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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » February 25, 2011
Politics & Society
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Deputies Pass Higher Education Reform
February 25, 2011   
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Parliament Feb. 4 voted to revise the law on higher education so that students will be able to enroll on only one university course for free.

Only those students who meet specific criteria will be able to take up another free course, but their academic performance will be evaluated after each year.

The new rules are also designed to prevent university lecturers from moonlighting at several universities. To be able to have another job, lecturers at state-run universities will have to obtain permission from the rector. In addition to working at a state university, they will be allowed to hold only one other job involving education or research.

The higher education reform also introduces restrictions for assistant professors and junior lecturers. An assistant professor with a Ph.D. degree will be allowed to hold their position for only eight years. During this time, they will have to obtain a postdoctoral degree. The same requirement applies to junior lecturers with master’s degrees; they will have eight years to obtain a doctoral degree—and thus gain an opportunity of promotion—or will lose their position.

Under the new rules, the best departments at both state-run and private universities will be able to apply for National Leading Research Center (KNOW) status for five years. During this period, such departments will be eligible for increased subsidies and their staff will receive extra pay, and doctoral students will be eligible for scholarships worth more. KNOW departments will also be given priority when applying for research grants and funding to purchase teaching aids and other equipment.

Under the new rules, academics with master’s or doctoral degrees as well as professorial titles obtained in another member state of the European Union, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA), will no longer have to have their degrees recognized in a special “nostrification” procedure in Poland.

The reform has raised a lot of controversy in the academic community. The law has won the support of the Conference of Rectors of Polish University-Level Schools and some academics, including those from the Foundation for Polish Science and the National Representation of Doctoral Students, an organization that represents young researchers. On the other hand, academic trade unions and some scientists from the Polish Academy of Sciences have opposed the law.

Among the most frequently mentioned benefits of the reform is that universities can develop their own curricula as well as greater funding for those departments and scientists whose research work is highly rated. On the other hand, a fundamental drawback of the law, critics say, is that it fails to provide for a constant growth of expenditure on education, which according to some scientists, translates into low wages for academics.

Students are divided when it comes to the law. An organization known as the Assembly of Polish Students, which represents student self-regulation bodies at the national level, said that the new rules offer better opportunities for scientific development, while some private college students have sent a letter to the prime minister arguing that the government should subsidize their university studies.

The revised law will now go to the upper house, the Senate, for further consideration. The new rules are expected to come into force at the beginning of the 2011/2012 academic year.
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