I had to exclude the rest from my dictionary for a while, says the rector of the University of Economics, Hana Machková

Photo: courtesy of the University of Economics

Prof. Ing. Hana Machková, CSc. is the rector of the University of Economics in Prague. In his academic career, he specializes in international marketing and international business operations, among other things. She is a member of the Scientific Board of the University of Economics in Prague, the Scientific Board of Masaryk University in Brno, the Strategic Committee of the International Alliance of Universities CEMS and the International Advisory Board of the French Management School IAE Lyon. Among other things, she also lectures as a visiting professor in Lyon and Paris.

What is it like to be a woman-rector in an academic and relatively conservative environment like the University of Economics? Have you encountered stereotypes during your career? How did you deal with them?

Being rector of the University of Economics is beautiful, I don’t exaggerate. I have encountered stereotypes, but in a positive sense. Men at VŠE treat me with respect. Throughout my term of office, I have not encountered aggressive behavior or contemptuous attitude. Of course, I have been criticized many times, for example by some members of the Academic Senate, but both students and teachers have always treated me correctly. The fact that I am a woman, on the other hand, is a competitive advantage, both for me personally (there are few women in high positions, so I am offered membership in various international organizations, and if I ran somewhere, I am always a man as a Central European woman). defeated) and for the University of Economics, Prague, which is perceived as a modern university without prejudices. And by the way, in the post-revolutionary history of the University of Economics, a woman has been run by a woman for 14 years, I am not the first rector.

How does a career match vs. family in your personal life? Is it possible to rest in such a demanding position at all?

Careers and families are very difficult to combine, which is why there are so few women in high positions. I am personally an example of the so-called sandwich generation. During my second term, I had to combine caring for my mother, who lived to be almost 98 years old, and the last two years have been really hard, caring for my grandchildren (I have five) and not neglecting school. I had to delete the word rest from my dictionary until November last year, when my mother left. Due to the time of the covid, it was not possible to travel and everything moved to the online environment, I managed it with all my might, but I seriously considered that I would have to end my second term prematurely.

You have extensive experience from abroad. How is the Czech educational system unique in comparison with abroad and in what way does it lag behind?

I know foreigners really well and I state that we have nothing to be ashamed of. We have a functioning system of public education, there are no social inequalities in access to quality education as in many Western European countries, where financially better-off parents give their children mainly to private schools. We have an excellent system of preschool education, which is, in my opinion, truly unique (we have our own kindergarten at the University of Economics). Primary and secondary schools are fulfilling their educational role, and I am very pleased that the salary situation of teachers, who have a major influence on the personality development of children and adolescents, has improved. If we want to have good schools, the teaching profession must have prestige and teachers must not go to employment offices during the holidays because schools do not have sufficient salaries. What has happened in the past has been a real shame, and I am glad that the situation has improved in recent years. Czech universities are also not lost in international competition, although of course they have a handicap from long-term underfunding. We certainly lag behind in quality foreign language teaching, and traditional drill-based teaching methods often still predominate. We lack didactic methods that would lead children to greater self-confidence and the development of communication skills.

What exactly does the University of Economics stand out from other universities? As a former student of the University of Economics, Prague, for example, I will be the first to remember one attempt to pass an exam, where passionate discussions about changing this system took place and are taking place at the University of Economics.

VŠE is a school that educates future managers. Our system is based on the independence and responsibility of students. As for one attempt at the exam, you have probably forgotten about “4+”, which means that a student who has not passed a few points can repeat the exam. At VŠE, the word exam is not derived from the word “try”, we want students to prepare well for the exams. So passionate discussions sometimes break out, but 30 years of the credit system (we were the first university to start using it in Czechoslovakia) proved successful. It is true that we have a relatively large drop in the first year of the bachelor’s degree, but as soon as students understand that they are really responsible for the course of their studies, they will manage the study. Another advantage is that if a student is not gifted in mathematics, for example, he can repeat this subject several times, as long as spare credit vouchers are enough. The credit system also provides great flexibility, students set their own schedule and spread their responsibilities into individual semesters, which allows them to gain, for example, work experience during their studies (it is common for postgraduate students to spread their study responsibilities over three, instead of the expected two years) .

Photo: courtesy of the University of Economics

What is the basis of success for studying economics? What modern trends currently need to be respected in teaching so that the University of Economics keeps up with the best economic ones?

Economics is a social science and society is changing very fast before our eyes. We must therefore try to capture trends and teach our students to think independently. I often say that college is not a guide to single use, but a guide to conceptual thinking. We are currently undergoing AACSB international accreditation and have set basic learning objectives for all study programs. The University of Economics graduate should have analytical thinking and be able to work with data, must have communication and presentation skills, critical and creative thinking, pay attention to ethics and sustainability and, of course, have appropriate knowledge of their study program.

Over the last few years, the University of Economics has faced many problems, controversy over some speakers, cyber attacks, reporting bombs during the exam period or Covid-19, and online teaching. What was the hardest for you? What is usually the most effective measure from the point of view of crisis management?

You are right that we have had to deal with a number of unpredictable problems during my term of office. The worst was the reporting of bombs, which did not only concern the examination period, and I am convinced that it was not a student at the University of Economics. The bomb was reported on the anniversary of Jan Palach, an open day, so it was a targeted attack to damage the school, it was not a boy whose motive would be not to write a test that day. The evacuation of several thousand people is unpleasant, but I appreciated my colleagues and students for taking it pragmatically. Covid-19 hit the whole world, so we had to handle the situation like everyone else. The University of Economics does not have laboratory teaching and students and teachers were well equipped with computer technology, so the transition to the online environment was relatively easy for us.

From the point of view of crisis management, the basis is quick and unambiguous information for everyone, the worst is uncertainty. On the one hand, the University of Economics has a good information system that allows us to send e-mails to thousands of addresses relatively quickly, and we have also established a crisis staff according to the principle of “who is responsible, decides”. The Dean of all six faculties, I, the Chancellor, the Quaestor and the Vice-Rector for Pedagogy are represented in the crisis staff. Crisis situations can be handled if you have a team of responsible people who want to work together. And I’m very lucky that the faculties are headed by deans who act as a team. When necessary, we had video conferences on Sunday evenings. If you work in an environment of mutual trust, then almost all crisis situations can be solved.

Who is your biggest inspiration in your professional life?

I am from a teaching family, both parents were respected university teachers, so my career was greatly influenced by the family background.

What would you say about the next generation? What is the current generation of young people? What are their views?

I like young people and I don’t think generations are very different from each other. Today’s generation of students is more confident than we were and less materially oriented than the generation of students in the early 1990s, when success was a lot of money. Today, our students are still enterprising, but they are also often involved in volunteering, they are open, they have the opportunity to get to know the world, they have a better command of languages ​​and modern technologies. I hope that the covida pandemic has not changed them and that active students will return to us in September, who after that long break will look forward to teaching and meeting, which is an integral part of a full university life. More than a year of empty corridors and the silence that still exists at school, I would not want to experience again.

The Covid-19 pandemic was undoubtedly a great tragedy that struck us. The events surrounding the lockdown are likely to have far-reaching economic consequences. What do you think the Czech business environment can expect in the future?

Unfortunately, the period of uncertainty still does not end and the unstable business environment is a great threat to the Czech economy. Many companies that have been closed for a long time will disappear because they have already exhausted their reserves and will have trouble returning to the market. In addition, globalization has shown its risks. The fact that automakers today have to limit production because they lack chips made in China is a great warning for the future. Unfortunately, the rising indebtedness of the state is not reasonable, which – unless an economic miracle happens and the Czech economy starts to grow rapidly – can affect the quality of life of future generations for a long time. Because we are a small open economy and Czech companies are part of global value chains, we must believe that Germany in particular will handle the crisis well. And Germany and other developed countries will handle the crisis if vaccination takes place, because the coronavirus will not go away on its own.

In your opinion, has the pandemic also given us something positive that we can take away from it, or do you think humanity is unteachable?

The pandemic has shown the power of science and new technologies. She showed that it is possible to live more modestly and that the most important values ​​are really health and family. We’ll see if humanity learns, but the world just won’t be the same. Today, we know for sure that there may be other pandemics that cannot be avoided even by the richest countries in the world.

Source: MODA.CZ – Pánská móda, dámská móda a vše ze světa módy by www.moda.cz.

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