04.04.2018 change 04.04.2018

Prof. Jajszczyk about Law 2.0: Not a revolution

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

I do not believe that the reform of science will be a revolution for Polish universities - says Prof. Andrzej Jajszczyk, a member of the ERC scientific council. Although the scientist supports the direction of change, he is afraid that most universities will not want to take advantage of the new opportunities.

The government adopted the higher education and science bill in March. Prof. Andrzej Jajszczyk commented on its provisions an interview with PAP. He is an information technology expert, member of the ERC (European Research Council) scientific council, laureate of the 2008 FNP Prize and member of the council of the National Congress of Science.

According to the researcher, the proposals included in the bill go in the right direction. "But - unlike some - I do not think that these reforms will be a revolution or disaster. In fact, higher education will not change that much after the reform" - he believes. He adds that he is an advocate of taking the reform a step further, including, for example, complete removal of habilitation.

Professor Jajszczyk points out that the new law will give universities more autonomy and an opportunity to choose their own path. "The vast majority of universities will unfortunately choose to adapt, change as little as possible. But the new law will give universities the tools to start working better" - he says. According to Jajszczyk, the universities that will skilfully use these tools will benefit. "But I am afraid that only a small percentage of universities will take advantage of these opportunities, although I do know that several universities are already thinking wisely about the reform" - he says.

As a result of the reform, universities will be able to shape their structure. "If higher education schools decide to shut down the units that are weak or associated with outdated areas of research - they have a chance to win. The more conservative ones might drop out" - believes Prof. Jajszczyk. In his opinion, universities should consider how to best respond to the needs of society.

Pursuant to the draft law, public universities will have councils, new bodies selected by the senate of a given university. Over half of the council members will be persons not employed by the institution. The tasks of the university council will include selecting the rector or proposing candidates, adopting the university`s strategy and approving the report on its implementation.

"The universities that will select university council members wisely will benefit. Council members should set well-thought-out goals for the university and then scrupulously evaluate the pursuit of those goals on behalf of the society. If the university council members are friends and colleagues, who will not require anything from the universities, those universities will lose in the competition with other colleges" - believes Prof. Jajszczyk.

The scientist notes that all the best universities in the world have such councils. "In Poland there are people who think that university autonomy means that its employees and students should decide how the university functions, thinking primarily about their own group interest. This is a misunderstanding. A public university should serve the public, not just its professors and students" - he says.

Prof. Jajszczyk points out that until now university authorities were required to demonstrate to the ministry that each zloty was spent in accordance with the law. "But universities were not accountable for fulfilling their mission or not. Now the university council, acting as a representative of society, will watch the university" - says Prof. Jajszczyk.

As a result of the reform, several research universities will be selected that, thanks to additional funds, will be able to focus on the development of top-level research. "As long as we do not have top, world level universities in Poland, we are losing the most talented high school graduates who leave to study abroad - we are simply losing blood. If a high school graduate leaves Poland, chances are slim that he or she will come back to Poland after graduating form university" - says the ERC board member.

According to the researcher, the law will also give scientifically weaker universities a reason to change. "They are afraid that they will drop out of the market. But maybe there is no point pretending that you are a research university if in fact you are not. And instead, it is better to focus on teaching and better prepare the staff to do their jobs. Universities with such a profile do not fall into a worse category, just into a different category" - he says.

"I hope that the bill will not be changed too much in the Sejm. It would be a shame if the effort of a large part of the academic community that worked on the law was destroyed by its dilution" - concludes Prof. Jajszczyk.

PAP - Science in Poland

Author: Ludwika Tomala

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