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Law 2.0/Statute as the basic document regulating the functioning of the university

19.09.2017 Universities
College students making lesson notes in university auditorium

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According to the draft law on higher education, the statute, not the law, will be the basic document regulating the functioning of the university - PAP learned from the Ministry of Science. The ministry announces that after the entry of the law into force universities will have one year to adjust their statutes.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education is working on the so-called Constitution for Science, the new Law on Higher Education and Science, also referred to as the Law 2.0. The scientific community was included in the process of creating assumptions for the new legislation. The draft law will be presented by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin in Kraków on September 19 at the National Congress of Science.

 

According to the information PAP received from the Ministry of Science, the key document for the functioning of the university will be the statute - it will contain the most important provisions concerning its functioning. According to the provisions proposed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the statute should specify such matters as the organization and functioning of the university, including the establishment of university bodies, composition of the senate, management functions at the university, the procedure for awarding degrees, the rules of conducting business activity by the university. The law will only regulate the rules of functioning of the most important bodies at the university level, i.e. rector, university and senate.

 

According to the ministry plans, the new law on higher education will enter into force in October 2018. However, universities will have 12 months from the date of its entry into force to enact statutes under the new regulations.

 

According to the proposed provisions at the head of the public higher school, in addition to the rector and senate (as before), will also be the university board. Non-public school will be governed by rector and senate. Each university will also be allowed to introduce other bodies in its statute. According to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the changes introduced in the system of higher education institutions will give universities more autonomy than they have now.

 

"The tradition of academic freedom is the most important issue - the university community itself will choose the university authorities (as before) and set the direction of the university development. At the same time, the changes we propose are designed to improve the functioning of higher education institutions" - emphasised Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin.

 

The law will introduce university boards. Jarosław Gowin mentioned them already in March. More than 50% of their members will be people from outside the university. Board members will be elected by the university senate. The chairman of the student government will be an obligatory member of this group. The board will have a total of 7 or 9 members - depending on the statutory regulations of the university. The tasks of this body will include enacting the university statute and strategy, supervising the university's financial economy and managing the university, nominating rector candidates.

 

"We hope that outstanding representatives of the world of science, business and social life will be elected to the university boards. The decision in this regard will lie entirely with the university community" - emphasised Deputy Prime Minister Gowin.

 

The draft law also provides for a new procedure for appointing a rector and the scope of rector's duties. Rector will be elected by the senate or a college of electors, from among at least two candidates proposed by the university board. Under the provisions of the current law, rector may be appointed by election or by competition. The rector's duties under the draft law will include university management, preparation of draft statute and university strategy project, human resources policy. Rector will also be responsible for the university's financial economy, as well as establishing a detailed organizational structure of the university.

 

University senate members will still be students, doctoral students, academics and other university employees. Their term will also last 4 years. Representation of students and doctoral students will remain unchanged - at the level of not less than 20%. According to the new provisions, the body will no longer pass the statute. It will, in particular, deal with: the adoption of the study regulations, issuing opinions on the draft statute and the strategy of the university, appointing and dismissing members of the university board, awarding of academic degrees, degrees in art and the title of doctor honoris causa, specifying programs of studies and postgraduate studies. Importantly, the first statute after the reform, as before, will be adopted by the university senate

 

"The selection of university authorities will be made by the academic community itself, which will ensure that the constitutional principle of university autonomy is upheld. At the same time, the representatives of external stakeholders named by the senate will also have an impact on the election of the rector" - emphasised the spokesperson of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education Katarzyna Zawada.

 

According to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, changes in the university system will be gradual. The first university boards are due to appear before 30 June 2019. Their 18-month term will be devoted entirely to the preparation of the rules of procedure of this body and the preparations for the selection of rector candidates.

 

The ministry assures that, as a rule, there are no plans to shorten the term of office of the university authorities - the rectors elected in 2016 will be in office until the end of their term - until 2020. Exceptions will be those universities, in which the elections took place in 2015 and 2017. The term of office in these cases will be either extended or reduced by one year. "This is necessary because of the well-thought-out calendar of transitional provisions. For that reason, the terms of office of people who started their function in 2017 will not be counted towards the statutory limit of two terms. This affects only 7 out of 130 public universities" - emphasised Piotr Müller, Director of the Office of the Minister of Science and Higher Education.

 

Szymon Zdziebłowski (PAP)

 

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