The changes brought about by the new Law on Higher Education and Science, commonly called ‘Act 2.0’ influence almost every aspect of higher education in Poland, including the evaluation of universities. The new evaluation will shortly decide about how the individual units are going to operate. Until now the evaluation was department- or institute-based, but according to the new criteria the whole academic disciplines are going to be evaluated across each higher education unit. Based on the last evaluation University of Silesia qualified to participate in the ministerial project “Excellence Strategy – Research University” with the programme “ProspectUS – developing our academic reputation”.
On March 26, 2019 the Ministry of Science and Higher Education announced a new competition to carry on with preceding activities. It is called “Excellence Initiative – Research University” and is addressed to all the higher education units that are beneficiaries of the “Excellence Strategy”. Based on the evaluation of the universities’ planned efforts to increase their international impact, ten winners will receive additional funding equal to 10% of a regular subvention from the public budget. The funding should be dedicated to increasing the quality of research and teaching. The results will be announced towards the end of 2019.
Regardless of the results of this competition, the next regular evaluation of research at our university will be conducted in 2021 and it will already be based on the new criteria as suggested by the Act 2.0. Research achievements in the years 2017–2020 will be evaluated in this way and, as the Ministry announced, the results will determine not only the size of subventions from the budget, but also the rights of universities within specific disciplines to run teaching programmes and doctoral schools, award degrees and titles or independently open new programmes, to name a few.
For this reason the academic community at our university undertook a broad scope of activities in order to maintain its strong position, to stay among the universities offering highest quality teaching and conducting research projects of international importance. We hope for these efforts to find reflection in the nearest evaluation. After all its positive results will not only confer prestige, but also provide an increase in funding for research, improvements of teaching quality and of working conditions.
Strengthening our research reputation has thus become a signpost for the work on creating our future strategy. The work within ProspectUS that took place in the first quarter of 2019 was diagnostic in nature. It scrutinised the current state of the University of Silesia and its environment within six key areas: staff, research, teaching, infrastructure, cooperation with the environment and visibility. Proper interpretation of the resulting data should allow us to build a development plan founded on our strengths as well as to identify the areas that still need to be worked on.
It is important that in the new strategy we set for ourselves goals ambitious but feasible. Needless to say, the resulting document will include practical indicators to verify the extent to which the aims are being fulfilled.
Planning for a common future is, no doubt, a challenge. It requires balancing the implementation of exemplary solutions applied by leading Polish and foreign research units with our own, unique methods that take into account our most valuable assets. Working out a common strategy means creating such a vision that will avoid biasing against any group of workers and will strengthen the feeling of belonging to the academic community in, preferably, everyone.