Due to its turbulent past and long transformation period, Poland has not been an obvious educational destination, however that is changing. Recently this big central European country has been making significant progress attracting not only huge investment but also in shaping trends in the expanding business education sector.
The European tiger
Today, after many years of consistent growth, the Polish economy remains stable, offering a favourable climate for foreign investors. The country figures among the most attractive in Europe in terms of FDI. This exceptional inflow to various regions contributed to the relatively equal distribution of wealth and the availability of jobs, for example in April 2017 the unemployment rate stood only at 7.7%.
Also, the quality of life is rising fast – in the last ‘SEDA Index’ released in 2016, Poland was ranked 30th out of 164 countries surveyed by Boston Consulting Group. With such impressive indicators, the brand value of the nation has improved strongly, reaching 18th position worldwide according to Brand Finance 2016. Such results stem from the foundations that Poland has put in place over the last two decades. One of the most dynamic regions in Poland is Tri-city, located in the north of Poland, constituting the largest urban area.
Growing role of Tri-city
This metropolitan area in northern Poland consists of three bordering cities, Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia and is situated on the picturesque coast of Gdansk Bay on the Baltic Sea.
In the heart of Gdansk is located the biggest business centre and, the oldest university in northern Poland – Gdansk University of Technology (GUT). This convergence has had a huge impact in making education it a cornerstone for businesses located in the region. What attracts them to Gdansk? The main draw is the favourable economic conditions and a solid educational background that complements and interacts proficiently with business.
Moreover, cultural wealth and a well-developed infrastructure make the metropolis increasingly attractive for tourists and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Gdansk reached the top three of the ‘Best European Destinations’ by European Best Destinations in 2017 and in 2016 was placed first for citizen-friendliness, high standards of living and openness to business.
The European spoke to the creator of the educational offer for the international environment – Dr Magdalena Popowska, Dean’s Proxy for International Affairs at the Faculty of Management and Economics, GUT, and Dr Barbara Stepnowska – Director of the Master of Business Administration Programme at the Faculty of Management and Economics GUT.
What is the role of Polish Universities in the surrounding environment?
Dr Barbara Stepnowska: The Polish economy is becoming more and more innovative each year. In global ranking we have risen seven places since 2015. But innovation is not just in technological development, it also relies on universities and executive programmes. The role of the university is to create and provide knowledge and develop a culture of innovation. Global business programmes continue to grow and the recruitment of business students continues to intensify. Today, the trend in business is education. Business leaders will need qualified and entrepreneurial teams.
How is it implemented in reality?
BS: A pre-requisite for sustained business growth is well-qualified and innovative teams. The MBA programme offers businesses a unique opportunity for experienced members of staff. Our MBA studies invite experts from Poland and internationally, representing different companies and industries. Participants are up-to-date with the latest market conditions and trends and, encourage innovative thinking.
Dr Magdalena Popowska (MP): Also, our Master’s programmes are continuously refined and adapted to the needs of the changing business environment. Due to the growing role of business in Gdansk, we have internationalised our studies. Currently, besides the MBA programme, we offer three Master’s programmes in English: International Management, Small Business Economics and Management and Economic Analytics. There is a wide choice for both potential entrepreneurs and skilled managers in corporations.
What are the key requirements to make companies innovative and thereafter, the whole economy?
BS: There is no economic innovation without educational innovations. This focuses on teaching methods, but also lecturer’s cooperation, shared responsibility for programme quality, its content and cohesion. We teach students in collaboration and deeper engagement in the programme. That makes the process of education more attractive and practical.
How do you attract MBA and Master’s degree students?
Dr Magdalena Popowska: We attract them with the large choice of study programmes available, and the opportunity to study in Polish and English. Our goal is to provide students with a strong inter-cultural background through the ‘at home’ and ‘abroad’ internationalisation process. Students benefit not only from formal learning outcomes but also inter-cultural ones – we see their ability to work effectively in multi-cultural teams as being of crucial value to their career development. Also, the quality of life in our region particularly, the Tri-city area is hugely attractive to students.
BS: Our students are introduced to a talent diagnosis in the early stages of enrolment on the MBA programme. This also helps to develop and promote their entrepreneurial skills. Today’s managers need proficiency in a wide range of soft skills including, the art of negotiation, effective and inspirational communication as well as coaching or mentoring. Our world is undergoing a continuous and fast paced rate of change. As a result, understanding the behavioural aspects of change is an essential feature of the effective leader today.
What are the advantages for a company sending its employee to MBA studies?
BS: There are many. The main objectives of the programme are to promote strategic thinking as a pre-requisite, the development of leadership skills, and the advancement of entrepreneurial competencies. This powerful mix of attributes makes our graduates invaluable to employers. Employees who became MBA students master their strategic mind-set by acquiring effective strategic foundations for sound business decision. From the start, our focus is to ensure that our students can integrate the knowledge gained in the classroom and its immediate application into the decision-making process; thereby also enhancing their development of entrepreneurial skills. Students transition from a mind-set of simply gaining knowledge, to generating experience and value from application of that knowledge. That is certainly valuable for the labour market. Furthermore, the complexity of today’s business environment reveals the significance of human impact on organisational changes, and displays the need for talent management and personal development in the strategic realm. Our MBA is accredited internationally by AMBA, positioning us in the top five of Polish MBA programmes.
What is the future of MBA?
BS: Quoting Woody Allen “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”. The same goes with Nobel Prize-winning atomic scientist Niels Bohr: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”. How it works you may check in Gdansk, Poland. Take a peek into your future.