From 15 to 50
By Prague College Deputy Director Jeff Buehler
This year Prague College turns 15, which in some sense is a considerable period of time. Certainly in that time the college has grown from a handful of students into an international college in Prague with about 500 students. We have developed an excellent staff and infrastructure capable of fulfilling our goal of delivering a new and fresh vision for higher education in Central Europe. But my overriding sense is that we have only just begun.
The vision for the college, established in its earliest days, was long-ranging and challenging: we wanted to be a leading regional university with global appeal that delivered an exceptional student experience. We wanted to measure our success against our core values, which would be shared across programmes, students and the wider Prague College community. That was a lot to ask of a small institution which began with 15 students! I believe that one reason we have been able to flourish is that, despite many challenges, we have consistently adhered to our original core values of creativity, competence, innovation and connectedness. In order to be successful we had to know early on who we were as an institution, and where we wanted to go.
We knew that we didn’t want students who could simply repeat information from textbooks. Instead these values helped us to create a learning environment that nurtured curiosity and independence. We wanted our students to come out confident, but also practical and flexible. In order to be able to innovate you need to encourage discovery and play as well as experimentation and allow for mistakes. Finally, we wanted a diverse, open and inclusive community, promoting understanding across cultures and communities.
We have not always been successful in pursuit of these ideals, but I have seen in our students’ work, in their struggles and success how these values have played out directly in the lives of many, even as we navigated the turbulent years between 2004 and now. In that time the world experienced a financial crisis, Russian sanctions, challenges to the EU, changes to higher education laws in the Czech Republic and the UK, and of course Brexit. Through it all Prague College continued to apply these values through doing what it does best: listening to our students; creating a sense of belonging in the community by developing deep relationships with staff, industry, academic partners and our student body; and always pushing for updated and relevant curricula and teaching that reflect a changing world and marketplace.
This birthday is about celebrating these achievements, and about looking forward to the next 15 to 50 years. Knowing our strengths has helped up to deepen our strategic relationship with our main academic partner, Teesside University, which shares the same goals, values and aspirations. We are forging new relationships with industry partners, in Prague and abroad. We are exploring new territory in the fields of work and study and how they can be balanced. All three Schools consistently seek ways to improve on what they do best by creating an engaging environment in which deep learning can take place.
I am proud of what we have achieved over the past 15 years, but I also know that the journey to establish a meaningful institution which makes real social impact is a long one, and never really ends, but I am confident that by staying true to who we are, even as we evolve, will make all the difference.