NATIONAL CONGRESS OF SCIENCE
NATIONAL CONGRESS OF SCIENCE SEPTEMBER 2017
The National Congress of Science was the largest and most important undertaking in Polish science since the 1989-90 system transformation. The idea was born from a belief held by the academic community about the need for profound systemic changes that would make the Polish science catch up with international leaders eventually resulting in Polish higher education diplomas being valued on equal footing with the diplomas of good universities from leading countries of Europe and the world.
The first stage was a competitive procedure for drafting the principles of the new law announced in February 2016. Three teams selected by way of competitive procedure worked on the new science and higher education law from June 2016 and their outcomes were announced on 1 March 2017.
Between October 2016 and June 2017 nine conferences of the National Congress of Science took place. They were devoted to further issues connected with science and higher education. The subject of the debate was the present status and possibilities for its improvement, including the proposed statutory regulations. During the conferences, the team preparing the assumptions for the draft law presented their positions while work on them was still in progress. To attract the widest representation of the community, conferences were organised in nine important Polish academic centres.
The project culminated with the Congress: on 19th and 20th September almost 3,000 representatives of the academic community and invited guests representing the economy, local governments and the world of politics met at ICE Congress Centre in Krakow. The focus of the Congress was the presentation of the draft Law on Higher Education and Science, a new constitution for science.
The Law on Higher Education and Science covers all the issues related to this field which are today governed by four laws: the Higher Education Act, the Act on Degrees and Science, the Law on Education Financing, and the Student Loan Act.
Minister of Science and Higher Education
Jarosław Gowin about National Congress of Science
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express my deep gratitude for your active participation in the National Congress of Science, during which we have been able to create a shared trust between the academic community and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The National Congress of Science was the culmination of nearly two years of work on the drafting of the law on higher education and science, an immense intellectual and organisational undertaking, sincere and honest dialogue between the academia and the ministry, and a discussion focused on finding the best solutions for Polish science and higher education. I am convinced that the implementation of the jointly-discussed solutions which have found their place in the draft law will help Polish science catch up with international and European leaders which in practice will mean that in the near future many Polish higher education diplomas will be highly valued not only in Poland .
After 1989, there has been no reform that would take shape through such an intensive dialogue. The impulse to do it came from the academic community. The work on the draft law brought together thousands of people who feel responsible for the future of Polish universities and sciences. In shaping the programme debate, we were supported by the Council of the National Congress of Science, consisting of representatives of the academic community representing scientific disciplines and the geographical layout of the whole Polish science.
I am convinced that we have used the last two years well. The proposed draft law gives a much greater freedom to the academic world. I am pleased that so many voices and calls have been made in the debate during the Congress to make good use of this freedom and to use this freedom to create what is the most important mission of the academic world, that is education and research at the highest level.
Numerous changes await us in the coming years. We will introduce new assessment principles. We will change the classification of scientific disciplines. We will connect the right to grant doctoral and post-doctoral degrees with the academic categories awarded to a particular university or research institute. We will fundamentally change the model of doctoral education. We will launch a several-year-long process of selecting research universities. We will give universities the freedom to define their own organisational structures. The changes will be introduced gradually on the basis of a carefully prepared, realistic schedule.
Another priceless achievement during the work on the draft law is that we got to know each other better; there are now closer relations between universities and people of science representing different disciplines. Despite natural differences in interests, work on the target model of the Polish higher education system and science has led to the genuine integration of the academic world.
After adopting the bill by the government and referring it to the parliament, I plan to hold a public hearing. This will be another opportunity for all the interested parties to express their views on the proposed legal solutions. I count on your activity in this matter. This is a unique opportunity for us to work out a comprehensive and coherent solution resulting in the constitution for Polish science, defining for many years to come the legal and institutional foundations in which you will carry out your mission and professional vocation.
COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF SCIENCE
The National Congress of Science is over. At the Congress, the Minister of Science and Higher Education, Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin presented a draft of a new, comprehensive law on higher education and science and naturally this law became the main subject of debate. However, the congress went beyond the scope of opening the process of consultation of new regulations. It provided a venue for a serious, profound discussion about the challenges facing Polish academic institutions and the ways in which they could be faced. The congress was the culmination of a series of programme conferences, during which, step by step, emerged the concept of solutions that found their regulatory expression in the draft law. This year has also been an unprecedented one for the academic community, a year of building relations across scientific disciplines or research areas which usually constrict scientists. This allowed us to better understand the different working methods and ways of defining achievements, approaches to the education of students and young academics, career paths and research organisations. We now also understand the concerns and the real risks associated with change better. I think, however, that at the National Congress of Science we held a joint conviction of the need for a definite breakthrough focused on promoting excellence in science and high quality of education. We may differ in opinions as to how best to achieve these goals, but not as to their appropriateness.
After presenting the draft law, we can now talk about very specific solutions, analyse the potential consequences of certain or other detailed provisions, and consider whether the proposed approach is the best way to liberate the potential of the Polish academic community. Ultimately, the successes and failures of Polish science and academic education will depend on the activity of specific people and the resources that will be available to them. However, legal framework can help or hinder them and result in wasteful resource management. That is why it is so important to make good use of the time spent in consulting the draft law before it is passed on to the government and then to the MPs of both houses.
A year of debates under the banner of the National Congress of Science and a draft law that without any exaggeration is referred to as „the constitution of Polish science” have led to work on the concept of new organisational solutions and statutes at numerous universities. This is the beginning of a wave of innovation in the academic community. Our law opens a wide field for experimenting and comparing which solutions will prove to be the most effective. We cannot waste that chance.
It remains to be hoped that the MPs will also discuss the draft law developed by way of academic dialogue when it reaches them above all divisions and that they will not treat it as a matter of dispute and political game, but as a patriotic obligation, which is a term that I use with no hesitation. We have historical experience which indicates that particularism and turning away from the common good leads to the collapse of important reforms which has always ended badly for Poland. Let it be different this time!