Anthony Hennen writes for the Martin Center about his recent Central European educational experience.

For the past year, I was enrolled in a small graduate-level Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) program at the Cevro Institute in Prague, Czech Republic. To my knowledge, it’s one of two PPE programs in central/eastern Europe, an international experiment in the post-communist world. What makes it unique is its emphasis on understanding “political economy” with a classical liberal perspective.

The contrast between Czech higher education and American higher education is vast. Administrators are non-existent in the Czech Republic, as opposed to the bloated bureaucracy of American schools. Colleges do not dominate the social lives of Czech students like their American counterparts. Intercollegiate athletics are unheard of; instead, students organize sports among themselves. Czech higher education focuses solely on academics; as a result, it has a weaker hold on young Czechs. Attending college is like having a job: the conviviality of campus isn’t there like in America. Nor are Czech campuses a world apart from the rest of society, as American universities tend to be. The “campuses” tend to be scattered around the city, rather than secluded from it.

That single-minded focus on academics means costs are much lower than in the United States. Cevro’s PPE program runs on a shoestring budget: tuition for the program is 8,400 euros, or $9,950. That is a steal for highly motivated students, but it also means a lack of administrative support and amenities such as stipends to support students presenting at conferences that are typical of American higher education.