The University of New York in Prague has a long history, during the past 20 years, of supporting the healthy and active lifestyles of its students, significantly enhances their career prospects and provides them with a set of skills suitable for employment.
Dr. Andreas Antonopoulos is the Rector of the University of New York in Prague (UNYP). Before UNYP, he held a Senior Executive appointment at Central European University (CEU) as well as a variety of senior and middle management appointments in leading multinational companies.
In this interview taken by Kester Kenn Klomegah for Eurasia Review, Antonopoulos talks about the primary goals of the university, its marked achievements, and the challenges, noting the diversity in the labor market. Here are the interview excerpts:
Q: What are the peculiarities of running an educational institution, such as the University of New York in Prague, especially in a free and liberal market economy?
AA: Interestingly, part of the answer is in the question. Unfortunately, although Czech Republic has a very free and liberal economy, the education sector is still not as free and liberal. There is still a big gap between private and public universities in many areas that affect the competition of education offerings. Access to funds is obviously a clear example.
But still there are plenty of private schools in the country that are managing to offer good quality education and I believe in some cases even better than some of the less competitive public schools. I believe that the new law with possibly some additional amendments in the future will be improving quite few of the issues of the sector to the advantage of the entire academic community and above all the advantage of the students.
Q: In your interpretation, were there other motivation for locating University of New York in central Europe?
AA: Prague is an amazing destination for studying. It is located in the heart of Europe. It is central and close to the west as it is to the east. It is a great hub for students to travel and see the world while also being close to home. In addition, it has renowned universities and a promising economy.
Q: For now, what would you count as the marked achievements and success stories during the past few years?
AA: UNYP’s success can be seen in the alumni that are entering the labor market, both immediately after graduation, but also the positions they have reached since their graduation. We see our students progressing their careers in international corporations, as thriving entrepreneurs, as promising scientists and so forth. Many of our alumni proceed with further studies in some of the best universities in Europe and/or in the United States. In just 20 years, we see our success in their achievements. UNYP works tirelessly to prepare our students for the world and future that awaits them, giving them both the best of academic and theoretical knowledge paired together with very practical skills.
Q: Do students, who are in other words your clients, recognized the educational content and services (education quality) useful in the current competitive labor market?
AA: When you see that a majority of our students have part time or even full time jobs or internships, it is evident that they are putting their newly acquired skills to work. We see so many of them thriving in their careers that gives us the confidence to continue instilling the best skills in them. We also have a Career Office that aims to help them prepare CVs, prepare for interviews, and even find potential employers. However, the best confirmation is that our students are well aware of the benefits and education we provide them. It is a fact that “word of mouth” is the leading source for attracting new students.
Q: What is the competitive edge of UNYP? What advantages it has over other similar educational institutions in the region?
AA: Clearly, one of our top advantages for students is being able to earn an American degree from one of the largest US state institutions, namely the State University of New York. Our partner, for the last 22 years, has been SUNY, Empire State College and the ability for them to graduate with an American degree while studying in the heart of Europe, more especially at an affordable rate and a very solid edge compared to other institutions.
Further, as our degree programs are accredited by the Czech Ministry of Education, our students have the opportunity to graduate simultaneously with two degrees, one European from UNYP and the other one American from the State University of New York, Empire State College. Beyond the degrees themselves though, two distinctive characteristics of UNYP is the English language education offered to a multinational student body representing 65+ countries as well as the key component in our education delivery which is the development of critical thinking.
Q: What has been the most difficult challenge that you have had to overcome in running this university? Which entrepreneurial advice (management style) do you disagree with?
AA: It was really challenging some time ago to make our staff understand that the students are clients. That we should not only offer top quality education but also great services in supporting them to succeed in their academic as well as in their personal lives. Most people have a different model in mind about universities than what we offer to our students. We want to make their time at UNYP a unique life changing experience, offering impactful education and excellent supporting services.
Indeed, this reflects in our simple motto. We are here for our students. This means open doors for all and every single – big or small problem.
Q: Entrepreneurship is very challenging. What keeps you motivated as a rector? Which business achievement are you most proud of here?
AA: I benefit from the fact that I teach entrepreneurship as my main discipline so I put a lot of the theory into practice as the rector of UNYP. Namely, we make sure we offer and maintain a premium educational offering both in class and out of class to our students with an affordable tuition. Successful partnerships and fostering of the success of our alumni is feeding back to the premium education status perception of UNYP.
Q: Who are some of the most notable people that have experienced the work of UNYP?
AA: UNYP is a very unique environment in that, as an institution, we work regularly with impressive figures such as former prime ministers, ambassadors, CEOs, and other notable figures both on our Advisory Board as well as guest speakers.
Q: Where would you like to see this business of education in the next five years? In other words, what’s your future vision for the university?
AA: Although a very challenging question I foresee further value recognition for practical skills development, for international education environment in campuses, in terms of both students and faculty, for studying in an international language as well as further inclusion of technology in the educational delivery. The latter can include blended courses, software to streamline and improve in class and out of class interaction of students with their institution as well as selective online content to compliment in class delivery. Some of the weaker schools may struggle but the best schools in each country have the option to solidify their footprint and to deliver more impactful education.