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first semester

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‘Open Eyes to the World’ – the First Semester of FIES

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Having only been established since half a year, the Faculty of International and European Studies (FIES) has realised several achievements. In addition to providing continuous education, the fourth faculty of NUPS has established its organizational units. The colleagues at FIES have been organising conferences, round table discussions and book reviews while lecturers and researchers of the faculty have been continuously appearing in the media and have been presenting their respective research results in security and defence policy.

“The National University of Public Service will have a significant role in Hungarian higher education in the next decades, as the university offers the knowledge and the intellectual basis to the future elite of public administration. Hungary needs excellent, qualified leaders with firm knowledge and honest patriotism, which your university will ensure” – said Dr. Árpád Vidoven, Minister of State for Public Administration at the Prime Minister’s Office, then procurator of NUPS’ Board of Governors on 30 January 2015 at the official founding ceremony of the FIES. In his speech at the ceremonial senate meeting, Prof. Dr. András Patyi, Rector of NUPS outlined one of the aims behind the establishment of FIES: “The significant task of the Faculty of International and European Studies is to provide a new generation, a Européer view and competence, and to prepare its graduates to be executives and administrators capable of decision-making and serving the common goals of humanity.”

The first semester of FIES was characterised by organisational build-up. The first step was to overview the university level programmes so that the enlargement of the faculty staff could be in line with the tasks in education and research. The enlargement is a continuous process – FIES currently has 33 full-time lecturers and researchers whose work is supported by 11 administrative staff members via the Dean’s Office, the Office of the Registrar and the research centres. According to Prof. Dr. Péter Tálas, Dean of FIES, the fact that NUPS’ Senate and Board of Governors have approved each programme plan can be considered as a success, adding that “our strive for shaping our education more practice-oriented and harmonising it with the needs of the ministries has also received positive feedback.”

Continuous development of educational portfolio

This aim is reinforced by students and lecturers of the faculty as well. Viktor Marsai, lecturer at the Department of International Relations and Diplomacy at FIES believes that the current ratio between theoretical and practical knowledge should be shifted towards the latter: “The survey among our student during the spring semester also supports this view, and the same could be said about the international tendencies.” The faculty currently has nearly 300 students who study in two Bachelor’s programme (international security and defence policy, international public management) and two Master’s programme (international security and defence policy, international public service relations). In addition, FIES has offered popular English language programmes, such as the Academy of Diplomacy Budapest.

“The programmes at the faculty require the continuous development of educational portfolio aligned with the themes of international security, European studies, international and European law and international economic relations” – said Dr. Norbert Tóth, Acting Vice-Dean for Education at FIES. The Vice-Dean reminded that due to the self-evaluation in the fall and the accreditation process of the Hungarian Accreditation Committee, the work at FIES continues during the summer as well when the season break offers the opportunity for the involvement of programme officers and experts in the complex development process focusing on the content and quality of education at the faculty.

Establishing the organizational background

The recent months, however, were not only about the work in education, as the faculty displayed a serious organisational build-up. FIES established the necessary units and organs step by step. “Despite the fact that the group of lecturers inherited by the Institute of International Studies, supplemented by the new colleagues, could ensure the continuity in education, the independent faculty structure provided dozens of questions and administrative, organisational and developmental tasks which had to be dealt with in a way that the management of student affairs, including the education, remain just as smooth as if it was at a faculty operating for years” – said Dávid Zámbó, Head of the Dean’s Office. From his perspective, the most up-heaving moment of the last semester was the opening meeting of the Faculty Council. “Subsequent to the formulation of the university’s determination regarding the establishment of the faculty, this was the moment when the representatives voted for by faculty community could first make decisions regarding FIES – for me, this day was the true birthday of the faculty.” The symbols of the faculty, including the motto ‘Aperi oculos ad mundum’ (‘Open Eyes to the World’) as voted for by the Faculty Council and subsequently approved by the Senate. In addition to the symbolic decisions, however, the Faculty Council has also made practical decisions, supporting the plans of the four university programmes which were all approved by the Senate on 24 June 2015.

The aim of the establishment of FIES is to ensure the next generation of experts working as the professional staff dealing with international and diplomacy related tasks at domestic public service (law enforcement, national defence and public administration) institutions and at the embassies of Hungary and at various institutions of the European Union.

“Based on this mission, in the last semester our work focused on the enlargement of the tasks and the educational and research staff and of the former Institute of International Studies, expanding the related responsibilities, thereby aligning the faculty to the organisational structure and values of NUPS.” – emphasised Dr. Norbert Tóth. According to the acting Vice-Dean for Education, it is important that the students who choose the faculty as their ‘alma mater’ can acquire a strategic, analytical approach, as this – in addition to the theoretical and practical knowledge offered by FIES – greatly improves the chances of finding work after graduation.

The number of incoming applications so far shows that the development of FIES is on the right track. According to Viktor Marsai, “the sometimes twentyfold applications and the experiences gained during the Master’s matriculation process in June reveal that the programmes are popular among students which serves as a firm ground for developments.” In his point of view, the reason of popularity is twofold: “Our efforts are aimed at the students acquiring a diploma that provides the opportunity to start an international career. The preparedness and acknowledgment of the lecturers and researchers at the faculty has been re-confirmed by our current students, hence the view of the programmes is positive.”

Teamwork is essential

The success, however, does not only require the individual capabilities of lecturers, researchers and faculty leaders. “The leadership of the faculty is committed to its colleagues – old and new – being active in an area where they can perform their best. This is crucial for having the lecturers, researchers and administrative staff of the faculty work as a team” – emphasised Prof. Dr. Péter Tálas who reminded that the support from the Rector, Vice-Rectors and Deans of NUPS was indispensable. “This is also important because FIES is the faculty most relying on and most interested in the integrated operation of our university. This is partly due to its profile – as the issues in foreign relations dealt by the faculty also involve civilians, military and police officers – and partly to the fact that several of our lecturers teach at other faculties of the university as well.” – noted the Dean.

Professor Tálas regards the faculty staff’s performance in the first semester positively, since “they participated in the tasks related to organisational development while dealing with their own educational, research, administrative and other responsibilities as well. Hence almost everyone had extra work with some of them receiving phone or Skype calls from the Dean at 10-11 p.m.” The faculty concluded its first semester with more than 25 events with international relevance either as host or contributor of lecturers and researchers. The visits of Chinese, Palestinian, South-Korean, Nigerian, Czech, Polish and Romanian delegations, the debate of Hungarian EU Commissioners, the international training on cyber security, the Ludovika Ambassador’s Forum and the various workshops and conferences all reflect the path that FIES has walked since February 2015.

One of the main bases for the work in research at the faculty continues to be the Centre for Strategic and Defence Studies which – due to the establishment of FIES – has came into a unique situation from several perspectives. Firstly, two of its staff members – Prof. Dr. Péter Tálas and Tamás Csiki as Advisor to the Dean – have received a role and tasks in the faculty’s leadership. Secondly, the new faculty leadership has formulated several goals which in the medium and long run require the contribution of the Centre. “Although the first semester of organisational development left the Centre in relative tranquillity, we are already preparing for a dominant role in the formation of lecturer-researcher – researcher-lecturer model within the faculty staff, as indicated in the Dean’s programme” – said Zoltán Felméry, researcher at the Centre for Strategic and Defence Studies. Furthermore, the researchers and the analyses of the Centre enjoy significant media attention in Hungary: their statements of analysis and evaluation appear on a daily basis in news media, be it either about the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, the instability of the Middle East and North-Africa, the issue of migration or the strategic dilemmas of Europe.

The road ahead

Colleagues of FIES revealed their future tasks and duties as well. According to acting Vice-Dean Tóth, the further development of English language programmes, the deepening of international relations and the enhancement of the international orientation in PhD programmes will be eventually on the table. Dávid Zámbó, Head of the Dean’s Office believes that the tasks ahead of the faculty’s administrative staff are the efficient operation of the established organisational structure, the location of possible faults and shortcomings and the outlining of the possible reforms and developments based on the operational experiences, the university’s overall preferences and the requirements of the Board of Governors.

Viktor Marsai mentioned that as of the fall semester, FIES departures on the path of organised talent-management that has great traditions at the “former” departments and within the Centre for Strategic and Defence Studies. “We intend to support both the usual work and self-development within the scientific student associations and the community and cultural activities of students, with a special emphasis on having the incoming international students feeling themselves at home and gaining the best experiences during their stay.”

According to Zoltán Felméry, the establishment of the faculty offered several opportunities for researchers: the professional relationships and the opportunities for mobility have enhanced and expanded, and there are more and more events that mean additional tasks as well. He reminded that “being a team with small numbers yet – according to feedbacks – with high professional standards, we have to live with these opportunities and build on the professional and media-visibility of the Centre for Strategic and Defence Studies, and further increase the university’s and the faculty’s recognition.”