Implementation of the Bologna Declaration: The Czech Republic and Hungary
Until 1989, when the communist Eastern Bloc collapsed, the educational systems in former Czechoslovakia and Hungary were based largely on the Soviet model of higher education.
Following independence, new laws were passed in both counties that ended the state monopoly on education, promoted the liberalization of curricula, and adopted an Anglo-American system of degrees.
Below we have outlined the current systems of the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Part VII: The Czech Republic
The implementation of higher education reforms in 1990 and 1998 have added two-tier — bachelor’s and master’s — programs to the traditional one-tier system, which leads to a master’s-level degree taking between four and six years.
Since 1990, institutions have offered degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level. In addition, many institutions have introduced tuition-based, short-term and degree programs for international students. Others have set up joint-degree programs with foreign universities to offer business and management programs to Czech students.
Bachelor’s degrees are relatively new in the Czech Republic, and are not well known among students and employers. Only 17.5 percent of all students are enrolled in bachelor’s programs, compared to 75 percent enrolled in master’s programs, and 7.5 percent in doctoral programs.
Current System of Higher Education
Private and state-run universities provide the bulk of higher education in the Czech Republic. There are also schools offering non-university and professional higher education. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport set enrollment quotas until 1990, when state planning was eradicated and institutions of higher education were allowed to specify their own enrollment numbers. The schools now also decide whether to set entrance examinations.
The primary function of the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport is to promote the advancement of higher education in the Czech Republic and to distribute financial resources. Recognition of degrees and other qualifications is the responsibility of individual colleges and universities.
Access to higher education institutions is based on the Maturitni Vysvedceni (secondary school leaving certificate) or an equivalent qualification recognized by the government. This certificate is awarded after four years of secondary education. Colleges and universities are free of charge for Czech citizens. An entrance exam is required by most institutions, and the academic requirements and duration of study vary, depending on the field of study.
Stage I: The bakalár degree is awarded after three to four years of study at a recognized university. Study programs leading to the bakalár are designed to prepare students for a profession and include a final state examination and defense of a thesis.
Stage II: Despite the introduction of bachelor-type degrees, universities continue to offer one-tier master’s degree programs that take between four and six years. Master’s programs that follow the bakalár take two to three years of study and lead to the magister (formerly absolvent vysoke skoly) in the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics or theology. The title of inzenyr is awarded as a first qualification in the field of engineering. The title of doktor as the result of a first degree is now only awarded in the medical sciences (medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine).
Stage III: A doctoral degree doktor usually requires three years of full-time study beyond the master’s level. Doctoral programs require defending a dissertation and the passing of an examen rigorosum. Doctoral study programs are administered in coordination with individual universities and the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Non-University Higher Education
Institutions that fall into this category (many of them only recently established) are actually considered universities. They offer mainly bachelor’s programs lasting between three and four years, but many also offer master’s degrees. Institutions of this type are not typically divided into faculties.
In addition to nonuniversity programs, there are also higher professional schools, which award the diploma of specialist after two to 3 1/2 years of study. These institutions are not part of the official system of higher education in the Czech Republic.
Part VIII: Hungary
Hungary’s system of higher education underwent significant changes after Parliament passed a reform package in 1993 aimed at overhauling education at the tertiary level. Under the new laws, only institutions offering both undergraduate and postgraduate education are permitted to call themselves universities. Schools that only offer undergraduate degrees are designated as colleges. Similarly, those that only offer postgraduate courses cannot call themselves universities.
Hungary has adopted the Anglo-American system of bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates. New MBA degrees have also been introduced and are offered by specialized postgraduate programs. As they are not considered equivalent to a master’s-level degree, the MBA cannot be used to enter a doctoral program.
Current System of Higher Education
Higher education in Hungary is provided by universities, technical universities, colleges and religious institutions. Traditional-style universities offer degrees in arts and sciences, law, social sciences, economics and education. Technical universities provide instruction and training in the various technological fields and also in architecture. There are also several specialized universities for medicine, economics, veterinary medicine, architecture, forestry, fine arts, music, theater and physical education.
Colleges called föiskolai represent the main branch of Hungary’s higher education system, offering three- to four-year, practical-oriented programs in such fields as business administration, computer science, catering and teacher training for primary school teachers. Most colleges operate independently of universities, but some (especially in the technical fields) function as separate faculties of universities.
A new higher education law was passed in 1993, approving the establishment of private colleges and universities, including church-run institutions. There are now 17 state universities and 13 state colleges; the total number of state institutions has been reduced from 55 to 30. In addition, there are 26 church-run institutions and six foundation colleges. Private institutions of higher education currently enroll approximately 10 percent of all students in Hungary.
Higher education in Hungary is based on a one-tier degree system. However, in the wake of the Bologna Declaration, many institutions have introduced a two-tier system, especially in programs designed primarily for foreign students.
Stage I: Föiskolai (colleges) offer bachelor’s-level degrees (föiskolai oklevél) with the possibility to continue on for a master’s degree at a recognized university. Most föiskolai programs, including agriculture, production engineering, economics, computer science, commerce, tourism and catering, take three years to complete. A few programs, such as upper primary teaching, take four years.
Stages I & II: Universities generally follow a one-tier system leading to a master’s-level degree (egyetemi oklevél) that requires five years of study (six years for medicine). Holders of the föiskolai oklevél can continue on for a master’s,which requires an additional two to three years of study.
Stage III: The university doctorate, called egyetemi doktor, is offered in medicine, law, dentistry and veterinary medicine after one to three years of study beyond the egyetemi oklevél. The kandidatus is higher than the university doctorate and is awarded by the State Committee for Scientific Degrees. It is not necessary to hold a university doctorate to be admitted into a kandidatus program, although this is often the case. The kandidatus requires at least three years of research beyond the egyetemi oklevél. In medicine, it can take as long as 10 additional years. Further requirements include defending a dissertation and the passing of an oral exam, which includes foreign languages. The tudomanyok doktora is the highest postgraduate qualification awarded in Hungary and requires at least three to four years of additional research work beyond the kandidatus. The kandidatus and the tudomanyok doktora were adopted from the Soviet system of advanced higher education.
Both colleges and universities also offer short-term, post-secondary programs with a two-year duration called accredited higher vocational training courses, which lead to a certificate.