Respected Vice-Rectors and Deans,
Dear Colleagues and Dear Friends,
I am honored that today we can celebrate together this important jubilee – 15 years since the founding of the University American College Skopje. Anniversaries are always an occasion to remember what we have gone through, but also to see what awaits us in the time ahead.
From its inception, the University offers the opportunity to Macedonian and foreign students to study according to internationally accredited and recognized curricula. This is especially important if we take into account the weaknesses that have long been evident in our higher education: low level of investment in educational, scientific and research activities, hyper-inflation of diplomas, outdated programs and methods and production of professional profiles that are in discrepancy with the real needs of the labor market. All this only further encourages the outflow of young people from the country.
In 2005, the founders of the University knew that society is changing through education and therefore offered a viable alternative. Combining the best European and American educational standards, UACS set a positive example of what higher education can be like in our country. It is indisputable that in these 15 years American College has attained many of its goals and thus made a significant contribution to raising the standards in the Macedonian higher education.
American College University is an example of a third-generation university that unites three core areas – education, scientific research and application of know-how. According to the references of its scientific research work, the University is ranked first among the private universities in the Republic of North Macedonia. The US Federal Reserve ranked the School of Business Economics and Organizational Sciences first among all economics schools operating in our country. The MBA program is among the top 5 programs in Eastern Europe. Thanks to its scientific research work, among other things, the UACS ranks high on the Shanghai list of domestic universities.
The University constantly manages to bridge the gap between the knowledge and skills that students acquire and the demands of the labor market. On average, in our country, out of 100 graduates, only 13 can find, without serious problems, good employment, according to their qualifications. In contrast, 78% of the UACS students find work after graduation.
These successes are the result of many years of hard work by many dedicated individuals. Here are the founders who had a clear idea of the mission, vision and values of the University. You are here, the professors, the assistants and the administrative staff who have maintained the high standards all these years. Of course, there are also students who have embraced and passed on the values to their jobs, in their spheres of influence. I have had the honor of being a professor and mentor to many outstanding students at the Faculty of Political Science and the Faculty of Law. These are successes that we can all be proud of.
In a rapidly changing world, higher education institutions must adapt to global trends. Today we are gathered in the Museum of Contemporary Art, which, as a symbol of human creativity and perseverance, rose from the tragedy of the Skopje earthquake. If the earthquake changed the physical space of our city, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the functional dynamics of our systems, including the higher education system.
We are witnessing a great transformation of politics, economy, industries, labor market. By the end of this decade, many of the professions we know of will be obsolete or completely extinct. The pandemic only further accelerates these processes. The state and higher education institutions should recognize this period as an opportunity for fundamental reforms in education. A revolution in online teaching is happening right now.
Instead of being static, universities need to grow into dynamic nuclei where, instead of teaching obsolete matrices and models, they will teach young people to observe critically and create new, better, sustainable alternatives. The goal of higher education is not just to get a degree, regardless of whether it is internationally recognized or not. The aim is to help students develop their own capacities for creative and autonomous thinking. To acquire skills necessary for the professions of the future that will help them, first to achieve themselves as individuals and, second but not less important, to contribute to the prosperity of the community in which they live. Universities should be generators of new ideas and initiators of public debates on the most important social issues.
The knowledge and skills of the 19th and 20th centuries are no longer enough to face the 21st century. Adaptation capacity is more important than the capacity to replicate previously mastered patterns. Thanks to the rapid adaptation to the changes brought about by the new situation, the UACS was the first to introduce a hybrid teaching model during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quality higher education is the key to prosperity, stability and progress. Therefore, raising its quality must be our top priority. We need to learn from the best examples, both from abroad and from home. One of those examples is undoubtedly the University American College Skopje.
With that thought, at the very end, let me once again congratulate you on this important jubilee. I wish the University to continue to be an inspiration for higher education not only in our country, but also in the wider region.