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Vladimir Popović Ph.D., Full Professor, Dean, Faculty Of Mechanical Engineering Of The University Of Belgrade

We Live In The Age Of Engineering

Interest in mechanical engineering studies among young people is growing year-on-year, as is the quality of newly enrolled students, because it is increasingly easier and faster to gain employment if you have a degree from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Thanks to this fact, young engineers are also increasingly opting to stay in their country, to remain in Serbia to work

Although every administration of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering has done as much as could be done under the given circumstances, we must advance decisively. This is the right moment to decisively continue with the gradual reform of the faculty, because if we don’t change, then we will stagnate and slowly disappear ~ says Vladimir Popović Ph.D.

You rated last year as being excellent for the faculty. What were all the things that marked the year?

First of all, I would like to thank you for expressing an interest in the activities and development of the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. We had university elections over the course of spring, through which a new administration of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering waselected, which took over its duties on 1st October. The members of the Dean’s Collegium are now three ladies, for the first time in this faculty’s history. The previous year was marked by exceptional interest among students in enrolling in all of our faculty’s study programmes, the continued excellent results of our student teams (Formula student, Beoavia – aviation, Confluence Belgrade – shipbuilding, Robotoid, ZeptoHyperTech – biomedical engineering), as well as the presenting of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the World Expo in Dubai.

There has been increased interest in mechanical engineering studies among youngsters for years, but what’s new is that ever more of them want to stay in Serbia after graduating. How has that changed?

We’ve been working on this for years, but the circumstances, including a good policy of the state, have also helped us. That increased interest contributed to raising the quality of newly enrolled students, such that this year the average grade of our freshmen coming from secondary schools stands at 4.40, and approximately 60 per cent of new students come to us from high schools.

I agree with your observation that ever more of our graduates are choosing to remain in their country. Contributing to this the most was an increase in offers of high-quality jobs for engineers, as well as continuous increases in salaries, particularly over the last five years. A large number of high-tech companies have opened their development centres in our country, which is crucial to future development.

You have excellent cooperation with many companies, including renowned firms like ZF, Bosch, Siemens, Brose and Endava, but also public enterprises and companies like EPS, NIS, Petrohemija etc. What are students brought by this collaboration?

There is practically no significant company operating in our country with which we don’t cooperate. Apart from the aforementioned companies, there are a number of domestic private companies with which we’ve developed cooperation. All this enables students to have high-quality work placement student internship, and after that also the possibility of choosing the right employer.

I wish to highlight our excellent cooperation with the Association of Students of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering regarding all issues that impact on education activities, but also our students’ further career development. A number of them are starting work well before the completion of their studies, which used to be a rarity.

When it comes to the popularity of our study modules, the largest number of students traditionally enrol in thermotechnics, mechanical production engineering, which also encompasses artificial intelligence, robotics, intelligent technological systems, automated control, aviation etc.

You’re also recording increased interest among students from the region, but also from the UAE. This isn’t only important in financial terms, but also in terms of expanding your influence, right?

The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering has always attracted the best school pupils, both from the surrounding countries and from the regions of North Africa and the Middle East. That interest waned significantly as a result of the wars and crises of the end of the previous century and the beginning of this one, but it is now being reactivated. There’s a lot of room in this area to improve the work of our faculty, because we have an exceptional tradition of educating foreign students. We had several meetings, both in Dubai and Belgrade, with universities and companies from the UAE, and we expect a larger group of students to come from this country in the next school year.

The influence of our country is thus expanded in the best way, because our graduates and doctors of technical sciences find themselves, or will find themselves, in important positions in their own countries. All of the aforementioned determines the position of our faculty as the best school of mechanical engineering in the wider region.

The Faculty of Mechanical Engineering has always attracted the best school pupils, both from the surrounding countries and from the regions of North Africa and the Middle East

Despite a lot having already been done, your faculty is still working to harmonise its study programmes with the needs of the market. Is the dual education model, which is being developed according to the needs and specifics of the higher education system, part of this process?

The key reason for my candidacy to become dean is the fact that I believe deeply that the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering – despite its great achievements in the past and a tradition to be proud of; despitemany greatgenerationsand renowned professors who’ve carried its name around the world – still can and must advance. I believe that, even today, at this faculty there exists 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.

That’s why we’re constantly innovating our programmes and subjects, and introducing new accredited study programmes. I would like to point out the new Industry 4.0 master’s studies programme, as well as the undergraduate study programme in Information Technology in Mechanical Engineering.

The dual education model opens new doors to even more intensive cooperation with companies on the basis of mutual interest. We are currently working with ZF to develop a study programme based on the dual model of study.

Conditions for studying are increasingly improving, but what working and research conditions do your young scientists have, given that they should bring accelerated economic development to our country?

Both conditions for studying and conditions for scientific work are increasingly better, but there’s always room for improvement. Our faculty has the constant support of the state in its development, without which merely maintaining the monumental building of the faculty would be difficult. As I spent four years performing my duties as the Secretary of State responsible for Science and Technological Development, this topic is one that’s extremely close to me. The time in which we live is the time of engineering, and that’s a fact that supports our efforts.

Our generation of professors and this administration are tasked with utilising all of these opportunities in the right way. And we should always be mindful of the fact that, in a house with tradition, nothing begins or ends with us, and we are all just a stage in the development and building of the reputation of our house: the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Belgrade.

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