can obtain a recognized academic degree.
A vyšší odborná škola offers three to three and a half years of practical training, at the end of which one receives the title of Diplomovaný specialista (“qualified specialist”). However, this is not an academic degree. Conservatories offer practical training in artistic fields.
Quality of Czech universities
Various university rankings prove that the teaching and research of Czech universities is of high quality and can easily withstand international comparisons. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015/16 nine and in the QS World University Ranking 2015/16 five Czech universities are ranked.
The quality assurance of universities in the Czech Republic takes place both at the university-internal level as well as at the university-external level. All public and private higher education institutions are subordinate to the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. The two state institutions, however, are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior, respectively.
The respective ministries distribute the funds to the institutions and are therefore also entitled to find out how the individual universities use the funds. The Czech universities are for self-evaluation obliged, ranging annual report on their various activities, measures and the use of financial resources at the Ministry one.
The accreditation commission (akreditační komise) is responsible for quality assurance at external level. This assesses the quality of higher education in terms of teaching, research and development and then publishes the results. The commission is also responsible for the assessment and admission of individual courses.
With regard to quality assurance and the mechanisms of accreditation, the higher education policy in the Czech Republic is currently undergoing extensive restructuring. The aim is to strengthen the independence of the universities and to simplify the processes, because up to now the process for the accreditation of study programs has been lengthy and bureaucratic.
The new Higher Education Act has been in force since September 2016, which primarily deals with the reform of quality assurance and the development of new mechanisms for accreditation:
- New regulations for accreditations
- Establishment of an independent accreditation office
- A new evaluation system for quality assurance within universities
Future developments of the Czech higher education system
The transformation process, i.e. the adjustment of the higher education system to European standards, has long been completed in the Czech Republic. However, as in all other EU countries, the higher education landscape and the study system are still changing in the course of the Bologna Process. Ultimately, competitiveness is also playing an increasingly important role in the Czech Republic. Goals in higher education include:
- Internationalization: Increase in mobility, more collaborations, expansion of the range of English-language courses
- Greater focus on research performance: reform of doctoral training and establishment of graduate colleges, more cooperation with non-university research institutions
- Greater differentiation between professional and academic training and more practical orientation in teaching