A YEAR OF CHALLENGE, STRENGTH AND FREEDOM
Letter of the Rector of The University of Wroclaw – Prof. Przemysław Wiszewski:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues, Students and PhD Students!
It was not an easy year. In fact, it was one of the most difficult in the seventy-five-year history of the Polish University of Wrocław. It was very promising, but unfortunately it brought many challenges. It was a test for our entire community. I think that our University has become stronger than ever. We know that together we are ready to face what 2021 will bring.
The beginning of 2020 was primarily about initiating a great change: implementing the project “Excellence Initiative – Research University”. The strengthening of the role of scientific research in the life of the University was worrying. It was feared whether the conditions for teaching activity would deteriorate. We discussed this at dozens of meetings, but today it is clear that the University has accepted this challenge and sees its benefits. The prestige of our university has been definitely strengthened. The main amount of the teaching subsidy has been secured. The research received a significant amount of funds from the project “Excellence Initiative – Research University”. It is true that their launch occurs gradually. However, this is also the idea behind this change – step by step, gradually approaching the goal. Auctions for the purchase of large research equipment were launched (this year it enabled the start of auctions for research equipment for archeology, biotechnology and chemistry), for financing research preparing applications for large funds from external institutions, for scholarships for the best first-year students, for funding research of students and PhD students, and finally Incubators of Scientific Excellence.
This last one is especially crucial for our future. It will select teams that will develop the highest-quality research in disciplines that require greater support in the international space. This is the direction I particularly care about. Supporting scientific excellence closely related to our presence at the worldwide Academy must be our priority. Only in this way will we build quality teaching techniques and develop support for the external environment. Only on scientific excellence can we build our position in the world. This is our chance and we must seize it.
The most objective indicator of our scientific potential is the number of research projects conducted thanks to obtaining funds in a competition procedure from external institutions. Currently, the National Science Center alone finances 208 projects at the University of Wrocław. 96 of them are studies led by mature researchers as part of OPUS calls, and two of them by MAESTRO. Also, 98 of the projects are led by researchers of the younger generation. PhD students and postdoctoral students manage 49 PRELUDIUM projects and are beneficiaries of three PRELUDIUM BIS projects, 24 programs in the SONATA competition, 16 – SONATA BIS and six in the SONATINA competition. We are the largest grantee of basic research among Wrocław universities. Our sister university, Wrocław University of Science and Technology – which obtains most of its funds in cooperation with industry and from the National Center for Research and Development – conducts 148 projects financed by the National Science Center, and the University of Life Sciences – 43. By giving way to technical universities in applied research, we dominate where the roots of knowledge are sought.
A clear confirmation of our position is the fact that we obtained almost PLN 3 million in the NAWA Chair programme of the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange to organize one of five research teams in Poland. The competition is concerned with the humanities, social and theological sciences. The application prepared by prof. Krzysztof Nawotka will allow us to hire prof. Robert Rollinger from the University of Innsbruck, one of the most important contemporary researchers of antiquity. This will strengthen the position of our historical research, and above all, it will give a chance to quickly join the elite of the world Academy of young researchers working in this team.
But this year will undoubtedly be remembered most by the tragic SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Not so long ago, we said goodbye to our Master, Professor Bogusław Bednarek, an incomparable wizard of the word. His departure is a huge gap in our community. In March, overnight we had to give up traditional education and switch to distance learning. In October, despite the preparation for hybrid education, we had to reduce our activity step by step and switch to education using electronic means for the most part. I have great respect for the teachers and students who, especially in March, were looking for new ways to communicate, educate and develop research. At the same time, our administration and librarians did not stop their work, also supporting the operation of the University on a stationary basis. Certainly not everything worked as it should. But I believe the overwhelming majority of us are committed to ensuring the continuity of the highest quality education and research efforts. I hope that we will soon start returning to hybrid education, and then full-time education at the entire university. However, it will not happen immediately. Much depends on the expected vaccine. I can already say today that our University as a whole passed this exam – we did not suspend education and did not stop research. We are moving forward!
Finally, this year was a year of elections at our University, a year of disputes with trade unions, and in recent months also a period of deep social unrest in our homeland. I would like to emphasize that in each of these cases our community has given examples of civic maturity. We can express our opinion, argue – sometimes deeply, fundamentally. But at the same time, we are able to preserve the unity of our academic community and the culture of discourse, to look for a language that expresses our concerns in a peaceful way, where silence and submission are imposed on us by force. We do not leave anyone alone, we support each other in need, clearly pointing to the value of discussion, conversation and openness. Freedom of thought is the source of the Enlightenment civilization of Europe, it is also the core of our ethos. It will always be with us, as will the hope for rational discussion and compromise.
Dear Colleagues, PhD students and Students – we are different, but we are in this together. Thank you all for your dedication and work, which this past year has shown the strength of our University. Thanks to you, I can look to the future with confidence. I wish you a peaceful, family holiday, I wish you – despite all adversities – good fun on New Year’s Eve and further successes in 2021. But most of all I wish you good health, a lot of strength and love. Thanks to the latter, life makes sense. Always.
Prof. dr hab. Przemysław Wiszewski
Rector of the University of Wrocław