Slovakia: Summary — Study and TrainingZuzana Bargerová | 29. 11. 13
The third phase of the “Migration to the Centre” project brought two perspectives, one from that of a migrant experiencing life as a foreign student in Slovakia and another from experts providing opinions on public policies towards the adoption of highly skilled migrants and international students.
Expert articles were prepared by Renáta Králiková (Analyst of the Slovak Governance Institute), a doctoral student at Central European University in Budapest, and Michal Vašečka (renowned sociologist at Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University in Brno).
At the end of the project implementation we organized a public discussion, which took place at the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences of Comenius University in Bratislava. Panellists were Dáša Velichová (Program Coordinator of the Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchange in the Slovak Republic), Michal Fedák (a deputy director of the SAIA, Slovak Academic Information Agency), Zuzana Bargerová (from the Human Rights League), and Michal Vašečka (from Masaryk University in Brno).
Students Albertine from Cameroon, Deegi from Mongolia, and Abdi, from Somalia wrote three articles.
By Zuzana Bargerová
According to the Slovak Act on Residence of Foreigners , a third country national who wants to study in the Slovak Republic may generally apply for temporary residence for purpose of study, unless he/she was already granted a permanent residence permit. A temporary residence permit can be granted to the third country national who:
a) is a student of a secondary school;
b) is a student of a language school;
c) is a student of a university; or
d) is attending language or professional preparation for the study at a university that is organised by a university in the Slovak Republic.
Pursuant to this Act, a third country national may also study in Slovakia, if he/she was granted another type of temporary residence (such as employment, business or family reunification).  Foreigners may apply for residence in the Slovak Republic, and this residence is granted in 30 days or less. Conditions for granting this type of residence are essentially the same as they are for other types of residences:  an acceptance document from the school, a proof of financial coverage, and a criminal record issued by the country of origin. The only difference is students are also obliged to undertake a process of diploma recognition if they wish to continue their studies.
Statistics related to international students:
According to statistics, last year there were 71,649 foreigners registered by the Ministry of Interior; a majority of them were EU nationals (45,492). Third country nationals were granted 26,157 residences in the end of 2013 (around 0.5% of the total population).
In the academic year 2007/2008, there was a total number of 224,943 students in all three levels of higher education in Slovakia. Out of those , 5,381 students were of non-Slovak nationality (which is 2.39% of the overall number; referred to hereinafter only as “international students”). In the next academic year, the overall number of students peaked (230,519), with the number of international students rising slightly as well (+1,166). For the next three years, the overall number significantly decreased.  In 2011/2012 the overall number of students at Slovak Higher educational institutions was 216,303 (minus 14,216 from 2008/2009), but the number of international students grew, in both relative numbers (2011/2012 there were 4.37% of international students out of the overall number of students) and total numbers (9,461 international students in 2011/2012). 
According to information provided by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic (referred to hereinafter only as “Ministry of Education”), in the current academic year 2013/2014, Slovak Republic scholarship holders are from 38 countries of the world, and 279 scholarship holders are foreigners with the status of so called “Slovaks living abroad”. In addition to these fellows studying in Slovakia, 90 are grantees under bilateral agreements in the field of education.
Renáta Králiková and Michal Vašečka provided their insight on public policies and contributions of international students to the Slovak educational system.
Mrs. Králiková examined whether Slovakia needs foreign students, and provided answers as to why they are beneficial for the receiving country. First of all, international students, according to her, contribute to increasing the quality of universities. This is because international students tend to question the existing system and do not take it for granted, and this can lead to improvements in the organization and content of the programs. The students can also bring new angles into discussed topics based on their previous education and life experiences. In higher levels of education (Master’s and PhD programs), the students can also import contacts to their field of expertise from previous university studies.
Secondly and more importantly for the long term, those foreign students who stay in the country after graduation can benefit the economy. Cultural diversity stimulated by migrants brings into the work environment a variety of abilities, experiences, and perspectives that stimulate innovation and creativity, which are engines of the knowledge economy. Skilled migrants also bring with them social capital in the form of contacts, creation of jobs, and last but not least, enhancement of the demographic situation in an aging Europe.
Michal Vašečka in his article focuses on policy options. He is of the opinion that Slovakia is perceived to be an academically uninteresting country. Weak education levels continue to decline, as successful graduates of Slovak secondary schools do not consider studying in Slovakia. Universities do not seek to internationalize, and often they do not have much to offer to foreign students; accredited study programs in English are an exception, and even then, there is little interest in studying in English. Universities therefore find themselves in a vicious circle. The reputation of Slovak higher education is poor even in comparison to that of other Central European countries.
The country should begin intensive restructuring of its education system, invest more money in education, and start approaching foreign students as holders of potential future change. Formally, universities and policy makers speak about foreign students as a priority, but these concerns are not so visible in practice. Quality tertiary education is becoming a stronger factor for the successful integration of migrants, but in Slovakia, this debate is practically absent.
A public discussion was held on the campus of the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Comenius University. In addition to an auditorium full of students, in attendance were Mrs. Velichová from Fulbright Commission, Mr Vašečka, the sociologist of Masaryk University in Brno, Mrs. Bargerová from the Human Rights League, and Mr Fedák from Slovak Academic Information Agency. We invited members from the Ministry of Education as well, but none of the invited experts were able to attend.
The debate dealt with the topic of Slovakia’s policies towards foreign students, as well as the nexus between immigration and integration policies. Slovakia supports international students through governmental scholarship programs, which serve as a tool for “foreign aid” and which aim to reintegrate skilled migrants in their countries of origin while also aiming to attract highly skilled migrants to come and stay in Slovakia.
According to experts, the Migration Policy of the Slovak Republic, which was the first policy document clearly related to the regulation of immigration, in 2011 formulated a clearer strategy to receive international students for the benefit of the Slovak economy. However, the integration policy does not provide many tools to make integration more seamless, nor does it give the students incentives to stay in Slovakia or a more stable legal status.
Experts were also asked if they saw any conflicts between the policies to attract foreign students and their implementation, as well as what the main obstacles were that these students faced in gaining access to college and university education. They believe there is a growing trend of the gradual modification of immigration tools to adopt foreign students. However, there is a lot of particularities that work against this trend – for instance Slovakia is the only country in the world to request from U.S. students an “FBI criminal record” with the date of birth, which generally is not included on the FBI extracts. Reality is composed of such details.
Experts are of the opinion that public policies only react to the new situation after accession of Slovakia into EU, and they do not act proactively. Policies remain very formal, but students slowly start coming. However, the securitization of migration has a negative impact on the immigration of highly skilled migrants. Tools to increase the number of foreign students need to be adjusted in accordance with a clear and coherent strategy.
There is a deep conviction within the Slovakian people that the country does not need migrants in the present or future. But the problem is they do not have enough information. Michal Vašečka concluded that If the Slovaks knew demographic prognoses, they would perhaps start thinking about integration of foreigners, and the whole policy area would change.
Albertine wrote a very simple article, more focused on her feelings as the only black student in the class and personal troubles with language training rather than on experiences with a school or educational system in Slovakia. Her living situation in her first years of secondary education was very difficult, and she was not able to continue in paid studies. Because of this, transferring to another school with a scholarship was the only option. Scholarship was provided to Albertine after intervention and good communication with Mr. Krčméry, rector of the St. Elizabeth University of Health and Social Sciences—and she is in Slovakia as a result. Albertine also will be able to attend a summer internship in one of the African countries and perhaps return back to Cameroon as a young professional one day.
The second article was written by Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali student, who also studies in Bratislava, at St. Elizabeth University of Health and Social Sciences. As a refugee, he also did not choose Slovakia as a country of destination voluntarily. Besides taking courses at the university, he is also active as a volunteer for UNICEF as well as in different projects related to foreign aid.
The third contribution was prepared by Demberelnyam Batjargal. She comes from Mongolia and studies Archiving in Comenius University. Just as Abdi, she did not consciously choose Slovakia as her country of study, which confirms the experts’ statements; however, she was able to eventually find a new home there. She considers the most serious obstacle to integration and the biggest challenge to be learning the Slovak language.
 Act No. 404/2011 Coll. on Residence of Foreigners and on amendment and supplementation of certain acts.
 Article 20 of above Act.
 Except accommodation.
 There are several reasons that probably contributed to the change, but to name 2 most possible/feasible: the change in demographics in first place, but also the fact of the continuing outward flow of Slovaks willing to study their full study abroad – more than 30 000 Slovak citizens currently study abroad.
 Source: www.uips.sk – yearly statistics of higher education institution.
Zuzana Bargerová works at the Human Rights League (Liga za ľudské práva) as an immigration lawyer and as a legal researcher cooperates with the CVEK (Center for the research of ethnicity and culture).