Masaryk University has become the second university in the Czech Republic to be appointed to the United States' federal student loans scheme. This means that American students can apply for a loan from the US Federal Government to study at MU. Thanks to an initiative by the Faculty of Medicine, the university is now better able to attract interest from overseas in its English-language study programmes.
In the USA student loans are the main form of assistance to university students. Federal loans are the most advantageous, as their rates of interest and charges are limited by legislation. “For American students the loans are a matter of course. If they are coming to Europe, they want to know if the loans are available to them, as we discovered soon after our faculty opened its English-language study programmes," says Eva Táborská, Vice-Dean for Education at the Faculty of Medicine, in explanation of the importance of the so-called 'American accreditation'.
Acceptance on the scheme was no easy matter. After a long period of preparation, the Faculty of Medicine submitted its first application for accreditation in 2011; this was rejected on grounds that only universities as whole institutions were eligible for accreditation. Last year staff at the Faculty of Medicine submitted a new application, on behalf of the whole university.
Membership of the scheme is conditional on the obtaining of accreditation from the US Department of Education. This means completion of an extensive document comprising over one hundred questions and dozens of detailed sub-questions. “The various documents we sent to the United States weighed about five kilos, and we had to be prepared for further inquiries," explains the Faculty's lawyer Michal Koščík. “The Americans checked everything out – study programmes, agreements with halls of residence, even the return of money paid in advance for lunches that were not eaten, as stored on student cards."
For the Faculty of Medicine itself, the process was even more complicated. It was necessary to gain inclusion in the system of another office, which monitors levels of success among graduates in the United States Medical Licensing Examination. “This exam is taken by graduates of all medical schools in the USA, while graduates of medical schools outside the USA need to pass it in order to be accepted on postgraduate courses of clinical medicine," says Vice-Dean Táborská.
She adds that this accreditation is granted for two years only, after which the university is monitored prior to the re-accreditation process. “Administration connected with applications for loans will require a number of new official measures," says Táborská. “In other words, there will be more administrative work with students from the USA than with students from other countries."
Inclusion in the scheme is a prestigious matter. “The accreditation serves as confirmation that Masaryk University is an institution of sufficient quality and stability for the USA to support the learning of its citizens here," says Rector Mikuláš Bek.
The fact that the university is accredited may also help raise numbers of American students, who can apply not only for a loan to cover tuition but also for living costs in the Czech Republic. High-quality study programmes combined with lower charges may attract such students in ever greater numbers. This year MU has eighteen students from the USA.
The Faculty of Medicine now offers two English-language study programmes, one in general medicine and the other in dentistry. “And this year we have submitted for accreditation an English-language programme in physiotherapy," Táborská adds. Other faculties, too, offer study programmes in English. There are two more Bachelor's programmes and a total of thirteen follow-up Master's courses.