Study and graduation in Czechia will give Ukrainians chance to help rebuild their country, says Director.

With support from The Kellner Family Foundation, Charles University is opening free one-year courses for Ukrainian high school graduates who want to study at higher education institutions in the Czech Republic. “We see this as helping Ukraine in the medium-term, as study obviously takes some time to complete. Its benefit, though, is that young people can get a foothold and find the peaceful conditions so necessary for their studies,” says Dana Hůlková Nývltová, Director of Charles University’s Institute for Language and Preparatory Studies.

What study areas are you preparing for students?

We are getting a range of study areas ready, aligned to technology, economics, humanities, arts and science. These courses will be held at two locations – Poděbrady for technology and economics, and Prague for the remainder. Our model depends on both locations being near each other so that many activities can be shared.

The programme starts in September – how will it progress over the academic year?

Our programme forms a system of courses. It starts with an acclimatisation course, a primer if you like, on language and culture. This is followed by a course in general Czech language and then a course in technical Czech focused on different fields of study. The choice of technical subjects will depend on the type of school the students apply to and the entry exams they sit. If a student wants to study economics, they will take maths and English lessons, and students who want to study technology will take maths in addition to physics and informatics or descriptive geometry.

Is it all about proficiency in Czech in each specialised field?

It boils down to teaching specialised subjects in Czech, and everything hinges on the knowledge students already have when they come in. The best-case scenario is when they are already educated in a certain field and only need to learn the Czech language side of it. But of course, it varies – sometimes students need to acquire additional technical knowledge in their field. The objective then is to equalise their knowledge in the field and afterwards teach them technical Czech. In practice, it means students who apply for courses in technological fields will not be asked to study, for example, economics texts in Czech.

More than 600 students from around the world study under this type of programme every year. What is your experience of the success rate of Ukrainians admitted to Czech universities?

Ukrainian is a Slavic language, and so the affinity between the two languages is a major advantage – students generally make great progress in Czech. The success rate in terms of admissions to universities is high. Unless a student changes their mind during the preparatory stage, they will usually be admitted to a university. Generally, we have a wealth of experience preparing students from Ukraine – we have a Ukrainian-speaking counsellor and other colleagues working in the programme who are well versed in both the language and culture.

This year, you will admit 75 Ukrainian high school graduates who plan to continue their studies in Czechia. Being involved with the public is an advantage during the admissions procedure. Could you elaborate on that?

Yes. If someone works as a volunteer in their spare time, it gives them an advantage. It shows they are motivated, especially if the area they want to be involved in is their future field of study. Some of our students, for example, want to go on to study teaching, which is why they volunteer with children’s groups and teach their native language in Czechia.

What is the purpose of offering this type of programme?

We want to open the door to people who have courage and want to study in a foreign country and graduate from a respected school in a democratic society. For students from Ukraine, we want to give them the chance to study in an environment free of war. Ukraine will eventually need them for the post-war reconstruction of their country, whether they return there or support their homeland as expatriates. Experience has shown that Ukrainians who live abroad maintain close ties with their home country and support it in this way. If we help them get a good education, they will not simply work as cleaners or office workers, they may become lawyers, economists or physicians. Ninety percent of them will support Ukraine in one way or another. This makes a lot of sense to me. We opened Czech courses for refugees right when the conflict in Ukraine started, but this is more of a long-term approach to the support needed for rebuilding the country. We want to offer them the best of what we know, which is education.

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