The Škoda Auto University is situated in the town of Mladá Boleslav, just an hour’s drive from Prague. Located directly at the headquarters of the Czech carmaker, it is the only university in Europe to be owned and run by an automobile manufacturer. Here, degree courses are tailored specifically to enable graduates to take their place among the world’s automotive industry managers.
A matriculation ceremony worthy of Oxford or Cambridge: Four dozen students in formal attire sit in the nave of the former Mladá Boleslav monastery. An organist plays while gowned professors ceremoniously enter the hall. All wear heavy gold chains around their necks, and one bears a kind of scepter with the Škoda logo gleaming at the tip. Shortly, the future students will step forward one by one. A handshake, a certificate, a signature and they are officially students at the Škoda Auto University.
OVER 100 YEARS OF AUTOMOTIVE HISTORY
The Škoda Auto University
is located opposite a former
monastery in the oldest part
of Mladá Boleslav.
An hour after the ceremony, President Vladimír Hamáček is back in his office in the new, state-of-the-art university building right beside the converted monastery that also belongs to the university complex. The ceremonial gold chain around his neck has now been replaced by a university ID. Hamáček sees tradition and modernity as going hand in hand. He enjoys reflecting on the century-plus of automotive history in Mladá Boleslav, recalling that his father and grandfather before him worked at Škoda – just as his daughter does today. Hanging next to Hamáček’s desk is a giant aerial photograph of Mladá Boleslav. Taken recently, it illustrates the great extent to which the town of 50,000 inhabitants is shaped by the carmaker’s production facilities, offices and factory-owned accommodation.
QUALITY THROUGH ONE-TO-ONE ATTENTION
“Of course, Škoda has run its own vocational school for trainees for many decades. But at the end of the 1990s, it became clear that the proportion of graduates in the workforce would have to increase,” says Hamáček. This prompted the time-honored company to establish its own university in 2000. Vladimír Hamáček, a mechanical engineer with over 30 years of service at Škoda, assumed the office of President in 2001. From its earliest days, however, the Škoda Auto University has had far more to offer than proximity to the Škoda plant. For instance, its Business Administration curriculum is tailored specifically to careers in the automotive industry. “You can study Business Administration at many different faculties,” stresses Hamáček, “but no other university combines theory and practice as effectively as we do here.” The Auto University is the only university in the country where a practical semester is a fixed part of the bachelor’s degree. English and German language courses are also compulsory. “The cream of our students have the chance of an internship at Škoda or Bentley in Great Britain, or at Volkswagen in Wolfsburg or China,” says Hamáček. At the same time, its relatively small size allows the Auto University a level of flexibility and individual attention that would be unthinkable at a large-scale establishment. “In the small groups that we have here, we can really cater for the needs of each individual student,” reports Pavel Strach, Professor of International Management and Marketing, who also lectures in New York and New Zealand.