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Vladimir Popović Ph.D., Dean of the University of Belgrade Faculty of Mechanical Engineering

This Is The Age Of Engineering

One of the country’s most important higher education institutions celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. And it awaits its October birthday with two major national accolades: the Saint Sava Award and the Sretenje Order, which oblige this faculty to continue advancing

Regardless of its major achievements of the past, the University of Belgrade Faculty of Mechanical Engineering works constantly to improve its existing study programmes, but also to develop new ones. It thus comes as no surprise that it ranks at the very top of all faculties in Serbia, in terms of the percentage of graduates who gain employment and the quality of those jobs.

Although mechanics and machine science have been studied at the University of Belgrade for 150 years, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering celebrates only its 75th anniversary this October. What kind of results and plans do you have as you await your college’s birthday?

I would firstly like to thank you for your interest in the activities and development of the University of Belgrade Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. We are proud of our tradition and past results, but that’s precisely why, in this year of great jubilees, we must be up to the task in all segments of our work.

This is also the first year in the work of the new management team, so it’s normal for new energy to have appeared. The previous year was marked by exceptional interest in enrolling in all of our faculty’s study programmes among students, the continuation of our student teams’ excellent results, particularly the Beoavia team, the continuation of the building of the new identity of the faculty and increased activity on international projects. However, we should always bear in mind that, in a house with a great tradition, nothing either starts or ends with us and that we’re all just one stage in the development and building of the reputation of our house: the University of Belgrade Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.

Numerous investments in Serbia have led to increased demand for places at your faculty, but these investments aren’t the only reason. Haven’t you also personally contributed a lot to that? Have you changed and adapted to new technologies? Which study programmes are currently in highest demand at the undergraduate level, and which are the most popular at the postgraduate level?

Work on this has been continuing for years, but we’ve also been favoured by the circumstances, which include a good policy of the state. That increased interest has contributed to raising the quality of newly enrolled students, so the average secondary school grade of our freshmen this year is 4.41, while about 60% of our new students are graduates of gymnasium high schools. We work constantly to improve existing study programmes, but also to develop new ones.

We do adapt to the market, but we adapt even more to the development of new technologies. We have just two study programmes at the undergraduate level: Mechanical Engineering (total of 620 places) and Information Technology in Mechanical Engineering (60 places). We have greater interest in this second study programme, calculated on the basis of the number of registered candidates per budgeted place, but the number of places is also small (20). When it comes to the popularity of our study modules (master’s studies), the largest number of students traditionally enroll to study thermal engineering, production engineering, which also includes artificial intelligence, robotics, intelligent technological systems, process engineering, industrial engineering, automated control etc.

Students used to have to beg professors to help them find a job, while today both foreign and domestic companies approach you with offers of employment for students. That didn’t happen… Was a lot of work done to create that situation?

The main contribution to this was the increase in the offer of high-quality jobs for engineers, as well as continuous increases in earnings, particularly over the last five years. A large number of high-tech companies have established their own development centres in our country, which is crucial to future development. It’s very rare that we receive requests to help one of our students find employment.

We have outstanding cooperation with all international and local companies operating in our country

We have outstanding cooperation with all international and local companies operating in our country, including those which at first glance seem to have little to do with traditional mechanical engineering. This is something we work on constantly, as nothing comes by itself. We rank at the very top of all faculties in the Republic of Serbia, when one includes in the criteria the percentage of graduates who gain employment and the quality of those jobs.

Dual education was introduced to the higher education system recently. Could you tell us about its specificities, its positive sides, and how this education model has proven itself to date?

Every new model has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the dual education model is no exception, which is why it is necessary for a certain amount of application time to pass before one can make final conclusions. Although we do support the inclusion of dual education in the higher education system, we have yet to accredit the study programme in accordance with that system, but we are working intensively with several major companies (ZF, Bosch, Brose) on its development for master’s studies. A specificity is that high-quality teaching must be provided at the university, but in parallel also at companies, as well as interest in a single study programme among a higher number of companies. Students are thereby provided with a wider choice of future jobs.

You recently added the Saint Sava Award and the Sretenje Order to your already rich collection of accolades. You have received a great honour, but one that also brings with it great responsibility to continue on the same path and be even better?

That’s right, receiving two such high awards from one’s country is a great honour, but also a great obligation. I consider that we deserved it due to our work over previous decades, but we are also tasked with progressing further. That’s because this is the only way we can be, as our motto says, “A step ahead of everyone”.

Regardless of the great achievements of the past and a proud tradition, regardless of the countless excellent generations and renowned professors who’ve spread its name around the world, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering still can, and must, progress. I also believe that today it has new energy, knowledge and enthusiasm to improve many segments of work, in order for our faculty to remain a cornerstone of education and science in the future.

Many secondary school pupils are currently in the process of choosing what to study. Do you have any advice for all of them, especially those considering enrolling in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering?

The time in which we live is the time of engineering, and that is a fact that’s in our favour. Our generation of professors and this administration are taked with utilisng all these opportunities in the right way. I can say to our future students that enrolling in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering is the right choice. They will thus enroll in a faculty that will teach them how to think, but that will also provide them with a secure job and good earnings, but also a job in their home country. An extremely small percentage of our graduates have left Serbia over the last few years, which is important for the faculty, but even more important for our country. I believe this is real collateral for the future.