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Before and After the Ph.D.: The Higher-Education System in Slovakia

The duration of undergraduate education in Slovakia depends on the field of study. In the technical sciences and economics, the Ing. degree is awarded after 5 or 6 years of study. In humanities and social sciences, study can be divided into two phases, with the Bc. degree awarded after 3 years and the Mgr. degree (Slovak MA) after a further 2 years. In some universities, only the Mgr. degree is awarded after 5 years of study. Study for medical and veterinary degrees takes 6 years.

For students who successfully pass the entrance examinations, university education is free. In addition, students can get a room in the dormitory of the university (cheaper than rental), as well as a reduction on tickets for travelling home and within the city. Moreover, students with excellent results can apply for a student loan, worth 2000 Slovak crowns (?43) per month. The student is supposed to pay the loan back with very low interest within 20 years of finishinguniversity studies. The loan is initially awarded for 10 months, and every year the student must reapply and wait for the decision of the State Loan Fund.

Despite efforts to come into line with the European Union (EU) in the area of education, Slovakia still has the so-called ""small doctorate" (Ph.Dr. and other titles), for which you must study for only 1 year and write a shorter thesis. And, although the Soviet system of "Candidatures of Science" (C.Sc.) study has been replaced by the Ph.D., we continue with its higher form, which takes in the docent (based on a certain number of publications and years of teaching experience) and finishes with Dr.Sc.

The Ph.D.

There are almost 8000 Ph.D. students in Slovakia (see Table 1). These studies may be conducted only in state institutions. In 2000, 41% of registered students were female. There are no graduate schools and thus no compulsory taught courses. Ph.D. students are not obliged to undertake any teaching duties, although many actually do teach some courses.

The minimum time in which a Slovak Ph.D. can be completed is 3 years. Prior to 2000, Slovak Ph.D. students were required to complete their theses within 6 years of passing the general examination. This examination is usually taken in the second year of Ph.D. study and, for example, for historians would be about Slovak and world history relating to their period or problem of study. The examination is based on personal study, although some institutions offer courses for Ph.D.s to help them prepare. Since 2000, there is a maximum time limit of 5 years from the start of the Ph.D. to completion.

Ph.D. candidates can have more than one supervisor, and supervisors can be from different institutions or even from a foreign institution. The defense of the thesis is in front of a jury. The number of people in the jury is defined by the institution. Usually, it includes experts in the subject area from other institutions and the supervisor as well. Defense of the thesis can be conducted in Slovak, or in English, French, or German.

Funding

The only available source of funding is the state, which provides full-time students stipends for 3 years. A limited number of stipends are available, for which Ph.D. students must compete. Individual institutional departments arrange this competition annually. A committee of 10 to 15 scientists, mainly from the institution, interviews candidates and judges them on the basis of their motivation, education, knowledge of the area, experience, and proposed study plan.

The number of available full-time Ph.D. candidate posts depends on the department's financial situation. Some departments have extra funding (e.g., the Slovak Academy of Sciences Department of Polymers sells glues, or some institutions might have received foreign grants that year), so they can accept more Ph.D.s. The basic stipend is 6000 Slovak crowns (?135) per month. A small amount of extra money--most often 500 to 1500 SKK per month--might also be available, depending on the financial situation of the institution and the performance of the student. Ph.D.s are not able to borrow money from the state's student fund, as this is open only to undergraduate students, but they can live in a cheap dormitory of the institution.

Completion Rates

Unfortunately, there are no official statistics for the number of Ph.D. students who fail to complete their studies. However, a glance at the statistics for the numbers of doctoral titles awarded (see Table 2) shows that the number of Ph.D.s awarded in 1999-2000 was far smaller than the number of students registered 3 years earlier, in 1996. This implies that many Slovak doctoral students are struggling to complete work within the 3 years for which they are funded, and that many might never complete at all.

Table 1: Number of Ph.D. students in Slovakia

Year

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

Total

4507

5367

6452

6778

7379

7854

Full-time

 

 

 

1721

1859

1860

Part-time

 

 

 

5057

5520

5994

In the health sector

402

545

656

100

119

*

* This figure is not available.

Table 2: Number of doctoral titles awarded each year

All students

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

Full-time

189

220

115

115

100

Part-time

253

300

309

In the health sector alone

 

 

 

 

 

Full-time

3

7

0

2

2

Part-time

35

28

54