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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 31, 2015
Wrocław University of Technology
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We Want to Show What We’ve Achieved
March 31, 2015   
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The Wrocław University of Technology is the largest university in Poland’s southwestern Lower Silesia region. It has 35,000 students in 15 faculties, in addition to 1,200 doctoral students and nearly 5,000 employees. When the university started out in 1945, it had 512 students in four faculties. This year, the Wrocław University of Technology is marking 70 years in existence. The university’s rector, Prof. Tadeusz Więckowski, talks about its achievements to Urszula Małecka.

On Feb. 14 you hosted your university’s annual charity Rector’s Ball, combined with an auction benefiting disabled students. Last year, the event raised more than zl.100,000, and the money was used to fund scholarships for 64 students. Is it true that this year’s ball managed to raise even more money—largely due to the 70th anniversary of the university but also thanks to the fact that it coincided with Valentine’s Day?
Yes. Thanks to the generosity of our donors we managed to raise almost zl.200,000. That’s a fantastic result and great news for students. Importantly, 100 percent of the funds from the auction and from the ball’s sponsors go toward scholarships for our disabled students. These are scholarships for young people for very good grades. They go to the best. That’s a noble cause indeed—to the extent that we don’t protest or complain when our wives—which means my wife and the wives of the vice-rectors—form a “consortium” before the ball, and then bid themselves to jack up the price, thus draining our pockets. We watch all this happening with understanding and pay up at the right moment (laughs).

This year the ball was special because it was attended by many rectors from top universities from across Poland. Earlier, the Wrocław University of Technology hosted a meeting of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland, [a body representing Polish universities] of which I am chairman.

The Charity Ball is dedicated to disabled students and is held once a year, but is the Wrocław University of Technology a place friendly to people with disabilities on an everyday basis?
We even have a special department that deals with issues related to disabled students and there’s a rector’s representative who supports them at every stage of their studies. We create appropriate conditions for them to study. Most of our facilities are adapted to their needs. Some of our latest investment projects were carried out with disabled students in mind. In the C-series buildings, in the connector building housing the Faculty of Electronics, we are installing an elevator because several stories are not accessible to people in wheelchairs, for example. Disabled students can count on the assistance of volunteers and professional caregivers whom we assign to help them.

We also have a department with teaching aids that make studying easier, such as laboratories, where our disabled and visually impaired students can use specialized facilities, such as high-resolution screens or special printers that print even mathematical formulas in Braille.

While adapting the university to the needs of people with disabilities, we are also being helped by [tycoon] Dr. Leszek Czarnecki, who initiated the construction of an IT laboratory for visually impaired students through his foundation. Every year he is also a generous donor at the Rector’s Ball.

I’ve heard about a blind student who graduated from the faculty of computer science and now works at the Wrocław University of Technology – he’s translating university textbooks into Braille.

That’s right, we have such an employee. He not only graduated in computer science but was a straight-As student. It’s a good thing that he is fulfilling himself here. When he was still a student here, he created textbooks in Braille. His Mathematical Analysis written in this language is very popular. We have made it available to other universities. We are very happy with this and are happy to share these kinds of textbooks.

Young people are often unsure what they want to do in terms of their professional career, what predispositions they have, and how they can put them to a good use. Does the university provide professional guidance to young people, both disabled and able-bodied?
It’s enough for a young person to contact our recruitment department. We have specialists who can help students adapt their course of study to their abilities. If someone does not have manual skills, they cannot really study mechanical engineering, for example. We help them understand that and redirect their interests to some other faculty and choose a course of study that will be better suited to them so that they don’t have problems finding work after graduation.

We advise our young people to not only pursue their ambitions and dreams, but also think about the future. Finding a job in their line of work is extremely important. We started this program many years ago and now have something to be proud of.

The Wrocław University of Technology is celebrating its 70th birthday this year. How do you plan to mark this anniversary?
The celebrations are under way. We started them on Nov. 15 last year—because it was on Nov. 15, 1945 that the first lecture for students was given by Prof. Kazimierz Idaszewski in postwar Wrocław. This is not only a big day for the Wrocław University of Technology, but it also Education Day in Wrocław.

We began our celebrations with launching Bibliotech, a hi-tech library that cost more than zl.100 million to build. We had our hearts in our mouths when we opened this facility because we weren’t certain whether it would pass the test and whether young people would want to use it. Today I can see that we couldn’t have chosen better. The project really hit the spot. There are nearly 400 computers in open-plan spaces on two floors at Bibliotech. From morning till evening young people come to use the computers, which offer access to all of the university’s electronic resources. Some students also bring their own laptops. Students also use small rooms for private study and get together to work on joint projects.

At the moment, we have a problem because students want Bibliotech—which is officially called the Knowledge and Science and Technology Information Center (CWiNT)—to stay open longer hours. At the moment, the facility closes at 6 p.m. We’ll see if this can be done; it’s necessary to remember that this would mean longer working hours for many people; besides, there’s also the question of safety and security because Bibliotech also houses a huge server room and powerful computers.

The opening of the CWiNT was the first event in the anniversary celebrations. We are also planning music concerts for staff and students. Our New Year’s concert featuring [Cracow singer-songwriter and poet] Grzegorz Turnau was a great success.

In May, as is our tradition, the Odra River Cup will be held, attracting renowned rowing teams from across Europe. Since this is an anniversary year, we plan to officially reopen our H14 building on the Oder River after renovation. This will also be where we will close the jubilee-year celebrations with a New Year’s Eve Ball.

What other investment projects are you planning in connection with the 70th anniversary celebrations?
We will start out with H14. A few years ago we bought back this building for zl.10 million. Historically, this was a university facility; before World War II there was a boarding school dorm there. After 1989 the building was operated by the Academic Sports Authority and unfortunately fell into disrepair. But now this will be a gem that we will present to young people. Our water sports people, gyms and a weight room will be housed there. The top floor we be home to student sections, while the ground floor will house seminar halls. This will be a prestigious part of the Wrocław University of Technology designed for meetings, discussions and small conferences.

Another important project for us is the Wrocław University of Technology Professors’ Avenue, which is being built at the campus. We will open it in May. This will be a big lawn with trees and benches, as you can see at many British universities, and in addition to that there will be a plaque with the names of all the Wrocław University of Technology professors. Every year on Nov. 15 we will put new names on this plaque.

Of course, there will also be renovation projects, as every year. I will only mention two, because they are related to the anniversary. We will restore the Imperial Gate, which means the first, historical entrance from Norwida Street, which will be restored to its former glory. The other renovation project involves the first auditorium, which was located on the second floor; the main reading room is located there now. This is currently undergoing renovation; we want to restore the auditorium to its original state. We will only be unable to recreate the signs of the zodiac on the ceiling. Plus we could not find a huge chandelier similar to the original one, which we only know from pictures.

Are your students planning to mark the university’s anniversary in a special way as well?
From what I know, our students are preparing a number of events to mark the 70th anniversary, including special student holiday celebrations. There will be many attractions.

In the past, the Wrocław University of Technology conferred honorary doctorates on many eminent figures. Among those honored were politicians such as [former European Commission chief] Jose Manuel Barroso, [former Polish prime minister] Jerzy Buzek, [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel, as well as [Roman Catholic Church] Archbishop Henryk Gulbinowicz, [and Polish science fiction] writer Stanisław Lem. The list goes on. Do you plan to confer more honorary doctorates this year?
Of course. Oct. 1 will mark the inauguration of the 71st academic year at the Wrocław University of Technology. There will be medals handed out for outstanding contributions to the Wrocław University of Technology. And on Wrocław University of Technology Day in November we will confer two honorary doctorates, but at this point I cannot say who will receive them. The University Senate [a senior internal governance body] has already initiated a procedure related to granting these titles, so I will only say that this involves very respectable figures, eminent scientists and friends of our university.

During this anniversary we want to focus on more than just history, although we have great respect for it. We want to show how we started out 70 years ago and what we have achieved. We did not need 300 or 700 years; 70 years was enough for us to become the largest university in Lower Silesia and the [region’s] second-largest employer after KGHM Polska MiedĽ [copper producer]. Today we have 35,000 students, 1,200 postgraduate doctoral students, and almost 5,000 employees. We have modern teaching laboratories and secure research grants on a regular basis; our academics and researchers are highly valued and respected.

Let’s go back to the days when you were a student yourself. How different was the Wrocław University of Technology in those days? What problems did students have back then? For example, did they find it difficult to get a job?
In those days people simply got an employment order and that was it. Of course, in those days getting into university, including the Wrocław University of Technology, was not an easy thing to do. When I took my exams to study electronics, a field of study that was very fashionable then, there were six or seven people competing for each place. You had to pass your written and oral exams with straight As.

I happened to be studying at a time when the Wrocław University of Technology was undergoing major changes. Doctoral studies were introduced and I was accepted, but my colleagues had no problem with getting a job [after graduation at the master’s level]. Admittedly, those were not always the jobs of their dreams. Because graduates had to be prepared for a situation where they would be directed to work in a place where there they were needed, and not where they wanted themselves.

Today Poland is a very different place. Students worry whether they’ll be able to find a job after graduating…
Today we have a different system and young people have the freedom to choose. Our students are lucky because they do not have problems finding work after graduation. They are not threatened with unemployment. We are monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis and I can say that statistics are optimistic: over 60 percent of our graduates find a job within three months of graduation. More than 80 percent get a job within less than a year, and it’s in their line of expertise.

In fact, we have a problem because [many] young people are taking jobs while they are still in university and do not have the time to finish their studies or do not want to enroll for a master’s course after getting their bachelor’s degree, saying they will complete their education in a few years. This is a big challenge, because the best and most talented of them go to work for the kind of money that we will never be able to offer them. In this one respect, the Wrocław University of Technology is not attractive. Of course, in comparison with the business sector.


Factfile
Wrocław University of Technology
- one of the largest institutions of higher education in Poland
- with a high position in league tables ranking the country’s universities: 1st place in a ranking of Polish universities in terms of their activity on Twitter in two categories: “the most influential university” and “the most popular university” – January 2014; second place among Polish universities of technology in the Ranking Szkół Wyższych Perspektywy 2014 league table; second place in a Wprost weekly 2014 ranking of universities producing graduates the most sought after by employers.
- active international cooperation with universities, research institutions and foreign companies; involvement in dozens of research programs as part of the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme,
EUREKA, COST, ARISS, the Coal and Steel Fund, and Structural Funds (foresight)
- participation in international student exchange programs:
LLP-Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus, Leonardo da Vinci
- participation in dual diploma programs
- enabling students to gain experience in research laboratories run by business partners and practical application of knowledge in production
- training tailored to the requirements of the labor market
- research aimed at meeting the needs of the economy
- active collaboration with leading companies in joint research,
development of innovative projects and collaboration related to patents
- membership of organizations including the European University Association and the European Society for Engineering Education.


Wrocław University of Technology in numbers:
- 35 000 students
- more than 2,000 academics
- 1,200 doctoral students
- 15 faculties in Wrocław, Jelenia Góra, Legnica and Wałbrzych
- 33 fields of study
- 30 programs taught in foreign languages
- 49 national accreditations
- 223 buildings on 78.8 hectares of land
- 438 lecture halls and activity rooms
- 976 teaching laboratories, along with accompanying premises
- 137 computer labs and 11 accredited laboratories
- 10,278 publications in science journals included on the Thomson Reuters Master Journal List (referred to as the “Philadelphia List”
in Poland).
- 9,514 publications in Impact Factor journals
- 5,240 inventions submitted, including utility models
- 8 languages taught in the university’s School of Foreign Languages (English, Czech, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, Russian,
and Italian)
- 162 student research circles
- 25 student organizations
- 28 student culture agencies
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