Prime Minister Janez Janša meets representatives of universities, higher education institutions and of the corporate sector on enrolment in study programmes
Today Prime Minister Janša called for a consultation to be held at Brdo pri Kranju before the final discussion of consent to the content of the invitation for enrolment into undergraduate and integrated master’s study programmes in the 2021/2022 academic year. He believes that the determination of the number of places available for enrolment at public schools and faculties that are financed by taxpayers is one of the most crucial strategic decisions of any country. Prior to the final adoption of the document by the Government the Prime Minister thus wanted to also consult the representatives of universities, independent higher education institutions, chambers of commerce and associations.
The Prime Minister first emphasised the vital segments in our country where there is a shortage of personnel. “When the Government receives lists for enrolment into study programmes we gain insight into one perspective but when we take the field visiting businesses, hospitals, we often hear there is a lack of engineers, physicians and other profiles,” the Prime Minister explains and adds that in addition to gaining useful knowledge it is very important to know how to apply this knowledge in practice. He believes that with today's abundance of information we need to recognise the right information, knowing how to sieve through it efficiently. “This knowledge or these skills need to be gained by the youth no matter what one studies, i.e. social or technical sciences, healthcare or other area,” the Prime Minister added, stating that as a whole we are still too focused on quantity and rarely on creativity.
The start of the consultation provided a general picture of the labour market and its highest needs, and an illustration of Slovenia's current position according to other trends. The core part of the consultation was intended for representatives of universities and independent higher education institutions, and for the presentation of their range of programmes and services expressed in the proposal of enrolment places that was drafted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports.
The Prime Minister stated that the consultation does not serve as a meeting at which decisions would be made, but merely a meeting intended to mostly help the Government make the right decisions. The Prime Minister proceeded by presenting data about which professions were lacking, not only due to an insufficient level of completed educational programmes, but also due to these personnel being insufficiently paid or employees having unsatisfactory conditions for work and thus seek work elsewhere. He singled out business, administrative sciences and law, in particular, as areas constituting labour market surpluses. Data was provided on the lack of suitable personnel for employment and the number of unemployed graduates, as well as the main programmes in Slovenia for which enrolment is limited and for which applications significantly exceed the number of available enrolment places. To that end, these programmes stand out the most: healthcare, general medicine and medicine, where interest twice exceeds the available places for enrolment. More interest than available enrolment places also exists in computer science. “We have a significant deficit, great interest among the youth in this study programme but this programme is not backed through the number of available enrolment positions,” the Prime Minister explained, adding that light needs to be shed on this situation and solutions needs to be sought. “If there is significant interest and a major need for certain study programmes but there is a lack of facilities and resources for this, we will secure the needed facilities and funding, thereby increasing the available enrolment places. The interest of professors will therefore also grow were they to receive higher pay,” said Prime Minister Janša.
He added that the structure of supply and demand on the labour market also shows that changes need to be made to the education process, “to ensure, in particular, that the most educated people do not migrate abroad as they cannot find suitable employment in Slovenia.”
He also said that he certainly cannot predict the future, “so it makes no sense to engage in targeted education, as it is important that those who complete their studies get jobs and the companies and others the personnel that they require.”
Prime Minister Janša also added that the Government firmly believes that there will be a reform of the pay system that will impact universities, professors and assistants. He proceeded by being adamant in not “agreeing with the notion that nothing can be done here”.
University rectors singled out brain drain, wage inequalities, the urgency of collaboration between the Government, ministries and universities as major issues at the consultation. They highlighted the significance of finding comprehensive solutions, the ensuring of a positive work environment and the approval of enrolment into the next academic year as soon as possible.
The representatives of chambers of commerce and of associations warned of changes at the consultation that have occurred globally due to the new coronavirus epidemic. They emphasised the problem of vocational education and training programmes, the urgency in adopting the suitable scholarship policy and promotion of deficit professions, the urgency in establishing a modern apprentice system, the significance of collaboration between businesses and educational institutions, the importance of flexibility and acting swiftly.
The following persons also spoke at the consultation: Minister of Education, Science and Sports Dr Simona Kustec, Minister of the Economy Mr Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Mr Janez Cigler Kralj, State Secretary at the Ministry of Health Ms Alenka Forte, and director of the Slovenian Institute for Macroeconomic Analysis and Development Ms Marijana Bednaš. These speakers highlighted labour market needs, issues relating to supply and demand, the urgency of adapting quickly, personnel deficits in the healthcare sector and projections for the future. The consultation was also used to emphasise Slovenia's lacking involvement in the international environment.
At the end of the consultation the Prime Minister concluded by saying that certain issues are now much clearer and that certain areas already need to be corrected. He emphasised the need to secure more places for enrolment into the Faculty of Medicine, promising corrections to the Implementation of the Budget of the Republic of Slovenia Act, which is preventing employment for research projects. He stressed the importance of creating an educational (school) network that would incorporate high-quality vocational education and training and the urgency of corrections to the wage relations. He also highlighted the incorrect and unfair segregation between the private and public sector, adamantly supporting the Government equally treating public and private institutions were they to carry out public programmes. It is in all our interest to support high-quality education that is available to the youth under the same terms, thereby providing the same basic opportunities for success in life, and the need for competition also in the area of education. He also added by saying that this is not the final meeting to address this topic and that no one can predict the future but that many things are clear. “We know that certain professions will disappear in the future, that the shortfalls will become even greater, but we also realise our strengths and where we can be an example of excellence for others.”