08.01.2018 change 08.01.2018

Reform of universities - the key task of the Ministry of Science in 2018

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Conducting the first reform of universities in over ten years - this is the key task of the Ministry of Science in 2018. The ministry also wants to launch the Łukasiewicz Research Network connecting several dozen research institutes.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education is expected to present the final version of the new draft Law on Higher Education and Science in mid-January 2018.

Minister of Science and Higher Education, Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin presented the initial version of the bill in September during the National Congress of Science in Kraków. The Ministry of Science and Higher Education declared that it wanted the new law - so-called Law 2.0, also called the Constitution for Science - to enter into force on October 1, 2018.

At the congress, Deputy Prime Minister announced that the Law 2.0 would reduce the number of provisions currently in force by half. The law will combine the matter of four laws: the Law on Higher Education, the Law on the Principles of Financing Science, the Law on Academic Degrees and Title, as well as the Law on Student Loans. The number of regulations, currently around 80, is anso expected to be reduced by half. It would be the first reform of higher education in Poland in over 12 years.

According to September announcements, among the important directional changes would be making many of the university\'s powers (including offering studies with a general academic profile and awarding academic degrees) dependent on the academic category obtained in the given disciplines. Another important change would be the division of universities into academic and professional ones.

According to the provisions proposed in September, the bodies of higher education institutions, in addition to the rector and senate (as before), would also include the university council. The central authorities of universities, including Rectors, would gain more freedom to shape the policy of the institution at the expense of faculty authorities. Some of the provisions will disappear from the law, so that universities can regulate them in their statutes - according to their own policies. The project also includes the possibility of universities forming loose federations.

Significant changes will also affect PhD students. According to September announcements, doctoral schools will be established at universities, where all PhD students will be provided with scholarships. However, doctoral students will be required to meet higher standards with regard to the quality of their research and publications.

The initial project also includes extended duration of part-time studies. Another novelty are education cycles shorter than first-cycle degree programs - students would obtain education higher than the high school exit exam, and a lower than a bachelor\'s degree. University teachers would also gain better career opportunities.

The period of receiving comments on project by the Ministry of Science began with the Congress in Kraków.

There has, however, been criticism from the representatives of the United Right. Already in September, on the first day of the National Science Congress, the head of the PiS club Ryszard Terlecki referred to Gowin\'s proposals as "weird". "I doubt that we will agree to them" - he said. In October, the then Prime Minister Beata Szydło also admitted that in the PiS club, not everyone was enthusiastic about the reform of higher education proposed by Jaroslaw Gowin.

At the end of November, at the meeting of the Sejm science and higher education subcommittee, PiS deputies criticized the proposed reform project of universities. They expressed concerns about the future of smaller universities, important for the regions, and raised the issue that the gap between the weaker and stronger universities would increase.

Voices of concern about the fate of small regional universities also appeared in the academic community.

Jarosław Gowin, asked by PAP (in early December) about the criticism of the project, noted that some of the critical remarks from the political environment, and above all from the academic community, had been taken into account, and the comments themselves influenced the need to clarify certain provisions. "First of all, I hope that (...) we will convince PiS parliamentarians about it (the Law 2.0 - PAP), because the vast majority of concerns were based on misunderstandings and not very careful reading of the bill" - said the Minister of Science and Higher Education. "October 1, 2018, as the date of entry of the law into force, is still our plan" - he reassured.

Another major change planned by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in 2018 is the establishment of the Łukasiewicz Research Network. The aim of this institution is to conduct research work that is crucial from the point of view of the country\'s policy, and to commercialise its results.

In January, the bill on this matter will be sent to the Sejm. "We would like the Łukasiewicz Research Network to be established on April 1" - emphasised Gowin in an interview with PAP in December. The network is expected to be formed by several dozens connected research institutes. The work of the institutes will be supervised by the central institute.

The first competitions of the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange will also be launched in 2018. This institution has been operating since October 1, 2017. Its tasks include providing system support for the internationalisation of Polish universities. It develops a system of competitions and grants, which help Polish students and scientists to travel abroad, and attract foreign scholars to Poland.

author: Ludwika Tomala

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