ZAGREB December 5, 2020 – With over 9000 students currently enrolled, the Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb is the largest faculty in Croatia. In 2020, this internationally renowned institution celebrates its 100th birthday, so TCN decided to take a closer look.
Every other student you meet in Croatia seems to study economy. It makes you wonder where they all go to after their studies are complete. Are there really so many positions for economists in Croatia?
In 2020, the Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb celebrates its 100th birthday. The long list of its famous former students gives a clue to where all the Croatian economists go – the tourism sector, diplomacy and international relations, business, politics and government.
Marija Pejčinović Burić, a graduate of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Zagreb and the current Secretary General of the Council of Europe. After graduating, like Savka Dabčević-Kučar, she became o doctor of economics and before taking her current position served as Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs © Council of Europe
Graduates of the Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb have served as mayors of Zagreb and Split, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, Minister of Finance, Minister of the Economy, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Governers of the Croatian National Bank, Vice-President of the UN World Food Council, President of the Croatian Football Association, Minister of Environmental and Nature Protection, special advisors to the President of Croatia and countless university professors, including several former rectors of the University of Zagreb. Within its graduate professors, it has produced no less than 19 full members of the prestigious Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, more than any other single institution in the country.
Savka Dabčević-Kučar, a graduate of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Zagreb. Born on Korčula, she became an anti-fascist in World War II, joining the partisans after her brother was beaten by fascists. After graduating, she continued to study at the faculty and became one of the first doctors of economics in Croatia, raising eyebrows by choosing to write her doctorate dissertation about a non-Marxist economic theorist (Englishman John Maynard Keynes). She became a professor at the faculty in the 1950s and despite her great advances in political life, remained a committed teacher at the faculty until 1971. In 1967, she was elected President of the Socialist Republic of Croatia. In 1969, she moved to an even more important position – that of president of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Croatia. She was the first woman in Europe to be appointed head of government of a political entity and the first female in Croatia to hold an office equivalent to a head of government. In this picture, she addressed supporters on Ban Jelacic Square Zagreb during the movement called the Croatian Spring, which called for greater autonomy for Croatia. At the address, thousands cheered her as “Savka, queen of the Croats”. For her pivotal role in the movement, she was removed from her positions and public life and retired. She returned to politics in 1990 upon the collapse of communism in Europe and during the Croatian war of independence was one of the few politicians who visited the front lines of battle in Slavonia, Petrinja, Pokupski and the Dalmatian hinterland
The Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb is the largest faculty in the country. Over its 100 year history, it has established itself as an internationally respected institution. Today, it has around 9000 persons enrolled, caters for international students with some courses in English and has produced over 86, 000 graduates, including 856 doctors of science.
In its infancy, students of the College of Trade and Transport were taught at the Technical College, which is today the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb © National and University Library in Zagreb
The history of the Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb starts with the opening in 1920 of its forerunner, the Zagreb College of Trade and Transport. Its purpose was to educate in the areas of banking, domestic and international trade, transport, consular services, insurance and the education of teachers. Its courses lasted three years and it proved so popular that in the academic year 1923/24, some 1,125 students were enrolled.
The institution held college status until 1925 when Stjepan Radić became the Minister of Education. It must have been unusual for Radić to find himself as part of the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the state which preceded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Today, Radić is best remembered as a politician outspoken in his advocacy of autonomy for Croatia. Before his appointment to the government, he had always done so in opposition. Indeed, he had been imprisoned several times for his views, which were proclaimed loudly in his writings or in person (he was a gifted public speaker). As recently as March 1925 he had been in prison but, when the political party of which he was a member officially recognised the monarchy and the state constitution, he was freed. In a remarkable turnaround, before the year’s end, he was a minister in the government.
Stjepan Radić, pictured in the 1920s © public domain. In 1895 Radić was sent to prison for the public burning of the Hungarian flag in Zagreb – alongside Antun Dabčević, the father of Savka Dabčević-Kučar.
Stjepan Radić‘s desire for Croatian autonomy was not born from the ideals of the political class of Zagreb. The ninth of eleven children, born to a peasant family in a small village on the banks of the Sava river, just north of Sisak, Radić was very much a representative of the people whence he came. To him (and others in his family – his brother and nephew also being prominent politicians), education had the most important role to play in emancipation. He had lived in poverty in order to complete his own – after being banned from university-level educational institutions throughout the whole of the Austro-Hungarian empire for his protests against the state, he travelled penniless to Russia, France and Switzerland to complete his studies. In the latter, finance was one of his chosen subjects.
The first dedicated building of the Higher School of Economics and Commerce was located on the corner of Bauerova and Zvonirmirova © Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb
Under Radić’s spell in office, the Zagreb College of Trade and Transport became the Higher School of Economics and Commerce. Its courses extended to four years, it attained university status. With no building designated to the increasingly popular institution, students had sometimes been taught at the Technical College (today’s Museum of Arts and Crafts) and in parts of what is now the Mimara Museum. A dedicated home for the faculty was authorised and its construction started in 1927. Classes began at the faculty, located on the corner of Bauerova and Zvonimirova, in 1928, but within the decade the institution had outgrown its home and a plot of land in Svetice was acquired in order to build a new, larger facility. Its construction was interrupted by the Second World War and students would end up being taught on the Bauerova and Zvonimirova site all the way up to 1952.
The faculty’s modern building, pictured in 1987. Today, the faculty has 17 departments – Finance, Demography, Economic Theory, Business Economics, Informatics, Macroeconomics and Economic Development, Marketing, Mathematics, International Economics, Business in Foreign Languages, Organization and Management, Law, Accounting, Statistics, Trade and International Business, Tourism, Physical Education and Health © Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb
In 1947, the Higher School of Economics and Commerce became the Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb. In 1952, the faculty officially moved to the new site in Svetice. In 1968 it expanded once more when it merged with the 12-year-old College of Economics. Since then, the building at Svetice has received major upgrades and further facilities of the faculty can now also be found at the university campus in Borongaj, in Varaždin, in Koprivnica and in Bjelovar. After a century of existence, the Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb’s longstanding difficulties to meet the popularity of its courses with the space available are now over. Not only can they accommodate every Croatian economy student who makes the grade, but they are also able to offer places to some of the best international students. It would surely come as no surprise if they are still educating the future elites of business, banking, finance and politics in another 100 years.
The Faculty of Economics University of Zagreb site in Svetice, as seen from its garden © Wolf – Pidgeon