Interview with Prof. Zdzisława Dacko-Pikiewicz, Rector of the WSB Academy, on the subject of practical education, i.e. how this international university contributes to the acquisition by students of skills meant to prove efficient in all circumstances, especially in times of change and crisis.
The WSB Academy was awarded the title of The Best & More for efficiency and innovative methods of education, especially in the field of business (The Best). How do you take care of the quality of education and the fulfilment of students’ expectations?
We have been systematically implementing innovative, practical teaching methods for years, i.e. based learning, problem solving, design thinking and academic tutoring. We run the „3 days’ study, 2 days’ work” programme, which allows full-time students to gain professional experience from the first semester onwards. We are constantly expanding our teaching infrastructure and have recently launched the Financial (trading) Laboratory, which is a faithful representation of a real dealing room, the Laboratory for education in a new practical module—Unmanned Aircraft, the Engineering Design Laboratory and the Design Thinking Laboratory, which is a creative space promoting innovation and unconventional ways of thinking for students. Students from the WSB Academy attend major trade fairs and study visits abroad, e.g. to the logistics centre in Verona or the seaport of Hamburg. As part of international projects implemented in cooperation with foreign universities, e.g. from Italy, Spain, England, the Netherlands, China, as well as with fab labs, students have the opportunity to create innovative products, e.g. prototypes of intelligent clothing. We constantly update our educational programmes and design modern specialisations that prepare for the professions of the future, e.g. Optimisation and Simulation Engineer, Intelligent Data Processing Systems and Data Science, Cloud Computing or Business Data Analyst. The University runs a Quality and Innovation Centre which systematically conducts research on the quality of education, monitors activities aimed at quality in the best international universities and, by implementing good practices in the WSB Academy, prepares the University for international accreditation.
The University runs
a Quality and Innovation Centre which systematically conducts research on the quality of education, monitors activities aimed at quality in the best international universities and, by implementing good practices in the WSB Academy, prepares the University for international accreditation.
„More” was awarded for extensive social activities—how important is this aspect for your University?
The university acts for the benefit of its environment through popular science and educational activities, but it also supports those who particularly need this support. For over 10 years we have been educating children within the framework of Children’s Universities and the elderly within the framework of the Universities of the Third Age. We are expanding the curriculum content of school education as part of the Open Academy of Science. The Festival of Science makes it possible to familiarise the public with the subject of conducted scientific research, to familiarise them with the achievements of science and to present them in the most comprehensible and attractive form. The cyclical initiative called the Week of Free Training attracts several thousand participants to the School each time. But that is not all. The University is also involved in activities aimed at improving the situation of the residents of the region, especially those struggling with a difficult situation and at risk of exclusion. For example, the WSB Academy together with the Silesian Voivodship, within the framework of the project „IN SITU—Intergenerational Social Innovation Support Scheme”, is responsible for the creation and implementation of social innovation development strategies in the Silesian Voivodship. These projects are aimed at professional help for long-term unemployed residents and introduction of new solutions in regional organisations supporting disadvantaged people. One of the effects of this project is the establishment of the Regional Hub of Social Innovation, whose recipients are people with disabilities, long-term unemployed and residents of the Silesian Voivodeship who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hub is a place where they will receive training, mentoring support and, provided with professional guidance, will develop ideas for social initiatives. Thanks to the implementation of these activities, participants will gain knowledge and experience that will increase their competitiveness in the labour market. The University is also a signatory to the Academic Declaration of Social Responsibility which means the voluntary involvement not only in promoting the idea of sustainable development and social responsibility in educational programmes, scientific research, but also in the management and organisational solutions. Social activity is also important for our students and employees. One of our students is currently constructing wells with drinking water in the poorest part of Africa, in Chad. WSB Academy students often organise blood collection or bone marrow donor days, work for the benefit of the WOŚP (The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity) and participate in charity actions, such as the Katowice Business Run.
Which of your faculties are long appreciated by students and which have been established in the recent past?
Currently, the University has over 1500 students from 40 countries worldwide. Students of the WSB Academy have the opportunity to carry out part of their studies at one of 180 partner universities in Europe.
You cooperate with many institutions and businesses. How does this affect students’ performance and their ability to gain work experience and future job opportunities?
We are constantly strengthening our interaction with the immediate environment, we are working to increase its investment attractiveness, the level of technological advancement and the innovativeness of the economy, and we are taking steps to increase the transfer of knowledge to the economy and the commercialisation of scientific research results. The University’s experts participate in the most important national and regional decision-making and opinion-forming bodies, i.e. the Leviathan Confederation, the Steering Committee of the Regional Innovation Strategy at the Marshal of the Silesian Voivodeship, the Social and Economic Council at the Board of the Upper Silesian-Deepthic Metropolis, the Electromobility Council at the Marshal of the Silesian Voivodeship, the Social Economic Council at the Silesian Voivodeship Governor, the Regional Chamber of Commerce in Katowice or the Business-Scientific Association „Pro Silesia”. Experts from the WSB Academy are involved in the work of the Centre for Regional Development (CRR), the Institute for Research on Artificial Intelligence or the Virtual Institute for Trial Work and Professional Competence Improvement (WIPP). Internationally, cooperation between science and economy is carried out by the Centre for Technology Transfer and the Institute for the Study of Territorial and Inter-organisational Cooperation. We conduct international research with representatives of clusters, enterprises, social organisations and local governments from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. This cooperation translates into the implementation of the idea of practical education at the WSB Academy. To sum up, the involvement of employers in the process of creating study programmes and specialisations, classes conducted by business practitioners, emphasis on so-called hard competences and their certification, internships in leading companies in the region, study visits in Poland and abroad definitely translate into the competitiveness of our graduates on the labour market.
How do you cooperate with foreign countries?
We currently work with around 280 partners from abroad. We have Erasmus+ agreements with nearly 100 universities and bilateral agreements with over 190 foreign universities, which provide students and research and teaching staff with additional opportunities to participate in international exchange. Currently, the University has over 1500 students from 40 countries worldwide. Students of the WSB Academy have the opportunity to carry out part of their studies at one of 180 partner universities in Europe, including Belgium, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Turkey or to carry out internships in an international environment. The academic staff of AWSB are members of renowned international Scientific Associations and Societies, i.e. Academy of International Business (AIB), European Academy of Management (EURAM), American Marketing Association (AMA). We carry out international projects in partnerships with universities from Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. We are a Polish pioneer of Erasmus + Knowledge Alliances projects financed directly by the European Commission Executive Agency for Education, Audiovisual and Culture. We conduct research under the Interreg Central Europe Programme and the International Visegrad Fund.
University offers ACCA and MBA studies, conducted in partnership
with the EY Academy of Business. Thanks to ACCA accreditation, our graduates can apply for exemptions from selected ACCA exams.
We can boast cross-border activities carried out by the Languages Departments in Cieszyn and Żywiec from the funds of the INTERREG V-A Czech Republic-RP 2014-2020 and INTERREG V-A PL-SK 2014-2020 programmes. The academics of the WSB Academy are members of the Management Committees of the prestigious COST Actions co-financed by the Horizon 2020 Programme. The international research carried out in the WSB Academy is of research and development and application nature. They contribute to solving important global problems concerning, among others: climate change, ensuring public safety or implementing social innovations. An interesting example is, for example, the international project ‚We do IT with Energy’, the aim of which is to develop a dynamic and optimal system of geolocation of charging points for electric vehicle batteries. The project entitled: ‚The use of artificial intelligence and hyperspectral satellite data for the forecasting of the beginning and end of the growing season in the fields in Poland’ takes up the challenge of adapting modern agriculture to the problems associated with climate change resulting from global warming. The high level of internationalization of the University was confirmed, among others, in the last ranking of the „Perspektywy” monthly magazine, in which the WSB Academy was recognised as the second most internationalised university in Poland.
What post-graduate and MBA courses do you offer?
Recognizing the need to create new programmes, adjusted to the digital and variable economy, based on new analyses, replacing the old management models, the University offers ACCA and MBA studies, conducted in partnership with the EY Academy of Business. Thanks to ACCA accreditation, our graduates can apply for exemptions from selected ACCA exams, what facilitates the acquisition of international ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualifications—widely recognised around the world. In turn, the completion of the Master of Business Administration studies is one of the requirements entitling a person to sit on the supervisory board of a company with State Treasury shareholding. Executive MBA studies, conducted in partnership with Webster University, are addressed to the highest managerial staff. In addition, the University offers post-graduate studies in finance, HR and human resources, IT, security, logistics, administration, transport and logistics and management or education. The most frequently selected courses of study include such fields of study as: Human Resources and Payroll Management, HR Business Partner, Project Management, Health and Safety Management, Accounting and Finance, Personal Data Protection in Administration and Business—Data Protection Inspector—studies organised in cooperation with the Office for Personal Data Protection, and Data Scientist—Big Data and Advanced Data Analysis Systems, Cyber Security Management. We also pay attention to the training of flexible thinking skills, quick learning of new competences and learning old habits, critical thinking or project management. These are the skills that will prove efficient under all circumstances, especially in times of change and crisis. •