The College of Polytechnics Jihlava (VSPJ) was founded in 2004 as the first public college of a non-university type in the Czech Republic and as the only public HEI institution in Vysočina region. From the beginning VSPJ had clear mission in regionally and professionally oriented education. Establishment of such a institution was one of the main priorities of the regional authority in Jihlava. VSPJ arose on the basis of vocational college at Jihlava, which was one of the biggest within the Czech Republic (with more than 1 000 on-site students) and it was focused on three study programs: Finances and Management; Tourism and Computer Systems. The new HEI acquired real estate property and facilities of former vocational school that had to be approved by the regional authority; and it entered relatively complicated legislation process of establishing public HEI that includes not only Ministry of Education and regional authority, but also the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The then minister played a crucial role in promoting the establishment of this HEI. In the beginning the appointed rector was the only organisational body of the institution, later the academic senate and board were established. Different bodies followed according to the Czech law on higher education. Besides five departments (Business, Tourism, Engineering, Health Care, Social Care), several central administrative and supportive bodies were established, such as Financial and Administrative Units, Educational Services Units, Library and Publishing Unit, Center for Lifelong Learning and Development, Advisory Center for Students, Travel Agency etc.
The regional engagement takes mainly three forms of activities:
• The role for regional labor market. It should address the demand of regional firms for graduates (especially graduates of engineering), who are directly and immediately employable.
• The cooperation with regional partners is put into practice via a systematic model of trainee-ships in firms. All accredited degree programs include spending of one part of study (usually the last semester of BA study) as trainee-ship.
• Very important link to regional actors that is promoted by the HEI is involvement of practitioners in educational process. The leadership of the HEI continually makes efforts to have practitioners from business or public administration sphere as lecturers. However, this is limited by demands of national regulation for accreditation of study programmes that requires significant participation of academics with higher academic qualification (professors, associate professors).
The spectrum of activities that College in Jihlava provides for the region is even wider. This type of community services comprise course of the University of the 3rd Age, European Computer Driving Licence, preparatory courses for Cambridge English Exams, public courses in computer skills, Arts-Therapy, and last but not least, the college runs its own travel agency that offers services on demand for local public and private organisations, groups and individuals.
What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?
The establishment of HEI with specific regionally oriented mission helped to broaden the educational offer in the rather rural region without knowledge intensive industries. It definitely succeeded in building the institutional structure and providing practical education for the regional labor market.
What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?
Crucial conditions for the success of this action consisted of clear and persistent intentions of regional authority, government and primarily the leading figures of the former vocational institution. Apart from the legislation process of establishment the sustainability of close cooperation between HEI and regional authorities and other regional actors was the key factor for the success.
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
National regulations and funding mechanisms for HE can be important barriers for development of the regional role. The regionally oriented PHEIs have to have specific measures for quality assurance and funding.
Feasibility & Sustainability
What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?
The HEI needs continuous support mainly from regional authorities even if the main legal and funding partner for the HEI is the Ministry of Education. Therefore it is crucially important that the HEI will sustain good and vivid relations with regional partners, even if the political leadership of the region will be changing due to electoral cycle.
Replicability & Upscaling
What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?
The mutual and continuous willingness among regional and national actors is crucial for establishment and sustainability of HEI with specific regional mission. This is often in conflict with worldwide trend towards excellence in research and globally competitive education. Thus for replication of the case the intentional and systematic protection against these trends is needed, so the HEI will not take the line of competing with academic universities.
What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?
There is a number of benefits that have been brought into the region by establishment of the college. However, the crucial impact is in the cultural change that address traditionally peripheral parts of the region. The presence of HEI in Jihlava region motivates locals from the region to study and to enhance their educational aspirations in general. The regional population traditionally worked mainly in agricultural and low-tech industrial sectors; and the future perspectives of young people were linked to these sectors with low educational demand. The absence of local HEI meant that the closest university centers were mentally very far away for people from the countryside, so they did not continue their education after reaching the secondary educational degrees. Establishment of the HEI in the region significantly raised these educational aspirations, even if it has partly resulted in mobility out of the region, especially concerning those young people, who want to continue their education after the bachelor degree.