Meeting with the Minister of Science and Higher Education, Dariusz Wieczorek

Fot. Alan Stocki

The Rectors of Pomeranian universities were encouraged to cooperate and consolidate by the Minister of Science and Higher Education, Dariusz Wieczorek, who met with them at the University of Gdańsk. The Minister also answered questions from journalists and students.


‘This is a new opening. I would like to meet you in your universities, listen, and talk to you. Not just call you in to Warsaw. Of course, I also invite you to the Ministry, but the important thing for me is to get to know your universities and their capabilities and have a dialogue with the community,’ Minister Dariusz Wieczorek welcomed the rectors.

The meeting, held in the Main Library of the University of Gdańsk, was of a working nature. The rectors were able to familiarise themselves, among other things, with the government's strategy concerning the most important and necessary changes in higher education, as well as changes in the manner of financing universities.

‘The distribution of funds must be transparent,’ noted the Minister, who also stressed the need for all universities to cooperate, setting the Daniel Fahrenheit University Union as an example.

The rectors asked, among other things, about issues relating to internationalisation, changes in the rules of evaluation and problems relating to publications in scoring journals.

Representatives of the provincial and local government - Pomeranian Voivode Beata Rutkiewicz and Director of the Department of Economic Development at the Marshal's Office Stanisław Szultka - appealed to the Minister to treat smaller universities, whose role in the region is also important, carefully during the planned changes.

The host of the meeting, the Rector of UG prof. dr hab. Piotr Stepnowski, thanked the Minister for the meeting on behalf of the Rectors and expressed the hope that the announced changes would be implemented efficiently for the benefit of science.

After a short break, the delegation of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education went to the Faculty of Social Sciences. A press briefing and a meeting with students and doctoral students of Pomeranian universities took place there.

At the outset, the Rector, prof. Piotr Stepnowski, thanked the Minister for the fact that it was the University of Gdańsk that hosted the meeting with representatives of the authorities of Pomeranian universities and for dispelling many doubts related - among other things - to the planned amendment to the Act on Higher Education.

Minister Dariusz Wieczorek shared with journalists his plans to visit all academic centres in Poland by the end of June. The programme is intended to represent a change in the existing policy of the Ministry of Science to a more open one. In his speech, he also referred to the Fahrenheit University concept: ‘I value the initiative of cooperation between universities. The Federation of Fahrenheit Universities is potentially the direction we should pursue. We need to do it wisely so that we actually create a climate for the emergence of a great university that can also compete internationally with the biggest and the best.’

The Minister then went on to outline the main challenges associated with the amendment of the Act on Higher Education. These included issues such as student affairs (being the focus of the Ministry's attention), spending funds and increasing the competence of rectors in this area, outlays for scientific research, evaluation of universities, changes in the system of selecting rectors, and doctoral schools. According to Minister Dariusz Wieczorek, it is crucial for the development of universities ‘to go beyond the borders of Poland’, and the ministry will support such activities. Out of concern for young people, the Minister wants to focus on the quality of teaching, not the number of universities - and such systemic changes as to counteract the creation of pathologies.

Among the themes raised by journalists were things like cooperation between science and business (and its promotion by linking it to the university subsidy system), the expectations of universities from the Ministry in the context of the Ministry's actual capabilities, and the protection of students from pseudo-universities and unfair practices. The Minister's idea of solving the latter problem is to introduce greater control and the need for PAC certification of all courses of study that give any kind of licence to practice. 'The most important thing is the students,' the Minister stressed, 'and it is the students that should be thought of when one talks about the quality of teaching’.

At the meeting with students and doctoral students, the Minister encouraged young people to become active - among other things, by participating in the Students' Parliament and in elections, from university elections to local government and elections to the European Parliament. ‘You have to realise what a powerful force you are,’ he said, referring to the number of over 1,300,000 people currently studying in Poland.

Social issues - including scholarships and student residences - dominated the questions from student and doctoral student representatives. Ensuring an adequate number of student residences is, according to the Minister of Science, one of the key factors in access to education and an important part of the ministry's activities. Among the proposals to improve the scholarship system is to increase the autonomy of rectors in spending the funds allocated to them. In his remarks, Minister Dariusz Wieczorek also referred to the problems of doctoral students, remaining, as it were, 'outside the privileges' of both student and employee status, and to the ills of those studying at non-public universities. He again encouraged active participation of young people in the life of the university and the courage to report irregularities. ‘Studying is supposed to be about joy, fun and learning,’ the Minister concluded.


Karolina Żuk-Wieczorkiewicz/Press Team; Magdalena Nieczuja-Goniszewska/Spokesperson; photo by Alan Stocki