The Czech Republic has grown its international undergraduate population by more than 50 per cent over the past decade, according to new data, and is increasingly successful at attracting students from former Soviet states with an offer of free study in Czech.
Newly released official statistics show that by 2016 there were close to 44,000 foreign students at Czech institutions, according to a report from the Prague Daily Monitor, up from nearly 28,000 in 2007. In 2016, they constituted about 14 per cent of all undergraduates.
About half of these undergraduates come from neighbouring Slovakia, although their numbers have been declining since 2012, the outlet reports. Meanwhile, numbers from Russia (5,900), Ukraine (2,900) and Kazakhstan (1,600) have been growing, and now collectively account for nearly a quarter of international students and a majority of those from outside the European Union.
The Czech Republic offers tuition-free study for students of any nationality who study in Czech and the figures suggest that this policy is attracting students from Russia, the vast majority of whom paid no tuition fees, according to the report.
About 15 per cent of international students overall paid tuition fees, suggesting that most are studying in Czech.
Nearly nine in 10 study at public universities and mostly take medicine, pharmacy, life sciences and arts subjects, according to the report.
The country’s new prime minister, the billionaire Andrej Babiš, came to power on a manifesto promising to internationalise aspects of the country’s universities by subjecting researchers to review by international peers and ensuring that students have to take a course either abroad or in English.