The World Bank wrote in 2016 that, in contrast with its position in the world 20 years earlier, “Poland now serves as an example in Europe and globally on how to modernise education to equip the next generation with good fundamental cognitive skills needed for 21st century jobs.” The Polish government knows that the country must compete for quality job-creating investments with the rest of Europe, and Łódź knows it must compete with the rest of Poland.
Łódź, as is the case with many other Polish cities, invests heavily in science, technology, engineering and maths education, building a talent base across these fields that will help raise its profile as a destination for advanced industries. And thanks to its central location, it can easily attract people. “We want to bet on the potential afforded by the young generation, which includes almost 100,000 students,” says Łódź mayor Hanna Zdanowska.
The city’s main engine in this regard is Łódź University of Technology (TUL), which with 20,000 students is the biggest technical university in Poland and ranked among the country’s top five technical schools. Established in 1945 just weeks after the end of the Second World War, TUL offers numerous bachelor’s and master’s degree courses across nine different faculties.
Unique among its peers, TUL’s International Faculty of Engineering (IFE) offers courses taught entirely in English or French, allowing its students to achieve additional language fluency along with their degree in anything from architectural engineering and textile design to IT, biotechnology and more. Founded in 1993 and hosting 1400 students – more than 25% of whom are from overseas – the IFE’s aim is to equip its graduates with both hard and soft skills.
“The main mission of the faculty is to educate our students as both engineers and managers, able to communicate fluently in foreign languages and perform well in a business environment,” says Dorota Piotrowska, deputy head of the IFE. “Our approach to education is different because we’re implementing an interdisciplinary problem-based learning approach, and we involve many companies in the education process to expose students to real-life problems.”
This approach ties academia to industry, and major companies – both foreign and domestic – contribute to university programmes. French automotive parts manufacturer Faurecia, the eighth largest in the world, sponsored the building of a production line room in the IFE for students to use. Global engineering and manufacturing companies such as Bosch, Amcor and Hutchinson are following suit now that this employer branding has proved to be highly effective in attracting the brightest graduates.
“We will have a bigger production line space for next year,” says Ms Piotrowska, noting the ever-growing private sector interest in the faculty. Large numbers of graduates have gone on to work for local branches of global industry leaders such as ABB Polska, Accenture Poland, Huawei Polska, Dell Polska, Siemens Polska and more.
“We really want companies to be a part of the educational process,” the deputy head continues. “Apart from apprenticeships or scholarships, we want them to be part of the academic staff.” The faculty is developing co-teaching programmes involving industry professionals who lend their expertise a few times per semester. “This is very good not only for students but also for teachers, as it updates their knowhow in the discipline,” says Ms Piotrowska.
The IFE’s international outlook is paying off: its students can take ‘mobility semesters’ abroad which enhance their global exposure and employability, and next year the IFE will offer a summer school for IT students organised by California-based Stanford University. This year the IFE hosted a visiting Stanford computer science professor.
“If you want to be an innovative university, you need to be very close with what’s going on in industry and business,” says Ms Piotrowska. “If you’re not, your university is old-fashioned. And that’s not very good.”