The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Slovakia Trip

Posted on: October 11th, 2010 by alysia

As mass media discourse has developed in many parts of the world, it has tended to
conform to official positions. Some of this relates to economic, historical and ideological
factors that influence media, including state-media relations and routines. Clearly, media
in all nations are susceptible to propaganda and other government ploys.

Nonetheless, some researchers say that media are important in the democratization
process. For example, Connolly (1995) argues that in instances in which a critical
mass of media has operated independent of governmental control and has been able to
perform its watchdog role, democratic benchmarks were achieved with a greater degree
of public participation, stronger record of free and fair elections and diminishing levels of
corruption.

It could be maintained that, in those nations in which a critical mass of media was not
able to advance unpopular ideas, a spiral of silence was at play. In such situations
pathways to democratization have been detoured, and nations have found themselves to
be captive democracies.

In other words, in such situations, nations are not able to achieve meaningful
democratization, nor are they able to degenerate into authoritarian regimes.

Thus, journalism programs are necessary to enable graduates to move into media
positions with broad perspectives and highly developed multiple platform media
skills. Therefore, it is a delight to be reviewing three journalism/mass communications
programs in the Republic of Slovakia, a young nation facing the growing pains of many
nations that have dealt with authoritarian regimes and now are attempting to shape a
democratic profile that will provide better lives for all its citizens.

We visited programs at The Comenius University, Pan European University and
University of Cyril and Methodius in Trnava. Our report was prepared after meeting
with Ms. Daniela Drobna, director of the Academic Ranking and Rating Agency,
representatives of the Accreditation Commission and Department for Higher Education
in the Ministry of Education and Dagmar Hupkova, head of International Cooperation
Section.

We reported our findings to U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Theodore Sedgwick; Chase
Beamer, Embassy Press Attache; and Jana Illesova, Public Affairs Section Officer at the
U.S. Embassy in Bratislava.

September 16: Comenius University

The Comenius University was established in 1919. In spite of challenges in personnel,
finances and facilities, the university developed quality research and teaching programs.
The Faculty of Medicine was started in 1919 and the Faculties of Law and Philosophy in
1921.

The university went through many challenges during the Nazi and Communist regimes.
However, the university continued to grow and new faculties were created.

The Department of Journalism of The Comenius University is the oldest university
journalism program in the former Czechoslovakia. It is a full member of the European
association of school of journalism (European Journalism Training Association). The
department has a long association with the Vienna Institute of Investigative Journalism
and Communication Science.

The bachelors program is three years and the masters program is two years. No more
than 50 students are admitted each year. There is a total of 250 students. The faculty is
comprised of six full-time faculty. After 1999, the faculty indicated that the curricular
focus moved more to practical education rather than theoretical.

To be tenured and promoted faculty have a rigorous set of publishing requirements and
conference presentation demands. Moreover, the tenure only is for five years, and then
the faculty must be evaluated again after five years. There only is one faculty person
who is a full professor.

September 17: Pan European University

The Faculty of Media in Pan European University, formerly the Bratislava School of
Law, is only three years old. The university is private and began offering media studies
in May 2007 when the Accreditation Commission of the Government and Ministry of
Education granted permission for the university to award bachelors, masters and doctoral
programs in mass media studies. Courses are taught in Slovak, Czech, English and
German. The university enrollment is 1,500.

The first bachelors degrees were awarded in June 2010 and the first masters degrees
were awarded in June 2009. Courses are offered in print, video and audio in news and
marketing communications (which includes advertising and public relations). Until the
2010-2011 academic year, marketing communications was offered only at the masters
level.

The facilities of the school are exceptional. We saw video, audio and still photography
facilities, word processing labs and multiple platform teaching facilities that were as good
as any we have seen anywhere. Clearly, it is a remarkably cutting edge facility in terms
of the technology provided.

Seventeen full-time faculty members are complemented by many professional part-time
adjunct faculty members. They appeared to have exceptional credentials, and a record of
their productivity seemed remarkable to us.

Tenure is limited or unlimited, teaching loads range from 8 to 12 hours for associate
professors and professors. Because faculty receive low salaries, many work at other
universities. While their pay may not be as high as professionals in media industries, it is
more than the salaries of faculty at public universities.

Tuition is 1,000 Euros a semester. There are 600 majors, and 90 were graduated last
June.

The school will host an international conference entitled, Media in Crisis – Crisis in
Media, December 2 – 4. It is the third conference of scholars hosted by the faculty of the
media at Pan European University.

September 18 and 19: Walking around the Old City and Devin Castle

During the weekend I walked around the Old City of Bratislava and toured Devin Castle.
Bratislava’s old buildings are being renovated, and it will not be long before it is a main
stop for every tourist in Europe. Its Old City is a particularly quaint and attractive urban
center that has existed for centuries.

Slovakia is an area with a long history of being submitted to oppressive rulers. Only
recently have the Slovakian people been independent.

The Slavs arrived in Central Europe at the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the
6th century. By the 9th century, the castles at Bratislava and Devin were important in the
Principality of Nitra and Great Moravia.

In 1526 the Ottoman Empire defeated the Kingdom of Hungary at the Battle of Mohacs.
After that victory the Turks tried to conquer Pressburg (Bratislava) but only did damage
to it.

The city was declared to be the capital of Hungary in 1536 – part of the Austrian
Habsburg monarchy. It was the place where the Habsburg emperor was crowned, the
seat of kings, archbishops and all major organizations. Until 1830, 11 kings and queens
were crowned at St. Martin’s Cathedral.

The capital flourished during the reign of Maria Theresa. The population grew
dramatically and palaces, mansion and streets were built. The city was the center of
social and cultural life of the region. During the reign of Joseph II , in 1783, the crown
jewels were taken to Vienna and the city began to lose its importance.

The city became the capital of the Slovak Republic in 1993. It had gained prominence
during the late 1980s as one of the leading areas of the Velvet Revolution, a peaceful,
anti-communist movement.

I soaked up its history as I toured the town and the outskirts of the city. It helped me to
understand the challenges facing government in Central Europe today.

September 20: St. Cyril and Methodius University

The University of St. Cyril and Methodius in Trnava was established in August 1997. Its
mission is to educate in the spirit of Christian and national ideals and in accordance with
democratic principles.

The Department of Media Communication of UCM offers both undergraduate and

postgraduate degrees in media communication. Graduates of the three-year bachelor’s
degree program have learning objectives in theory, communication, philosophy,
aesthetics, history and culture. They are expected to have journalistic skills and
knowledge of media law and ethics. Moreover, they are expected to be fluent in two
languages other than Slovak.

At the graduate level, students are able to pursue a masters and a doctorate.

The university was established in 1997 with three faculties and one institute. Another
institute has been added.

These three faculties are the Faculty of the Arts, the Faculty of Mass Media Communica-
tions and the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

The Faculty of Mass Media Communications includes Mass Media Communications and
Marketing Communications at the bachelors, masters and doctoral levels. The masters
degree is more inter-disciplinary, and students acquire skills appropriate to their specific
mass medium.

There are 3,000 students who are being taught by a faculty of 58 persons. Instruction is
theoretical and practical in nature.

Faculty reported that 98 percent of mass communication majors found media jobs after
graduation.

The faculty hosts two international conferences a year: The fall conference focuses on
marketing communications, and the spring conference is on journalism and mass media.
They also reported that a book on autism was designated as the best book in the nation in
2009.

The Academic Senate has elected a new administration for the university and each of the
three faculties.

During the evening Ambassador hosted a Reception at the U.S. Embassy. It was a great
opportunity to meet journalists and leaders in Slovakia.