Together with ASEF, Charles University in Prague, the Czech Republic, will organise the 5th ASEM Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum (ARC5): Employability: Asia and Europe Prepare the New Generation on 4-8 April 2016. ASEF interviewed Professor Tomáš ZIMA, M.D, DSc., the Rector of Charles University in Prague, about his views on this project.
Q. As the host university of the 5th ASEM Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum, what is the value and impact of this platform?
The ASEM platform is not only a unique opportunity for Asian and European academic institutions to exchange contacts and enhance cooperation in the field of education and science but also enhances interaction with other sectors, namely business, technological and research institutions. The Charles University in Prague has a strong cooperation in the Asian region with Chinese and Korean universities and institutes. However we welcome the possibility to explore other areas for cooperation in different regions. This platform brings together prominent representatives from the academic sector, high level representatives from public sector and business representatives from Asia and Europe. These 2 events present a fantastic opportunity to discuss crucial topics of today’s world: How to prepare the new generation for employment in our rapidly changing environment and what can we do for it.
Q. The topic of the 5th ASEM Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum is “Employability of the New Generation”. Where do you think is the role of HEIs in enhancing the employability of their graduates and what are Charles University in Prague’s strategies?
I am convinced that besides the chosen area of studies whether it is medical profession, human or natural sciences, we need to enhance also soft skills such as communication skills, presentations in foreign languages, techniques of speech and time management, and at the same time explore new skills. We need to further support interaction between nature and humanities, science and technical studies, sharing unique technologies, interdisciplinary exchange of experience and approaches. International cooperation is one of the key elements to increase employability. Students must be exposed to different countries and environments, which will increase their future perspectives. At the Charles University in Prague we see international cooperation as one of the key priorities, which is set in the long-term strategic plan 2016-2020 of the university. At the moment we have about 200 bilateral agreements on cooperation with universities world-wide. We are using different bilateral, national, European and international programmes to support student and academic exchanges including the Erasmus programme (within Erasmus+ we receive annually more than 1,400 students from abroad and about 1,100 Charles University in Prague students travel to different countries). Besides that we also offer over 170 programmes in foreign languages at our faculties (Charles University in Prague has 17 faculties).
Q. What is your personal advice to fresh graduates when looking for and also starting their first job?
I believe that fresh graduates should “think out of the box”, be imaginative and not be afraid of new ideas and approaches. They need to be familiar with foreign languages too, that is a necessity today. At the same time they should be humble and accept that they need to start at the bottom, not expecting that the dream of a well-paid job will come straight away.
Q.The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Process, which currently consists of 53 partners representing Asia and Europe celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year. In your opinion, what are the priorities of future cooperation in higher education between both regions?
It is important to further facilitate exchange of students and professors in order to acquire better understanding of the cultural, historical, economic and political profile of both regions. We need to enhance involvement of research staff and students in international research projects. From an academic point of view it is also necessary to further develop international programmes. Last but not least there needs to be an interaction between education and private sector. It will be even more important than before to keep learning about each other. We need to focus on building bridges across different sectors between our regions to ensure a better and sustainable future.