Internationalisation and International Cooperation
As far as the possibilities, number and efficiency of the short-term mobility of students and scholars are concerned, given its size, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Bratislava (AFAD) is a leader among universities in Slovakia. In both parameters—of sending and receiving students—the mobility of students is highly active, but its quantification leads to a reduction in the criteria imposed on incoming and outgoing students and puts pressure on the organisational and operational requirements associated with it. In terms of the quality of arts education and developing partnerships, the effect of such high mobility is counterproductive.
Scholars’ unbalanced language skills and their lack of ambition to present themselves at foreign universities cause that they slightly lag behind in making use of mobility. In terms of long-term and complex cooperation at the level of scholars and researchers, this activity is developed insufficiently, without a long-term plan or measurement of its effects. On the positive side, the mobility of non-academic staff increases.
As far as the short-term mobility of foreign scholars coming to our school is concerned, we are passive. There is a lack of the articulation of necessity and the use of mobility programmes for inviting guests who are valuable for respective departments and will be essential for a long-term cooperation with the partner school (schools).
The absence of a study programme in English language, the unbalanced language skills of home scholars, the unsystematic coordination of the presentation abroad and the uncertain orientation towards countries which, for us, represent the potential of new students slow down the internationalisation process. On the other hand, as far as compulsory optional and elective subjects are concerned, we introduce courses not only in Slovak, but also in English language.
An important step, which has already been implemented, is the project of Internationalisation, thanks to which we have created a position for a visiting professor successively filled by important figures from abroad. We implement short-term training courses and periodically organise professional excursions for students to visit the most important events of fine arts, design, architecture and restoration. We have also reinforced English classes for AFAD’s students, PhD students and staff.
Systematic and strategic cooperation with foreign partner schools and partner organisations at the level of research, doctoral studies and presentation is very low. Activities in this field are not conducted systematically at the school level, they exist exclusively at the level of individual activities organised by engaged scholars. There is a lack of systematic and complex strategy of cooperation at all levels: study, research, education and artistic activities.
The number (portfolio) of partner schools in all used projects (Erasmus+, CEEPUS and bilateral agreements) is confusing, with the fluctuating quality of individual institutions. It diminishes the legibility and status of our school abroad. However, in terms of the internationalisation process, this strategy was inevitable during its first phase. Now there is a lack of qualitative selection and a certain form of cooperation exclusivity. A targeted and highly selective choice of partner schools, reflecting the needs and expectations of the individual departments of our school, will provide a long-term and complex cooperation.
The organisation of internationalisation comprising all administrative elements is at a high level. It involves the administration of incoming and outgoing students and scholars, the management of agreements with partner schools and active participation in international professional organisations.
The support of the entry of AFAD’s graduates into professional life via internships is sufficient.
Making use of the possibilities and sources of the Erasmus+ programme is particularly intense.
Mobility, Studies and Classes
The AFAD’s main strategic goal in the field of internationalisation and foreign policy is building high-quality and strategic partnerships with an adequate number of partner schools and institutions which will create preconditions for implementing partnerships at all levels: student/scholar/non-scholar mobility, cooperation in the field of doctoral studies and research, the exchange of scholar, research, artistic and publishing experience and innovations, mutual support in study programmes, mutual help and participation in conceiving and organising promotional activities.
Maintaining existing high-quality partnerships and building new, especially strategic partnerships with foreign schools and cultural institutions frame the internationalisation of our school. As far as the roles of our school toward the outside and of our partner schools toward us are concerned, we can divide the collaborating institutions (schools) into three strategic groups, which will help us invest human energy and financial sources more accurately and efficiently and formulate sensible objectives of cooperation with each partner school:
- Key partnerships in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe along the axis Tallinn–Warsaw–Belgrade are based on their common socio-political historical context, temperament, quality, education system and international cooperation tools. It also includes partnerships in the countries of Northern Europe—Copenhagen–Oslo–Helsinki—and in the countries of Western Europe, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain. The cooperation within a key partnership is not “only” about the mobility of students or staff, but mostly about the mutual coordination and development of artistic, educational and research tasks and also about the realisation of common artistic, educational and research projects. The effects of key partnerships are professional and concrete outcomes and continuous cooperation. To ensure this cooperation we will chiefly make use of the KA103 Erasmus+ programme.
- To the second group belong schools included in the category Mission, where we step into relationships with foreign schools rather as a leader and supportive partner. Our role here is to help and support foreign schools especially in educational and research area. To this group belong mostly schools from the countries of Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Belarus and Moldavia), the Balkan countries (the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania), but also Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan).
- To the third important group belong schools included in the category Promotion. It includes partnerships with the United States, Mexico and Brazil, and also with Asian countries (China, Japan) or other countries of Southeast Asia. Other particularly important partnerships are in Israel and Turkey. The significance of this cooperation is primarily the visibility, building and subsequent consolidation of the position of our school in the international field of arts education, work and research. We can build these partnerships especially thanks to the KA107 Erasmus+ programme. To consolidate partnerships, it is also important to maintain good and strong relationships with foreign embassies in our country and with our embassies in the countries of this group.
Active participation in international forums (professional organisations ELIA, Cumulus), supporting and co-organising the promotional and artistic activities of school students and teachers at prestigious foreign institutions (galleries, trade fairs, exhibitions). Programme activities will enhance the visibility and prestige of our school abroad, as well as for foreign countries, and will strengthen the confrontation of the school, its scholars and students on the international artistic scene. Close cooperation with domestic partner organisations—SAIA and SAAC—is also of strategic importance for us.
A thorough selection and active visibility strategies in those countries from where we want to receive new foreign students—via presentations of the school and the academic and professional work of our scholars and students—will cause the number of foreign full-time students at our school increase and will strengthen the international character of our school and arts education in Slovakia.
To fulfil AFAD’s long-term strategic plan, it will be inevitable to support the increased involvement of the representatives of individual departments in the evaluation of existing partnerships and selection of new partnerships, reflecting their artistic, scientific and educational needs.
In a long-term perspective, it is necessary to open a discussion about the creation of an interdisciplinary study programme at master’s degree level conducted exclusively in English language. It will strengthen AFAD’s ambitions to be a crucial educational institution not only in Slovakia, but in the whole Central European region. It will represent the completion of the second phase of the internationalisation of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Bratislava.