As Slovenia’s oldest and biggest university, the University of Ljubljana (UL) is fast gaining a global reputation. Founded in 1919, the university caters for around 50,000 students on more than 300 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. It is swiftly climbing up the university rankings, too, and is listed among the world’s top 500 by the ARWU Shanghai and Webometrics. QS World University Rankings places UL in the top 200 for accounting and finance, and also for communications and media studies.

“In the past, we haven’t been visible – but that’s partly because a lot of people don’t know where Slovenia is!” says Aleksandra Kanjuo-Mrcela, Director of Postgraduate Studies. “Now, however, that’s changing – we’re getting greater recognition both nationally and internationally.”

UL’s draw is its combination of academic excellence and international collaboration – not to mention its exceptional location. “We are nestled between the Alps, a national park and the Mediterranean coast,” says Kanjuo-Mrcela, “which is a very good position.” Based in Slovenia’s capital city (“vibrant, friendly and easy to get around”, she says), the university provides easy access to a host of varied settings. “Our natural environment is very important,” she adds. “Not only because of the beautiful scenery, but also in shaping our approach as a university. We’re increasingly exploring environmental issues.”

Looking outwards has long since been a trademark of the institution. UL currently welcomes more than 3,000 international students, 68 foreign employees, and 430 overseas researchers and academic contributors. “Slovenia is a country in transition,” says Kanjuo-Mrcela. “We are going through economic and political change – and that makes us very open and inclusive. International students and staff always comment that people here are hungry for collaborative research. Historically, that has always been the case – we have always cultivated strong connections and our competitive advantage comes from links with some of the best organisations, institutions and students around the world.” UL now has bilateral agreements with more than 100 universities in the US and Europe.


Forward-thinking approach

Another area in which UL is a pioneer is that of social and gender equality. “That’s important to us,” says Kanjuo-Mrcela. “Our first doctor of science, who graduated in 1920 – just one year after the university was established – was a woman.” Fast forward to the present day and UL continues to pride itself on representing women and people from different backgrounds in all capacities. “In our graduate school, 60 per cent of our students are women,” she adds, “and we have many female academics and researchers – including a recent female rector.”

With regards to the content and quality of UL’s postgraduate programmes, Kanjuo-Mrcela points to the university’s interdisciplinary approach. She sites programmes in biomedicine, statistics, environmental protection and bioscience, and highlights the collaborative nature of all humanities and social sciences postgraduate programmes.

“It is one of our greatest achievements as a university,” she says. “We’ve successfully united all the academics and researchers in those fields, enabling people to reach into related subjects and courses, and explore their subject more comprehensively. That’s good for the quality of study and also for each individual’s employability after he or she graduates.”

All told, it isn’t difficult to see why UL is gaining a strong international reputation for academic excellence and progressive thinking – nor why students from all over Europe and the US are enrolling in growing numbers.