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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 16, 2009
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Scientific Minds
September 16, 2009   
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With 33,000 students in 15 departments and more than 2,000 teachers, the state-run University of Science and Technology (AGH) in Cracow is number two among Poland's technical schools of higher education. The university is marking its 90 years this fall.

The university was founded in 1919 and trained 797 engineers and steelworkers before World War II broke out. It has produced a total of 150,000 engineers to date. Currently, the school offers 29 courses and 170 specializations. The university campus comprises the Interfaculty School of Energy and the Interdisciplinary School of Biomedical Engineering. The latter was founded in 2006 as the first establishment of its kind in Poland. More than 500 people are enrolled in PhD studies at the university, and 2,300 in postgraduate courses.

The key department is that of Electrical Engineering, Automatics, Computer Science and Electronics, with 5,000 students, and the most popular courses are computer science, automatics, robotics and telecommunications. Another popular department is Mechanical Engineering and Robotics. According to the Polish State Accreditation Committee, this is the best university department training specialists in mechatronics, mechanical engineering and machine building in this country.

Road to a career
"Our students are well prepared to work in industry," says the deputy rector for education, Zbigniew K±kol. Employers, both Polish and foreign, are happy to hire AGH graduates, he adds.

The university is involved in many research projects, including work on an artificial cardiac valve, regeneration of bone tissue and composites for making prostheses. Last year, a total of 2,180 research projects were in progress at AGH.

"In addition to mining and metallurgy, we educate students in fields such as robotics, automation, computer science, tele-medicine, technical physics, applied mathematics, management, sociology and cultural studies. In other words, we are not just a technical school but one that also teaches humanities," says K±kol.

The school's curriculum is flexible and adapted to market needs, K±kol says. AGH students can count on scholarships from companies such as oil corporation Lotos, copper producer KGHM Polska MiedĽ, power company RWE, and global energy and automation technology giant ABB.

Specialists in mining (270 first-year students enrolled) and metallurgy (180) are still essential to the economy. One cannot build a tunnel, subway line, freeway or even foundations and garages under high-rise buildings without people who are qualified mining experts. Today's metallurgy is different, too. It involves advanced technology and state-of-the-art materials. Industries such as aircraft and car manufacturing need light, unbreakable, durable alloys and composites. Materials engineering and metallurgy are a serious challenge today.

Despite a population decline and the overall smaller number of applicants for college courses in Poland, the number of applicants for AGH courses is growing. Rector Prof. Antoni Tajdu¶ says that when he was appointed in 2005, there were 4,500 first-year students. Today there are 7,000.

The single most popular course is sociology at the Humanities Department, which was launched in 2001 in response to changing social and economic requirements as a result of globalization. There were 10 candidates for each place.

Teachers with a difference
The university relies on its own staff of computer scientists and applied mathematicians familiar with modern software and IT tools. The teaching staff also includes scholars from the Polish Academy of Sciences, philosophers, political scientists, cultural scientists and historians.

AGH is Poland's first university with plans to launch a Fuels and Energy Department. It will replace today's Interfaculty School of Energy as of October. AGH has a large number of specialists in energy raw materials, renewable energy sources and even nuclear power engineering. The university coordinates the Energy Sector Knowledge Hub as part of the European Union's Knowledge and Innovation Hub currently under development.

Courses such as power engineering and chemical technology are an attractive option for young people who want to find a rewarding and well-paid job in the future, AGH managers say.

AGH says it has the best-developed biomedical engineering curriculum among Polish universities. The curriculum is based on a solid tradition, as research on problems involving technical support for medicine, biomechanics and biomaterials began here in 1973. The first syllabus in Biomedical Engineering was designed by Prof. Ryszard Tadeusiewicz. Today there are six candidates for every place at the Interdisciplinary School of Biomedical Engineering (MSIB), but only the best 150 are admitted.

"We are starting a new specialization as of October: bionanotechnology," says AGH's spokesman Bartosz Dembiński.

The Interdisciplinary School of Biomedical Engineering is a shared project by the departments of Electrical Engineering, Automatics and Electronics (in the field of advanced computerized diagnostic and therapeutic equipment and artificial organs), Materials Science and Ceramics (biomaterials and biocompatible materials used in medical implants, for example) and Mechanical Engineering and Robotics (engineering biomechanics, bioacoustics, bioengineering design, implants and prostheses, orthopedics, and biomedical equipment).

At home and abroad
AGH enjoys a solid reputation abroad. It hosted last year's World Mining Congress and the 16th International Congress on Sound and Vibration, an event that attracted over 800 participants from around the world. The European Network of Mining and Metallurgy was launched at AGH. The conference "Problems of Education and Scientific Research in Mining and Metallurgy," held at the university a few years ago, was attended by 56 rectors and deans representing 16 universities from 11 European countries.

International cooperation means contacts with universities and research centers, but also active membership in various organizations, such as ACRU (Association of the Carpathian Region Universities), EUA (European University Association), IAU (International Association of Universities), SEFI (Société Européenne pour la Formation des Ingénieurs), and AEUA (Arab and European Universities Association).

AGH covers over half of its running costs by itself, making money on research, design and practical application of its inventions. It has signed 120 contracts with various companies, including corporations such as IBM, Google, Microsoft, Delphi, ABB, Motorola, Orlen, Lotos, Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa, Comex, Górażdże Cement, Geofizyka Kraków, Woodward, Katowicki Holding Węglowy, and Tauron.

The university attracts many foreign students from countries such as China, Vietnam, Mexico and Ukraine. Over 100 foreign students will come to AGH in the upcoming academic year. Most of them want to study at the departments of Electrical Engineering, Automatics and Electronics, Mechanical Engineering and Robotics, and Materials Science and Ceramics.

A state-run university, AGH does not set up courses specially intended for foreigners. Every department has a set of subjects available to foreigners, allowing students to "design" their own course individually.

The Bologna system of education, which aims to develop a European space for higher education, also benefits students. AGH students can spend a semester or more at universities in other countries, chiefly in Spain (including Palancia), France (including INP Grenoble), Germany (Freiberg, Clausthal), and Norway (Trondheim). In the previous academic year, 170 students went abroad, and 235 will follow suit next year-206 to study and 29 going on traineeships. Student exchanges are based on European Union projects such as Leonardo da Vinci, TEMPUS, Culture 2000, eTEN, Research Fund for Coal Steel, the Visegrad Fund, and the Co-Tutelle scholarship program of the French government as well as scholarships under the trilateral Trondheim-Leipzig-Freiberg agreement.

Not only students but also scientists from AGH visit foreign universities. Last year they made 2,500 visits involving conferences, grants, exchange programs and research to countries such as Germany, France, China, Japan and Mexico.

AGH's research and teaching staff enjoy good conditions of work and career development, with strong research teams and more 600 laboratories on the premises. The university staff's earnings are one of the highest among scientists in this country.
Teresa Bętkowska
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