All the charms of free education in the Czech Republic
Maria Alexeeva, a student at the Higher School of Economics in Prague, talks about all the advantages of free education in the Czech Republic and the future prospects for graduates of Czech universities.
How to choose where to go to study
Choosing an educational institution is a difficult process that requires attention and focus. It is a well-known fact that European education is stylish, fashionable and youthful. With all due respect to domestic education, training in CIS universities lags far behind the modern standards of the West. I had a chance to try both. And I can confidently say that while European universities are preparing for the future, "our" universities are stuck in the past.
When you have to choose which country to go to for higher education, you should pay attention to a number of things.
First of all, the national language of the country. After all, it will be your main means of communication, and do not underestimate its importance. Without a good knowledge of the language, you will not be able to live comfortably, which means you should learn it.
Secondly, the cost of living. You need to understand how affordable medicine, food, clothes, appliances, renting (or buying) accommodation and entertainment will be for you personally in the new country. This will directly affect your standard of living and your safety.
Thirdly, you should pay attention to the mentality and attitude towards newcomers. Ideally, the traditions of the country should be as close to yours as possible. Even if sometimes we sometimes curse our native home, but we grew up and socialized in this environment.
Even speaking the national language well, we may not understand the locals, and they, in turn, will not accept and understand us. By the way, "nostalgia," the well-known longing for the old days, is called the "Russian disease" in France. Russian emigrants in France could not get used to the new life, could not feel at home in a foreign country, and therefore were incredibly sad about the past.
Czech Republic - our choice!
The Czech Republic meets all these criteria perfectly. It has been popular among students from CIS countries for many years, and for good reason.
The Czech language belongs to the Slavic group of languages. Modern Czech was created artificially. In a desperate attempt to prevent the national language of the Czech Republic from falling into oblivion when it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When reviving it, specialists constantly turned to Ukrainian and Russian chronicles for inspiration.
This is why our languages are really similar, and why Czech is one of the few languages that can be learned in just a year from scratch. Of course, it is very difficult to do this on your own, as the language is foreign after all. This is why Prague Education Center (PEC) has been organizing annual language courses for many years, where students spend the entire academic year working exclusively on learning Czech with native-speaking teachers and preparing for university. Such courses are an accredited academic program, so the Czech Republic issues long-term student visas on their basis.
The Czech Republic is one of the cheapest countries in the European Union, and yet it is not inferior to them in terms of living standards. Here food, clothes and medicine are sometimes even cheaper than, for example, in Russia. And at the same time, there is an amazing transportation system, well-coordinated work of all state institutions and incredibly beautiful architecture. As they say, the quality many times exceeds the cost.
In addition, this country is very comfortable for visitors. It is very easy to feel at home here. Since the Czech Republic has been popular for a long time, a large Russian-speaking diaspora has formed here. There are many integration centers, which are engaged in helping newcomers and organize a variety of programs for socialization. And now, with the growing popularity of the Internet, everything you need can be found online in social media - a job, friends, and an apartment. And it's all in pure Russian.
Fact. Between 2021 and 2022, the number of foreign students has increased to 52,000.
About free education in the Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, higher education is very good, local universities are periodically included in the ratings of the best higher education institutions in the world. Studying in public universities in the Czech language is free of charge. There is no such thing as part of the group studying on a contract and part on a budget. Almost all major universities also have paid English programs, but they are usually many times less than Czech specialties, so there is not much choice.
There are no academic groups as such at Czech universities. You study in a specific specialty, which is shared with other students, but the timetable is made up individually. Therefore, you go to each subject with different groups of students.
I, for example, after a year of studying in a master's program, personally know only one person out of fifteen. After studying at a Russian university, where you and your classmates almost sleep together, such a system seems wild at first. But you get used to it over time, especially when you realize the beauty of an individual schedule tailored to your needs.
Registration for courses usually takes place through the information system of the university, on certain days. Subjects are divided into: compulsory, optional subjects within the specialty and optional university subjects. Each subject is measured in points, the number of points usually depends on the complexity of the subject and the number of hours. These points are called "credits" in the Czech Republic. During the entire period of study at the university, a student must accumulate a certain number of credits (that is, in fact, pass a certain number of subjects).
The nuances of the "credit system" at each university are different, and after enrollment you should study this system very carefully. There have been cases when diligent and intelligent people had to drop out of university just because they did not fully understand this mechanism and made a mistake.
Especially worth mentioning are the teachers at the universities. I have already mentioned above that the education system in the Czech Republic tries to keep up with the times, and the choice of teaching staff is no exception. Most often they are very nice progressive people who treat their students with great respect.
For example, it is customary here for faculty members to address their students (even first-year undergraduate students) no differently than "colleague." In addition, they try their best to make their subject interesting and useful, so they organize various seminars, invite successful people in the field to lecture.
How to enroll in a Czech university
Admission to Czech universities is a little different from the CIS universities, but this mission is quite feasible. In the Czech Republic there is no single state exam, which would be recognized by all universities. But there is a company SCIO, which develops tests and is a leader in this field, its services are used by many educational institutions.
Depending on the chosen university, applicants can take tests in General Prerequisites for Learning OSP (verbal, quantitative, logical and argumentative thinking), Fundamentals of Social Sciences ZSV (psychology, sociology, philosophy, law, political science, economics, European integration, modern world history), Mathematics, Natural Sciences (biology, chemistry), as well as English and German. The advantageous difference between these tests and, for example, the USE, is that they are held six times a year and can be taken several times.
However, these tests are still not a panacea, so you need to look at the entrance requirements of the university of your choice. Masaryk University in Brno, for example, develops its own entrance tests and does not accept any third-party tests.
If you want to enter a master's or doctoral program, you will have to take the usual entrance exams. The knowledge required at these levels of education is too specific to create a single test for them.
Entrance exams take place tentatively in May-June (exceptions are creative specialties). However, you, as a foreigner, have to fulfill two more requirements for admission - to pass the nostrification procedure and to pass the Czech language proficiency exam at the B2 level (above average).
Nostrification is a proof of your school certificate. You must have completed secondary education in order to be admitted to a Czech university. But in order to prove that the level of education in your school is not lagging behind the level of education in Czech schools, you need to pass examinations in secondary school subjects. The list of exams will be assigned to you individually by the Czech Ministry of Education after it has reviewed your Czech-translated certificate and compared the number of hours.
If you are enrolled in a master's or doctoral program, this "happiness" will not affect you. Your diploma will also need to be nostrified, but you will not have to take exams. You will only need to submit a Czech-translated diploma of higher education with the number of hours.
The Czech language exam is compulsory in almost all universities. Moreover, most of them do not entrust these tests to third-party firms and conduct the language exams within their own walls.
The presence of all the above described features of enrollment is another reason to go to learn Czech for a year-long course. Nostrification of both diploma and certificate is not a minute process, including the bureaucratic part, it takes several months. It is quite realistic to learn the language to the required level on courses, practicing for several hours every day. But it is very difficult to do it on your own without immersing yourself in the language environment.
What to do after studying at a Czech university
Your studies are over and your student visa is coming to an end. It's time to think about what to do next. Stay in the Czech Republic or return home?
Prospects of staying in the country after university
Czech legislation, just like the heart of a beautiful woman, is fickle. Almost every year the conditions for employing foreigners, requirements for obtaining a residence permit and so on change. What remains unchanged is the fact that after graduating from a Czech university, the graduate has access to the labor market on the same terms as citizens of the country. And this is just great news, because usually employers in negotiations with applicants are obliged to give preference to Czech citizens, and only secondarily consider foreigners. Of course, obtaining a work visa has not been canceled, but you can do it in the Czech Republic itself, without traveling to your home country.
Universities are eager to help their students find employment, so they organize "job fairs" several times a year. In addition, almost all major universities send their students on internships to large companies. Diplomas issued by Czech universities are recognized throughout Europe (European style), but some universities offer a diploma of the American style at the same time with the first diploma. This significantly increases the student's prospects of finding a job almost anywhere in the world.
20% of all foreign students choose technical specialties, in which the Czech Republic notes the lack of qualified specialists.
So, if you have been a diligent student and learned Czech well, it will not be difficult for you to find a well-paid job and stay in the Czech Republic.
Personal experience of students
I moved to the Czech Republic three years ago, I am currently in graduate school. My immigration was twice as hard as I imagined it to be and twice as easy as my grandmother imagined it to be. It's all very individualized. But even in the darkest and gloomiest times, the Czech Republic will not let you go.
It is enough to feel the color of this country for a minute. Plunge not into tourist routes, but into real life with exquisitely shabby buildings, smiling people, fragrant parks, delicious beer and endless spontaneity in everything... and you realize that you are ready to do anything to stay. That you'd rather suffer here than be blissfully at home. Once you're caught in its web, you're lost forever.
In order to enter a state university on a budget, a student must have at least a B2 level of Czech. Prague Education Center helps foreign applicants to master the language in just 1 semester at the B2 level, and to reach the C1 level by the end of the academic year, as well as to be trained in profile terminology and professional subjects for successful admission to the chosen university.