01 - Czech Republic - Historical overview

Vysoké školy have a long-standing tradition in the present Czech Republic. In comparison to them, vyšší odborné školyrepresent a new type of schools

Tertiary professional education

Vyšší odborné školy have been in existence as a new type of postsecondary education since the 1992/93 school year. Their position and status was strengthened by the June 1995 amendment to the School Act, which recognised them as part of the regular education system. A great number of these schools were founded as and still are střední školy. After some initial doubts they are now regarded as one element of tertiary education. Some private schools have already transformed into private non-university vysoké školy.

Due to the fact that education at vyšší odborné školy was regulated by an amendment to the 1995 School Act only partially, the 2004 Education Act provides a more complete regulation of this field of education. For example, the Education Act implements changes to the length of study, unifying it to three years, or in the case of medical disciplines, to three and half years. Educational programmes of individual vyšší odborné školy are still subject to accreditation granted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports on the basis of a recommendation by the Accreditation Commission for vyšší odborné školy. This commission acts as a consultative body to the Ministry.

The current development is moving towards convergence of education at vyšší odborné školy and at vysoké školy (by means of accreditation of educational or study programmes, credit systems, systems of students' evaluation, and the like). The amendment of the 2004 Education Act made the transition of vyšší odborné školy into vysoké školy easier.

Legislation: Act on pre-primary, primary, secondary, tertiary professional and other education.


Higher education

Czech higher education dates back six hundred years. In 1348 Emperor Charles IV founded a university in Prague which is the oldest academic institution in Central Europe. It is now called Charles University. In 1573 a university was established in Olomouc (Moravia). The beginnings of technical education go back to 1717 when the Czech Corporative Engineer School was set up in Prague (from 1920 on the Czech Technical University). A conservatoire was founded in 1811, and the Academy of Fine Arts developed out of this in 1946.

Further complex developments were characterised by several milestones. The first of these came in 1918 when the Czechoslovak Republic was established. At the beginning of its existence the University in Brno and two other vysoké školy were established focusing on agriculture and veterinary science. Vysoké školy were established (and funded) by the state and the law guaranteed them autonomy and traditional academic freedoms. Access to higher education was free and equal for every person who had passed the maturitní zkouška, regardless of religious belief, nationality, mother tongue, sex etc. These developments were interrupted by the Second World War during which vysoké školy were closed down for 6 years following the German occupation of the country.

Efforts to return higher education to the democratic traditions of the pre-war republic were brought to an end in 1948. The totalitarian regime gradually eliminated academic freedoms and all forms of autonomy and replaced them by centralist government and state planning. Access to higher education was subject to ideological bias. The government ideology had an impact on study content, as well as on the choice and career of higher education teachers. A numerus clausus was introduced, determining the numbers of students and the structure of their areas of study. The Ministry of Education decided upon the localities and jobs graduates were sent to by using so called 'placement vouchers'. At the beginning of the 1950s five technical vysoké školy were established. The latest period of development of the Czech higher education started in November 1989.

Very soon the Higher Education Act was approved (came into force on 1 July 1990) freeing vysoké školy of all ideology and restoring their autonomy, self-government and academic rights and freedoms. It reestablished research and development at vysoké školy (during the previous 40 years following a model of the Eastern block the vysoké školy were taken by the communist regime only as educational institutions whereas research was concentrated mainly in the Academy of Sciences). By enlarging the network of vysoké školy, access to higher education was increased. In addition to the existing type of study, i.e. over a long cycle, followed by research oriented postgraduate studies, a medium duration alternative (Bachelor's) was introduced. The introduction of new fields of study and combinations of these began the process of diversification of the content and organisation of higher education.

After After several years of experience it became clear that new legal regulations were required. After a wide-ranging debate the Higher Education Act was passed in April 1998 and it came into force on 1 July 1998, although most of its provisions came into effect on 1 January 1999. This new law changed the status of existing state vysoké školy (with the exception of military and police ones) into public ones, and all property used to that date was transferred into their possession. The law further distinguished between vysoké školy that offer all three types of study programmes – Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral (vysoké školy of university type) and those that offer mainly Bachelor’s possibly Master’s study, but not doctoral (vysoké školy of non-university type), enabled the establishment of private vysoké školy and strengthened the responsibilities of the Accreditation Commission. It established boards of trustees, where sit personalities from outside of vysoká škola – experts from the region, state administration, industry or banking. The main task of this board is to give consent to property transfers, nevertheless, it gives opinion also on important strategic documents of the vysoká škola or to its planned development. This was an incentive for a greater openness of the vysoké školy towards a region (society) and to mutual dialogue. By the end of 2007 it had been amended sixteen times. The amendments specified the responsibilities of vysoké školy in relation to their assets, with the aim of facilitating multi-source funding. The change in the structure introduced lifelong learning programmes as a part of accredited study programmes. The vysoká škola may recognize up to 60% of credits gained by those successful graduates of such programmes who are placed in regular study programmes. The most important amendment of past years was that concerning the structure of study linked to the Bologna Process. Since 2001 the three-cycle structure of higher education study has strictly been introduced and the duration of Master's study following on from Bachelor's study (previously 2-3 years and now 1-3 years) has been changed. Since the academic year 2004/05 most students have been accepted to Bachelor's study programme. Integrated 4-6 year study programmes still running parallel are either those in which accreditation has not expired yet or specific disciplines e.g. medicine, veterinary studies, pharmacy and others selected by the Accreditation Commission. Since 2006 the length of doctoral study has been set to 3-4 standard years of study from the previous 3 years and students do not obtain anymore the certificate on state exam (newly the diploma supplement is issued together with a diploma).

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Date: 2009
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