University-Business Cooperation in Albania: The Tirana Business University (TBU) was established in 2010 by three distinguished personalities in the domestic media and business realms. The Balfin Group, the largest business group in Albania, joined in 2014 as a TBU shareholder. TBU offers programmes at Bachelor’s and Master’s levels, with majors in Business Administration, Business Law and Public Administration, all accredited by the Ministry of Education. TBU presently has 226 f.t.e. students and 300 are projected for the 2016-17 course.
THE ALBANIAN CONTEXT AND THE TBU STRATEGY
Since the time of TBU’s foundation, the overall context of university-business cooperation has been rather intricate, due to country specifics and inherent set of circumstances. On the one hand, Albania features a small emerging market economy, with a total population of 2.8 million inhabitants and a GDP of €10 billion. Family-owned businesses and micro enterprises prevail over a very small number of mid and large corporations; business sophistication and innovation levels are rather shallow across the board. Unemployment level is at 17%, whereas youth unemployment is at 35%. Nepotism, political connections, and bribery are key driving factors to employment and career growth. Merit-based employment and carrier growth typically occur in large corporation
On the other hand, the Albanian higher education system is dominated by large public universities, which are theory-driven, over-populated, ill-financed, highly bureaucratic and inundanted with under-motivated staff. In 2004, private universities entered the scene with a clear objective of gaining market share, set on attracting high numbers of students and maximising revenues. During this last decade, higher education in Albania underwent a rapid massivisation, yet at no proportional investment growth. On an annual basis, the number of university graduates exceeds the number of job vacancies available in the labor market by two or three-fold.
Under such multifaceted and perplexing conditions, university-business cooperation faces objective and subjective impediments: business owners have little or no confidence in the quality preparation of university graduates, while the absence of fair competition, merit-based employment and career growth opportunities discourage young people to the point that they forego quality knowledge and skills for a mere degree.
Considering the unfavorable set of circumstances, TBU relies on three strategic pillars: a small motivated student body, a not-for profit approach that aims for financial sustainability and self-sufficiency and high quality education. Regarding the quality education, this includes theoretical learning and practical training. All Bachelor programmes include up to 42 weeks of practical training throughout a 3-year span, while Master’s programs include up to 24 weeks of practical training, which are mentored, monitored and assessed by key business staff members in close collaboration with TBU staff. TBU faculty members are mainly business and law practitioners, who share real-time information and market experiences with TBU students.
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