The sixth edition of Ukrainian-Slovak study programmes of Ukrainian universities and the Slovak College of Economics and Management in Bratislava (VSE), in cooperation with the Digital Coalition (DK) and the IT Association of Slovakia (ITAS), was affected by the war in Ukraine. Despite this, today, 11 Ukrainian students took up their university degree at the LEEM. Thanks to effective cooperation with DK and ITAS firms, recent graduates on the labour market have a considerable advantage over other peers – this is the year-long experience of Slovak IT firms.

DK and ITAS have participated in the Ukrainian-Slovak study programme project since 2017. This opens the door to new learning and practice opportunities for young talented individuals. In this time, DK, in cooperation with Ukrainian universities and Slovak universities, has succeeded in attracting and preparing more than 70 young people for the labour market, of which today are successful IT specialists. “The Ukrainian-Slovak study programme project provides foreign students with a unique opportunity to come to study in Slovakia and work alongside Slovak firms pioneers in the field of information and telecommunications technology. The aim is to prepare these students for the needs of the labour market and provide them with all the necessary skills and knowledge during their studies,” explains DK President Mário Lelovský. 

The current edition of joint study programmes has been largely negatively affected by the war in Ukraine. Nevertheless, today, 11 more students from Ukrainian universities have successfully taken up their university degree at university level. In addition to their studies in the sixth year of the project, IBM, Synpulse Slovakia, PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory, Asseco Central Europe, Deutsche Telekom Systems Solutions Slovakia, Deutsche Telekom IT & Telecommunications Slovakia. Most of them already have a clear picture of what will go further – all graduates are already in a position of employment, either directly in the firms in which they worked during their studies or in other Slovak firms. “Cooperation between education institutions and industry is crucial. It alone will make our graduates ready for the real demands of the labour market. I am therefore extremely pleased that we have the honour to participate in the development of Ukrainian-Slovak curricula and the deepening of effective cooperation with Ukrainian universities and Slovak firms,” notes the project by the rector of the VŠEM, Lyuboš Cibák. 

However, cooperation under the joint study programme project is not limited exclusively to Ukraine. Thanks to EMA – Development and Mobility Agency, SlovakAid and the Ukrainian-Slovak Centre, the project has been successfully extended to Moldova and Uzbekistan. This moves towards promoting IT education and practice in these countries. However, DK President Mário Lelovský points out that attracting talent from abroad, together with improving the quality of Slovak higher education, should be one of the key priorities for Slovakia and its new government. “It is our shared responsibility to make our country a frontrunner in the digital transformation. Unfortunately, the long-standing acute shortage of skilled workers in this area tends to show the opposite. But much can be learnt from those who bring experiences and innovations from abroad. Their presence brings new perspectives to improve the IT sector in Slovakia,” he specifies. However, without the government making migration policy more flexible and simplifying the process of recruiting skilled people from abroad, he believes that our country will not move in the right direction. Today, foreign students in Slovakia are not only covered by health insurance, as they are not state scholars that receive only a very small number of applicants,” Lelovský stresses. “In this context, we appreciate that, in cooperation with RÚZ and ITAS, we have succeeded in promoting the extension of the issuing of national visas for the highly skilled workforce to first-level graduates as of 1 October. This extension is of particular importance for Slovakia, as in many countries a large number of graduates in technical disciplines complete education focusing on, for example, information technology with a Bachelor’s degree. So we can attract more foreign professionals for the Slovak labour market,” responds by Marián Vlasatý, Director of EMA – Development and Mobility Agency. 

DK also points out that Slovakia does not yet have any mechanisms in place to attract talent from abroad – we are also lagging behind Czechia or Poland, which has dozens of specialists in the countries to the east of Slovakia on “tal talent”. “The Ministry of Education welcomes and supports the activities of the joint study programmes and I believe that, following the comprehensive accreditation of higher education institutions in Slovakia, there will be significantly more such programmes leading to faster internationalisation of higher education,” adds Michal Fedák, State Secretary for Science, Research and Higher Education in the Ministry of Education. 

The President of the Digital Coalition and 1st Vice-President RÚZ-Mário Lelovský were also part of the promotion ceremony.

The project of joint Ukrainian-Slovak courses is not ending – the sixth year was initially expected to bring 22 students to arrive in the new academic year – but this was disrupted by the war in Ukraine and the associated conscription of working-age men. For this reason too, DK is launching another year with three students so far. “Ukraine is today fighting the brutal and cruel Russian aggression and defends its future, freedom and democracy. After the victory, we will need the world’s best practices and expertise to rebuild the Ukrainian economy and rebuild our cities. We very much appreciate the support and opportunity to educate Ukrainian students in the framework of joint study programmes, as the knowledge and professional experience acquired in the Slovak Republic is a certain investment in Ukraine’s futures and a contribution to the post-war reconstruction of our country,” notes the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ukraine in Slovakia, Myroslav Kastran. “Since the beginning of the war conflict, we have done its utmost to help Ukrainian universities and their students. Of course, our assistance and support continue to be maintained,” adds the President of DK, Mário Lelovský.

Family photo of all graduates together with major guests.