Our last heavy day in the Czech Republic was spent at Charles University in Prague. We had a jam-packed and fascinating day looking at this very old, complex, and expanding institution.
Charles University was founded in 1348 by King Charles. They presently have over 40,000 students and maintain over 1,000 global partnerships with other universities around the world. Charles is very typical of old European universities in the autonomy that each academic department has over its affairs. The departments are so strong that institutional decisions have to be made at the separate college levels and coordination across the colleges may or may not be forthcoming. On the other hand, they foster innovative partnerships with universities that support student, faculty, and staff exchanges and even allow for joint degrees all the way up to, and including, the Ph.D.
Part of our experience at Charles was visiting the Carolinum, the most historic and central building of a campus spread throughout the city. The picture above is of the courtyard of the Carolinum. We also saw the graduation hall, the robes, and degrees for graduates (picture to right). The ominous picture is of King George and the rest of the diploma is beautiful.
We ate in a student dining hall where I had a fascinating conversation with a young woman studying theology who now works on the Charles staff. She is a Jewish student and is going to study both Judaism and Islam during her master's work. She is pursuing this as preparation to work with international students who number around 4,000 each year. I was amazed at the potential connection between theology and preparation to work with international students. Many of my experiences have revealed that one of the most difficult differences for students to negotiate is religion. The lack of understanding of faith and the stereotypes about the many perspectives that students hold are frequently divisive. This young woman's preparation in theology may be a perfect match for international education.
The European tour has been fascinating for so many reasons. One of the things that is so different about this trip is that I really had the chance to compare the various forms of education emerging through the Bologna process. European higher education is changing and will change even more in the coming years. These changes will impact higher education in the U.S.A., the far east, the Arabian Gulf, and elsewhere. Keeping an eye on all these changes will be essential for those institutions that seek to maintain global status.
This was my last picture from Prague - this was taken in the late evening in the old square in the center of the city. As I strolled through the square with so many others around me, I wished so much that my family had been with me. There will be other times...