Varazdin Public Open University Launches Unique Programme in Croatia

Lauren Simmonds

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Sergej Novosel Vuckovic writes on the 4th of November, 2020, the Varazdin Public Open University has a new educational programme in its arsenal. The encouragement of new initiatives, ideas, the introduction of students to knowledge and skills, the provision of a useful package of tools for application in business and last but not least – networking students with each other, creating and encouraging new business collaborations and involving them over time as lecturers are just some of the goals of the Academy of Entrepreneurship.

In terms of form and content, this programme delivered by the Varazdin Public Open University is totally unique here in Croatia.

“I wanted to launch something in Varazdin that doesn’t yet exist, and which would be complementary to other programmes on the market. Yes, you’re right, this is a unique programme that offers a package of knowledge for entrepreneurs from various target groups: from beginners to experienced entrepreneurs. The programme changes every year, which is why we insist on an informal form of performance so that we can be as flexible as possible and ensure the so-called tailor made lectures for each module,” explained the university’s director, Lana Velimirovic Vukalovic.

The Varazdin Public Open University has just started with its third generation of students who will spend 160 hours in 11 modules, twice a week for the next six months, going through everything an entrepreneur needs, from basics of economics and entrepreneurship, learning about business models, entrepreneurship development, finances and accounting, through to business communication skills, marketing and sales, all the way to human resource management, sources of financing and project management, and personal data protection policies. The internationalisation of business is the final step to be taken.

The participants, 11 of them, were selected through a public call, and they’re primarily entrepreneurs, beginners or those who are somewhat more experienced. The lecturers are also all entrepreneurs, mostly local ones, who share their experiences with the participants and encourage them to stay ”at home” in Varazdin where they can go on to succeed.

This year, they started preparing the academy before the pandemic took Croatia in its firm grasp and they refused to give up even during a very difficult lockdown, thanks to the persistence of the director herself, who, she says, has the goal and desire to help local entrepreneurs. “They’re one of the important pillars of our society and our local community, and most of our students have made a significant step forward in business, they stayed in Varazdin and they operate successfully,” said the head of the Varazdin Public Open University.

“Entrepreneurs need to know that when this crisis ends, a new one will emerge. These lectures will give them the tools to know how to adapt. I was impressed by some who recognised in time that the coronavirus pandemic was going to disrupt their business and they didn’t wait, but immediately adjusted and made new business plans. This curriculum, and our lecturers, will take them a step further – the goal is to transform the business in innovative ways,” explained Velimirovic Vukalovic.

“Some wanted to shut down their companies or trades, but we ”enlightened” them and today they’re successful and sustainable on the market, and they’re also planning employment,” she added.

Just in case things go sour once again with the spread of the virus, the Varazdin Public Open University has developed a plan B and even a plan C for the transition to the online model. However, the principal rightly warned: ”The Academy of Entrepreneurship isn’t designed to be online, because it must be practical, it contains exercises, group work, etc. If it will be necessary to close live classes, we have ideas on how to organise things online. But I, as a professor by profession and a lecturer, guarantee that nothing can compensate for live teaching and that the difference in the quality of online and live teaching is huge. We don’t want to leave holes in the knowledge of our attendees. We want them to grow, develop and be sustainable entrepreneurs with us. We’ll go week by week and that’s how we’re going to make decisions. We’re adapt to the situation and we’ll innovate,”

Some of the types of education offered by the Varazdin Public Open University, primarily the basic Basic programme, are free, as Varazdin finances them, but some are market-based and are paid for.

“Everything can’t and must not be free, because our lecturers are also entrepreneurs and we have to pay for their knowledge. In other words, both the Varazdin Public Open University and the Academy for Entrepreneurship encourage entrepreneurship among their own external associates, and we’re on the market ourselves, so we’re cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset,” concluded Lana Velimirovic Vukalovic.

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