Why another strategy for CZU?

In the field of internationalisation of higher education, several drivers and key moments led us to the creation of an internationalisation strategy as a standalone CZU document. The main impetus came from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS). The Ministry created its own strategy for the internationalisation of Czech higher education and introduced it in 2020. Among other things, it encourages individual universities to have this area adapted to its model. However, the need for such a document at CZU arose in 2018, when it turned out that the absence of a standalone strategy and uncoordinated action of individual faculties, where some filled this vacuum with their own strategy, led to difficult preparation of Erasmus + grant applications in activity KA107 (International Credit Mobility - i.e. mobility outside the EU). Already in 2017, representatives of the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research (DZS) expressed surprise that a university in the Czech Republic with a relatively high degree of internationalisation could apply for these grants without its existence. Therefore, when preparing an application for a project supporting the implementation of the HR Award, such a strategy was promised in accordance with the terms of the call. CZU is therefore obliged to create the strategy, moreover in a highly participatory manner, where each member of the CZU community may participate and ensure that the most important topics in internationalisation from his or her view will be discussed during the preparation and reflected in the final text.

Due to the prioritisation of internationalisation by the MEYS and CZU, it was further decided that CZU will actively participate in the Monitoring of the Internationalisation of Czech Higher Education (a project of the MEYS and DZS) and will strive for evaluation of this area by a panel of international experts. In 2019, priority was given to other institutions, but in 2020 our university was selected. Although the international panel could not visit CZU in person due to the ongoing pandemic, the monitoring was successfully conducted online in September 2020, and the CZU self-evaluation report was assessed as very comprehensive and very well prepared. It is thus one of the materials that you can get acquainted with and which will be used in the preparation of the CZU strategy.

The international panel prepared a set of recommendations for CZU and called on for the preparation of the action plan in the field of internationalisation. The action plan and the CZU's own strategy are thus synergistically complemented, which is an advantage in the preparation of the strategy itself, and we save forces and time compared to a situation where both would be created independently in different years.

Thanks to FTA, which chose a foreigner without a command of the Czech language into its top executive position, CZU found itself at the forefront of Czech internationalisation efforts. Other universities are now carefully analysing the effects of such a step, which is very natural for FTA, but innovative for the Czech environment. This inner experience and the need for adaptation is one of the key drivers of the further internationalisation of our university. A foreigner being Dean is something new, but an international student without knowledge of the Czech language was once elected to the academic senate of one of the faculties. Although she eventually resigned her place after the election, CZU international students are also emancipating and are willing to participate in the self-government of our university.

The transition to the new Erasmus + programming period (2021-2027) is also fundamental, and it brings new obligations for Erasmus Charter holders, which is essential if an institution wants to participate in Erasmus+. In addition to minor adjustments, it implies a commitment to fully automatic recognition of study results abroad. Students going on mobility should thus have their results recognized at CZU before leaving for study at a foreign institution, not the other way around. Automatic recognition of exams and results from short term study abroad will be a major topic requiring particular internal regulation at the university level. The goal is set, now we will look for a way to fulfil it to suit our academic community. One of the ways is the application of the so-called mobility window in the structure of study programmes, i.e. usually the semester, which is primarily intended as suitable for foreign mobility by the composition of courses that are typically not subject of the final state examination. It is thus up to the faculties and the Council for Internal Evaluation that this solution is further developed, both in the preparation of accreditations for completely new study programmes and in the re-accreditation of existing ones. As stated by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in its strategy for the internationalisation of Czech higher education, a new priority has emerged to include international aspects leading to the internationalisation of study programmes, curricula and individual courses. All of the above will be an important aspect in the approval of the new study programmes by the National Accreditation Authority (NAÚ).

One of the main priorities of the ministerial strategy is the internationalisation of the curriculum. Under this term, there is a greater emphasis on preparing study plans and individual courses covering international aspects and developing desirable competencies of our university students. The aim is to create opportunities for all students for international and intercultural education. Despite all the effort, promotion, and funding going to international mobility, we must realise that only a fraction of our students will experience foreign mobility longer than 30 days. Since not everyone has the opportunity to spend some time abroad, either study or work, it is necessary to bring the international element into teaching and expose local students, and at least in this way, give them an international experience. They will thus be better prepared for today's diverse environment, a modern society that is not always more or less single-national than, for example, in the Czech Republic. The younger generation, our local students, naturally already feel Europeans and do not have a problem considering working abroad or, for example, with a multinational company. They think European, if not already globally, but of course, they identify as Czechs and see no contradiction between both.

The already mentioned prioritisation of internationalisation by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is also reflected in the key to financing universities in the Czech Republic. Any student or staff mobility, arriving or departing, is taken into account when allocating funds from the state budget. The number of foreign academics is reported in the annual reports, but it is also reflected in money. Universities report the number of study programmes taught together with foreign partners (typically double or joint degree programmes). And if the details do not directly affect the CZU funding, then its position in the international rankings and its international reputation. Within the rules of the Programme for the Support of Strategic Management of Higher Education Institutions for the years 2022-2025, it is firmly established that the minimum that a higher education institution must dedicate to internationalisation is 15% of the total allocated funds. CZU manages CZK 62,479,503 per year, and 15% of this amount amounts to CZK 9,371,925. This is the minimum allocation that a university can, at its discretion and with respect to other rules, independently increase, and CZU has slightly done that. CZU's Strategic Plan for 2022-2025 has already allocated funds for internationalisation on the basis of faculty and university-wide priorities. The emerging independent Strategy of Internationalisation will fulfil and supplement its concept, as approved by the Rector's Board this year.

The internationalisation of universities is very normal; it has been and continues to be for centuries. It is directly demanded by academic community members as such, for whom it is natural that they have many ties abroad; simply science transcends national horizons. The standalone CZU Internationalisation Strategy aims to help all of us develop this area, the university, and spread its good name within and beyond the borders of the country.

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