Key actions taken by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education
Key actions taken by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education under the supervision of professor Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (December 2013 – September 2014).
I. The government has made science and higher education one of its priorities. Science and higher education are the winners of the budget for 2015
According to the 2015 budget, expenditures on science will be significantly higher than in the previous year. It is a 10.2 percent jump. Higher education will receive PLN 900 million more (an increase of 6 percent). State expenditures on science in relation to GDP will therefore increase from the level of 0.39 percent in 2014 to 0.42 percent in 2015. Accordingly - and also due to private sector participation - expenditures on science should amount to 1 percent of GDP in 2015. This will allow the fulfilment of the government's promises: in 2020, research and innovation expenditures should amount to 1.7 percent of GDP.
In 2014, the Ministry allocated funds for the second tranche of salary increases among junior and senior academics, and the budget for 2015 will fund the third tranche of such increases.
II. Quality premium: new rules for funding research units
The Ministry has developed new rules for financing research units, which will become effective as of 2015. This is the first such fundamental change in the system of financing science in Poland.
According to the new proposal, the state budget subsidy will depend directly on the quality of research and the resulting scientific category. The so-called 'transfer rate constant', which awarded research units on the basis of historical reasons and success from the distant past, will no longer apply.
III. Fast and conflict-free work on the amendment to the Act of 27 July 2005 – Law on Higher Education
Legislative work on the amendment to the Act of 27 July 2005 – Law on Higher Education ended in just six months (from January to August). This is why legislative changes, long-awaited by universities, researchers and students, came into force on 1 October 2014, at the beginning of the new academic year.
The most important changes:
- universities will open to adult students: courses, trainings, work and other experience will be recognised and accredited as compulsory courses, meaning that people who wish to resume their studies, join a new profession or develop new skills will be given a chance to receive a university degree;
- inter-university studies and dual (combined) studies, allowing students to combine university study and work;
- universities will be able to form associations on more favourable terms, which will allow researchers to conduct joint research, make investments or prepare for future consolidation;
- second and each subsequent full-time degree programme in another field of study will be free of charge;
- it will be easier to market an invention as the Act organizes the rules regarding commercialization, and a research scientist will be able to establish such rules with university in a contract; if not, he or she will assume full property rights to their discovery.
IV. More European grants for Poles: the Pact for Horizon 2020
The 'Pact for Horizon 2020' proposed by the Ministry has already been signed by 340 universities, departments, research institutes and institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The purpose is to double the number of applications submitted by Polish scientists. The Pact is a commitment to establish a support system for researchers applying for grants from the biggest scientific programme in Europe in a short time.
The Ministry of Science has committed itself to providing financial support for researchers who receive grants as part of the Horizon 2020 programme and guarantee more effective support on the part of the network of contact points and executive agencies. In November, a series of eleven regional conferences dedicated to opportunities and challenges resulting from the Horizon 2020 will begin.
Universities, on the other hand, are to develop an organizational and administrative base helping researchers to apply for grants.
V. Increasing chances of students and graduates on the labour market
- Education at universities needs to adapt to labour market requirements. In 2014, the Ministry has launched a pilot programme entitled Skills Development Programme, under which students are to develop marketable competencies.
- The need to make it easier for students and parents to choose the best field of study resulted in creating the 'Choose college' web portal. It contains information about all Polish universities, fields of study, scholarships as well as warnings against unfair offers of universities that were given negative opinions or had to suspend enrolments.
- Students, universities and enterprises must be informed about new rules regarding student trainings introduced by the Act. The Ministry has initiated a wide-ranging information campaign about new rules governing such trainings.
VI. More Polish inventions and innovations on the market: 'From an Idea to the Industry'
The Ministry has developed a system for financing innovations; such a system provides a full set of grants and financial instruments to support every stage of the innovation process.
Currently, the Ministry is working on strengthening institutions acting as an intermediary between science and business.
VII. Supporting Polish humanities by developing and performing actions proposed in the 'Package for the Humanities'
- Cancellation of tuition fees for students majoring in a second full-time degree programme in another field of study (from October 2014 onward).
- Each student will be able to choose subjects from the general university curriculum, not necessarily related to their main field of study (universities have time to make changes by 1 October 2015).
- Better preparation of the humanities graduates to labour market requirements by implementing the Skills Development Programme.
- A change in the rules for the evaluation of research units in the humanities and social sciences, so that their specificity will be even better addressed. New rules will be developed by the Research Units Evaluation Committee in consultation with academia.
- The National Programme for Development of the Humanities will be continued. In May this year, new Council for the National Programme for Development was appointed.
VIII. Foreign students at Polish universities: internationalization of higher education
According to the OECD ranking, Poland takes one of the lowest places as far as the presence of foreign students at Polish universities is concerned. The Ministry's goal is to rapidly increase the number of foreign students studying in Poland.
The actions undertaken by the Ministry include:
- The 'Polish Erasmus' Programme for Ukraine: 500 annual government scholarships for the most talented students from Ukraine (implementation of the programme continues).
- New international agreements on scientific and academic cooperation: in September this year, the Ministry signed such an agreement with Oman; similar agreements are being negotiated with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates; the Ministry will soon enter into negotiations with Saudi Arabia and is about to sign scientific cooperation agreements with Malaysia, Vietnam, the Republic of Korea and India. In October, a bilateral agreement on the recognition of academic qualifications will be signed between Poland and China.
The respective ministerial groups are also working on Polish university curriculums to be presented to foreign students and doctoral students.
- The Ministry is negotiating with an American partner (the Council for Higher Education Accreditation) granting accredited status to the best Polish technical universities.
- The Ready, Study, Go! Poland web portal promoting studying in Poland is now available in several language versions, including: Polish, English, Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, French and Portuguese; in 2014, Arabic version thereof will be ready, followed by Spanish and German versions (in 2015).
IX. Cooperation between universities and schools: creative student, student, citizen
Growing rapprochement between universities, primary schools, junior high schools, high schools and technical high schools is one of the Ministry's priorities. Two programmes allowing better cooperation between universities and schools were established, namely: Young Inventors University and Academic Centres for Creativity. Both programmes are currently on-going:
- Young Inventors University is a programme that opens university laboratories to pupils and their tutors. Together with academic teachers, pupils will perform experiments, carry out research projects and hold academic discussions.
- Academic Centres for Creativity will educate teachers in accordance with present trends. The students – teachers-to-be – from the best universities will learn about modern methods of teaching and test them in schools co-operating with academic centres. They will learn, for instance, how to develop pupils' passions and skills (such as teamwork) or handle tense situations in the classroom.