Serbia: Interview with Mica Jovanovic
Rector (Megatrend University)
Founded in 1989, the Megatrend University is the most prestigious private university of Serbia. Can you tell me the idea of creating the university and the evolution during these 21 years?
In the beginning of the 80’s, after graduating in Belgrade, I went to London to do my Phd at the London School of Economics. After 3 years I achieved my Phd in the field of industrial relations and successfully defended my thesis. I started teaching in different universities such as Craftward (?), Portsmouth and even in the London School of Economics for a short period but I already had the idea of setting my own company: Megatrend International Expert Consortium Limited. The purpose of the company was to give consultancy services to different companies mostly in the automotive industry. On that time I was included in a huge project of the Massachusetts Institute of Tecnology (MIT) regarding the future of the work in the automotive industry with the view to develop a very high level of robotization working process in this field. As you know, at that time and ever since, the automotive industry is the most important industry in the world, side by side with electronics. I spent 5 years doing research in almost all the important car factories in the world from American, South Korean, Japanese and Italian carmakers. I did not have experience with French firms I think because my good friend and expert Jean Jacques Chanaron has worked with French automotive firms and he has been during 2 mandates the President of the Megatrend University before the arrival in April of the new President Walter Schwimmer, previously Secretary General of European Council Parliament for many years. Mr. Chanaron is still collaborating with Megatrend as responsible for the Internationalization of Megatrend.
Is this connected with the creation of the West London University by Megatrend?
Yes, we established West London Business School in December 2009. We have all the licenses and we still are waiting for the accreditation. In fact, we do not need the accreditation because it is part of Megatrend University, and Megatrend has American and European accreditations. We are fully recognized by every institution, even we have the AQA universal accreditation ranked in the first 500 universities of the world.
It is a big recognition for a University that has 21 years.
We entered the 21 years with a huge ceremony in 27th December 2009. Although it was Christmas period 17 rectors from whole Europe, full diplomatic representation, 2/3 of Serbian Government and around 700 people from the whole world attended this anniversary.
It is remarkable the presence of 17 rectors of international universities. International cooperation is one of the pillars of Megatrend University?
From the very beginning we started with the international cooperation. The project with the MIT was the trigger for this making possible to visit automotive plants such as Nissan in Japan or the FIAT factory in Montecasino, and get in contact with universities abroad. All of them supported the idea of creating the first private university in the former Yugoslavia. We actually have 16 campuses and 26.000 students.
What is the mission of the Megatrend University?
When I decided to create the university in the late 80’s I had the idea to do the best university, kind of Harvard University but in Serbia. I came back from England in 1989 just in time to see the self management law change. Until 1989 there was a socialist self management system and therefore, private initiative was strictly forbidden. The first company act which gave the chance to everyone to start own private initiative was adopted in the Federal Parliament in November 1989 and Megatrend was created in December. The only thing I knew how to do was university and I invested the money I earn working 6 years in London as broker in copper options and futures, while I was doing my scientific activities. It was not easy but with a lot of effort and beating lot of obstacles we made it happen. The most encouraging thing was to receive the support of my colleagues from England, South Korea, Japan and other countries, in creating a quality university.
What makes special Megatrend University comparing to other universities?
We have 4 crucial pillars. The first one is having excellent educational programmes; the second is having excellent professors; the third is that we are publishing excellent textbooks with our own printing facilities; and our fourth pillar is our real international cooperation.
We have many agreements with French schools such as Grenoble and CERAM, that includes permanent exchanging of our professors and students. We have franchised our economic programmes with the Management School of Grenoble for the Master on International Business (MIB) and for the Bachelor on International Business (BIB). The school in Grenoble announced us 3 years ago as the best partner, having in mind that they have 60 or 65 partners all over the world.
Is it the same agreement that you have with the Spanish University and Research Center Ortega y Gasset?
Yes it is. The Vice Rector for International Relations signed the contract and I think that I will go in September to Spain to start officially. Moreover, we have excellent relations with the Berlin Frei Universitat, with Italians universities like the Mediterranean University from Bari and the University from Naples.
What are the future challenges of the Megatrend University?
Actually the virtual university is our fifth pillar and is the only one in south east of Europe. We have more than 19 books that include our software codes. Our virtual university is the creation of a mathematical genius, our professor Veliko Spasic, that won an international award in 2002 in Fresco, San Francisco. He made it according to my ideas.
One more curiosity about us: Megatrend University had the first website of the history of this part of Europe. It was in 1994. Regarding the development of IT sector we have many advantages because we have an excellent school of mathematics and creative people, and the mathematics is the crucial base for the computer sciences.
Minister of Education Zarko Obradovic mentioned us the large number of awards that Serbian students are receiving in sciences.
Yes, not only students from universities but from the high schools as well. In the last 5 years, in the mathematics Olympic Games, Serbia won every one out of three medals, either golden, silver or bronze ones. We do have an excellent line of education in the field of mathematics. We have our own school for computer sciences with a famous mathematician Dean, Professor Gradam Milovanovic. He is considered to be on the top 3 mathematicians of the world.
Is Megatrend taking part in the Bologna process?
I am strongly against Bologna and I have been fighting against for 5 years. There are several reasons: first of all the concept of study is not very good. There is not enough interactive communication between professor and the students. Bologna’s concept of education is killing creativity by using test exams. Moreover, it is too expensive and the output of this education is too low for the cost. For instance, if we respect Bologna process in Belgrade there should be 4 m2 for each students. Our ratio is 1 m2 for student because we have 25.000 m2 for 26000 students, which proved to be more than sufficient for education purposes. We do not have 26.000 students all the time.
There are many countries that are going to give up Bologna such as France, Germany, United Kingdom and Slovenia. Even in Serbia I am convincing the people not to go further. I hope that with the new educational law this will change.
Interview realized by Xabier Garagorri and Julie Bruneau