The guest of honour and speaker at the last graduation ceremony at Alma Mater was prof. dr. Franci Demšar, Director of the National Agency of Quality Assurance in Higher Education (SQAA).
Prof. dr. Demšar spoke to the students, especially about the importance of quality in higher education, which is a prerequisite for international competitiveness, the reputation of Slovenian universities and a precondition for development and prosperity in the country. During the discussions with the management of Alma Mater, dr. Demšar presented the efforts for quality development of new study programs that show high employment opportunities in Slovenia and are highly competitive on the European labor market.
Below is the keynote address of dr. Demšar to the graduates of Alma Mater.
Dear graduates, parents, friends,
Dear president of Alma Mater Europaea – European Center Maribor, prof. dr. Ludvik Toplak,
Dear professors and the faculty, dear guests,
It is a great honour for me to address and greet you on behalf of the Slovene National Agency for Quality in Higher Education, congratulate you on your diploma and, of course, congratulate your institution - Alma Mater Europaea - European Center Maribor. I am happy for the success you have achieved so far and will continue to achieve while developing your knowledge and academic excellence in a variety of fields, in line with the needs of the labour market and the international guidelines you have outlined.
Alma Mater Europaea - European Center Maribor was accredited eleven years ago, more exactly on February 14, 2008, even before the establishment of the agency, that re-accredited Alma Mater on June 18, 2015. In more than a decade, Alma Mater has become a reputable institution of higher education that performs study programs for education at the first, second and third Bologna cycle, is active and present with research and scientists in the international environment, and at the same time integrated into the national and regional social and economic environment, which is probably very important for all of you, gathered here today – because it is an institution that educates recognizable and employable graduates
As I was thinking about what to tell you during this event, I also tried to remember my ground-breaking events and my thoughts during them. Thoughts ranged from successes to failures, both of them are very present in our lives and give a hand to our projects. I wrote about one of my failures in one of my books: "I felt like a kid who builds sandcastles all day, and then the tide would carry them away overnight. I felt like this kid the next morning, when he returned to the beach with his parents and his grandmother with fire in his eyes, so that she would also confirm what his dad had said the day before with pride: our son would become an architect. This is how I felt when I kept track of what happened to one of my projects: sand in front of my eyes and sand in my eyes. The desert. "
Both the institution and you students have most likely gone through victories as well as defeats in the past period, but the fact that we all gathered here today clearly demonstrates that there were undoubtedly more victories than defeats.
Alma Mater Europaea - European Center Maribor plays an important role in enriching the Slovenian higher education area. It is a dynamic, development-oriented and research-oriented institution with support in both the Slovenian and international environment. You are committed to developing and implementing the deficient, European-oriented and applicative study programs required by both the domestic and foreign labour market. Excellent study conditions are a guarantee that your students get the knowledge and competencies they want and deserve, while the graduates are also appreciated at the job market.
Therefore, we can rightly be proud of the achievements of the institution and its graduates. But all of us are facing new challenges that go far beyond institutions, and often governments. SQAA is aware of circumstances that may not be most favourable to private higher education institutions. A few months ago, the SQAA in collaboration with the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts organized a symposium on excellence in higher education, with Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, former rector of the University of Cambridge, an extremely reputable institution representing one ideal example of a successful private higher education at the global scale. It regularly ranks among the top 5 universities in the Shanghai rankings, with nearly 100 Nobel laureates among its members, boasting a 98% employment rate of their graduates.
Prof. Borysiewicz highlighted the most important reason why there are a large number of excellent private universities in the Anglo-Saxon world. The reason is the high tax deduction that allows companies to donate primarily for the purpose of financing higher education. In my opinion, in Slovenia, we should start a debate on such a model. In the book I published on Slovene science earlier this year, I proposed a similar model - an additional tax relief for research and development aimed at concrete contracts between the economy and the academic sphere. The aim of all of us should be to approach the issue in a constructive way, to improve the conditions for the existence and development of both private and public higher education institutions, and to contribute jointly to the strengthening of the Slovenian higher education area.
You, graduates of Alma Mater Europaea - European Center Maribor, are a proof that Slovenian private education is of high quality, and the acquired competences are an excellent basis on which you can successfully build your career. This, as already stated, will probably consist of both ups and downs, but it is important that we learn something from both. Therefore, keep that curiosity and diligence that accompanied you during your studies. You can be proud of the knowledge you have acquired, but at the same time, it is also your responsibility to carry those values forward.
Dear graduates, today is your day. Today, we are celebrating with you, your institution and your professors. Congratulations again to all of you!