Practical education for international students: a new innovation project at Széchenyi University

SIP (10).jpgIn addition to the Student Innovation Project and Student-Lecturer Project, which have been running with great success in recent years, Széchenyi István University has launched a new pilot programme exclusively for international students. The Students’ Innovative Project (SIP) aims to enable them to participate in projects based on real problems, helping them to gain practical experience. The teams are developing solutions for two topics - sourcing ingredients related to national cuisines and navigating local stores - from which even startups can be born.

10 March 2021 – Márton Horváth, SZEnews

Széchenyi István University considers it extremely important that during their studies students should already encounter real-life problems. By solving these in the framework of a project,  they can both gain practical experience and become familiar with the corporate environment. Excellent examples of this endeavour, which have become very popular in recent years, are the Student Innovation Project (HIP) and the Student-Lecturer Project (HOP), in which students form teams with the help of a designated mentor, and in a consultative approach propose a solution to a specific challenge posed by a company (be it a market research request or the optimization of a production line).

The institution was actively looking for ways to involve international students in the scheme and in the end a questionnaire surveying student satisfaction provided the initial impetus. During the evaluation of the form, it turned out that the biggest difficulty for international students in Győr is obtaining the raw materials required in their national gastronomy, as well as orientation in local institutions and shops. Combining all this with the need for practical education, the University decided to provide an opportunity for students to develop a solution to the problem. To this end, the institution will provide all professional and administrative assistance.

“In January, when we called for applications on the University’s website, there was a sixfold oversubscription. Ten students were finally selected, taking into account the country of origin, gender equality and the competencies required for the project. The two five-member working groups will have three months to elaborate the proposal,” Dr Eszter Lukács, Vice-Rector for Educational Affairs, informed us.

SIP (03).jpg

According to Dr Eszter Lukács, Vice-Rector of Széchenyi István University, the Students’ Innovative Project provides an opportunity for the University to help find a solution to students' problems and for students to gain practical experience. (Photo: Zoltán Kun)

The project started on 18 February and will end with a closing presentation on 11 May. Between the two dates, participants will go through the typical phases of the project life cycle: first refining the problem, investigation, then the gathering of ideas, outlining of the business plan, searching for data, and seeing how realistic the idea is. If the client (in our case Dr Tibor Dőry, President of the Management Campus, on behalf of the University) is satisfied with the direction, they will move on to the next step, but if a change is needed, they will return to an earlier phase. So the process is cyclical, requiring continuous consultation.

SIP (01).png

Due to epidemiological restrictions, students are contacted online.
Slide showing the project schedule

“The same framework applies to international students as it does with the HIP programme. We use the same project management tools, work in the same time frame and assign a mentor to the team, as we do in their case,” said Ágnes Frank, HIP Programme Coordinator, who also commented that the task itself is very similar to problems defined by companies, as here, too, in their advisory role, students will be in constant communication with the client.

The expected end result of the project is not precisely defined, therefore many different outcomes are conceivable.

“Basically, we expect a concept from students that goes beyond the brainstorming phase and is more like a feasibility study. They need to document it and then present it in the form of a pitch at the project closing event,” said the programme coordinator, adding that the problems to be solved are fully startup-compatible, meaning that they can even become a commercially profitable business by the end of the semester.

SIP (05).JPG

Programme coordinator Ágnes Frank said that the project will be funded by the Centre for University-Industry Cooperation (FIEK), which also provides funding for HIP. (Photo: József Csaba Májer)

All this was confirmed by Dr Tibor Dőry, President of the Management Campus, who said that the problems outlined were general enough for the solutions developed by the students to be applied elsewhere. “Students are not expected to come up with viable solutions on a business basis, but we would be very happy if that came out of it,” said the manager who, as client, represents the University in the project. “It all depends on the motivation and attitude of the students. If someone there has an entrepreneurial attitude, we will encourage them to move in that direction. Let them look around the world and search for solutions. We will give all the help needed to do that,” he promised.

The plural is justified because Susana Milicua Mendoza, a colleague of the Management Campus, has joined the project as mentor. The Mexican-born instructor was an excellent choice for the role because she is in a similar situation to international students, so in addition to professional support, she can also create a unique atmosphere of trust with the work teams.

“Our goal is to support knowledge transfer between the University and the students. We want students to return home with practical knowledge that will give them the best chance of finding a job, he noted, adding that students will also be given training in entrepreneurship where  they will learn how to organize startups, how to communicate with clients or just how to give a presentation.

SIP (07).jpg

As a result, Dr Dőry can even imagine an application with which students can easily order raw materials. (Photo: József Csaba Májer)

 

SIP (09).jpg

Susana Milicua Mendoza sees herself in the project not primarily as a mentor, but as a facilitator, that is, a stimulator of teamwork. (Photo: Márton Horváth)

Our portal spoke to one of the participants in the project, Mexican student Patricio Cortes, who is studying logistics engineering at Széchenyi István University.

“I applied to the gastroculture working group because I also have difficulty sourcing Mexican ingredients,” he replied in answer to our curiosity about his motivation. “I also have a personal project. I would like to create a website through which Mexican products can be ordered in Hungary. Currently, this is only possible from Budapest, and delivery is very expensive. The products could be marketed directly on the site. This is a big challenge for me, from which I can learn a lot, ”he said, emphasizing that his experience could be useful for others, but at the same time that the knowledge gained through working together can help him.

Regarding the project, Patricio believes that inventing something is easy, whereas implementing it is harder to do, so the best solution is one that can be put into practice easily and quickly. According to him, it is a definite advantage that the teams are diversified, as a truly innovative idea can only be born if there are many types of thinkers sitting round a table. “If everyone has the same background, it rarely leads to an innovative solution,” he said.

SIP (10).jpg

There is also a scholarship for the several months of work: at the end of the project, participants will receive a lump sum of HUF 100,000. Patricio Cortes is on the photo. (Photo: Márton Horváth)

It is important to highlight that the Students’ Innovative Project will not be a one-off opportunity for international students. Later, like the HIP and the HOP, the University plans to launch the programme every semester (preferably with corporate partners), but the exact form of this will be decided after evaluating the experience of the spring semester.

“Our current two themes were provided by the situation, that’s where we started. In the long run, we definitely want to keep students within the framework of the programme. We are waiting for project ideas and the partners with which we can realize this,” said Dr Eszter Lukács, outlining the programmes’s perspectives. In closing, she wished the two teams every success in their work.

H-9026 Győr, Egyetem tér 1. 

Hungary

(Administrative Building 103.)

0036/96/613-700, 0036/503-419

international@sze.hu


CENTRE OF INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMMES – OFFICE HOURS
  am pm
Monday  10:00-12:00 12:30-14:00
Tuesday  10:00-12:00 12:30-14:00
Wednesday  10:00-12:00 12:30-14:00
Thursday  10:00-12:00 12:30-14:00
Friday  10:00-11:00 12:30-14:00

Videos