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Algebra University College 18th Economic Council session held last week

The future of higher education development lies in internationalization, concludes Algebra University College Economic Council

Despite declining numbers of high school graduates, due to negative demographic trends, which are set to continue, Algebra University College once again saw an increase in freshman enrollment last year. Its future outlook involves a more robust outreach on the international education market, attracting a greater number of foreign students to Croatia. On the other hand, Croatia has a chance to tackle its lack of quality experts in the field of digital technologies by soon implementing a system of micro-qualifications, primarily intended for education and retraining of adult learners, who could finance their lifelong learning through a voucher system.    

At the end of 2021, the Algebra University College Economic Council held its last session of the year, at the same time the last session before the formation of the new Economic Council that will provide a more even representation from all areas where digital technologies play a key role. The body brings together around thirty representatives from business enterprises including some of the largest and most successful Croatian and international companies: Microsoft, Oracle, EY, APIS IT, Ericsson Nikola Tesla, INsig2, IBM, JGL, NIVAS, airt and others. In its regular meetings, the Council makes recommendations for cooperation with the business sector, which has resulted in a number of initiatives and improvements, as well as the development of study programs, research projects and many other forms of cooperation.

The Algebra University College Economic Council’s last sessions of the year are an opportunity to summarize the year and review the current trends regarding the interest for and enrollment in computer science, digital marketing, multimedia and digital design study programs. Despite the fact that in the 2021/22 academic year, due to demographic trends, the number of applicants to higher education institutions fell by about 5 percent (in total, there were 29,532 college or university applicants in Croatia, compared to 31,093 applicants for the year 2020/21), Algebra University College ultimately achieved an increase in the number of enrolled students of almost 13 percent. During this academic year, therefore, there are 1,600 students currently studying at Algebra, while the goal would be to reach about 2,500 students in the next five years, said Algebra Dean, professor Mislav Balković.

Given the demographic trends in Croatia and the fact that, due to fewer number of children being born and emigration, the number of college and university candidates will continue to decline in the coming years. Therefore, Algebra’s future strategic goal will involve the internationalization of its study programs and attracting a greater number of students from abroad to study in Croatia. There are currently 50 foreign students at Algebra University College, studying at different program levels and with various lengths of stay, from one semester to the entire study program.

A key step in attracting a greater number of international students is forging reputable international cooperation projects like the one recently established with French graduate school EPITECH, with which Algebra jointly developed the graduate study program “Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence” (IoT & AI). Students will spend one year in Zagreb and one in Paris, after which they will qualify for a joint degree. This innovative graduate program will enroll its first students in the next academic year, 2022/23, while Dean Balković stresses that cooperation is central, since EPITECH annually sends almost one thousand of its students to other universities, which also aligns with Algebra’s strategy of expanding quality partnerships and it is a potent avenue for sourcing digital professionals for Croatian companies.

The Economic Council was also presented with a portfolio of over thirty European projects in the field of scientific research, innovation, education and education curriculum development in which Algebra is currently participating as project lead or one of the partners - the total value of which exceeds 300 million HRK.

During the spring of 2022, Algebra will move into its new, purpose-built campus in Zagreb, which will enable even better classroom implementation and allow more space for practicums and practical coursework, as well as the development of entrepreneurial projects in the context of scientific research.

As there is still a lack of experts in the field of digital technologies, while higher education will only yield more digital professionals in the long run, the Economic Council also discussed the national project of implementing vouchers and micro-qualifications, planned in conjunction with the new Adult Education Act, soon to be introduced by the Ministry of Labor, Pension System, Family and Social Policy of RH as part of Croatia’s Recovery and Resilience Plan. The project will enable approximately ten thousand people to complete one of the accredited educational programs in the digital field, with a significant subsidy from EU funds of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The Council concludes that global trends and the need for new hires will certainly generate considerable interest in educational programs for developers working with different technologies, system and cloud administrators, IT security experts, front-end developers, digital marketing professionals or user interface designers.

“In order to ensure an even representation of stakeholders involved in supplementing strategies related to adult education and Algebra’s new sub-strategy for adult education, we held a thematic Council session with the participation of Ministry of Labor, Pension System, Family and Social Policy representatives, who introduced the concept of micro-qualifications, vouchers and the general vision for the development of education in line with the needs of the labor market and employment. The session raised questions and produced a number of proposals for new qualifications and programs that Algebra could and should offer in order to more accurately meet the future needs of the economy in the section of certified short programs,” said the Dean of Algebra University College, professor Mislav Balković.

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