Between Europe and Asia: University of Wroclaw (Part I)

There was a news on our website that covered the visit of the TSU delegation to Wroclaw, Poland, at the end of October. The city used to be a German territory before 1945. It is located on the River Oder and called “Polish Venice”. There are over 130 bridges and gangways nowadays, before WWII there were over 300. But the city is famous not only for its bridges. University of Wroclaw, one of the oldest and most recognized universities in Central and Eastern Europe, is situated here. We were invited to visit it by the rectorate.

Officially, the University was opened in 1702 as the School of Philosophy and Catholic Theology with the designated name Leopoldina. In the beginning of the 19th century, the University was re-established as the Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Breslau. In the middle of the 20th century the University was named Boleslaw Bierut University of Wroclaw. Today it is focused on scientific research.

TSU and University of Wroclaw have been partners for more than 15 years. We conduct joint events almost every year. For example, in 2015 students and post-graduates of University of Wroclaw participated in a summer school held by our paleontologists. In March of 2016, Doctor Krzysztof Stefaniak conducted a series of open lectures on archazoology at TSU. Our post-graduates from the Faculty of Biology studied European methods of forest management at Wroclaw University. However, we felt the need to expand our collaboration. In addition, a new Rector was appointed at Wroclaw University and it was important for us to maintain continuity in relations. That is why we went to Poland.

главный корпус Вроцлавского университета

We felt that our universities are close in spirit as we entered the main building of Wroclaw University. Just like TSU, it was founded as a classical university and has long corridors, study halls, a church, a library, an observatory, and many other facilities. Today the University tries to restore its ancient interiors in baroque. Many things have been done so far. Many tourists come to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the main building. It contains major offices, museums, and a gorgeous concert hall with a grand piano and an old organ. Adam Jezerskiy, the new Rector of the University, played a piece for us and it was a very pleasant surprise. I could not help trying the instrument too. My little performance was also met with very positive emotional feedback. Music really brought us together and warmed up the dialogue. 

Музыкальный зал Вроцлавского университета

Polish people are very sensitive to anything that is pleasant for their eyes and ears. For example, a tiny dwarf made of stone meets people right at the entrance to the main building. This dwarf is one of 200 that are located all over the city.

Гном у дверей главного корпуса

University of Wroclaw possesses unique resources. One of them is the Library with a state-of-the-art collection of literature and the largest collection of ancient books (over 300,000) published from the 15th  to the 18th centuries. Another interesting detail: Wroclaw University also does research in the Arctic. It has a polar station in Spitsbergen.

At present, over 40,000 students and post-graduates attend Wroclaw University. There are 10 faculties, and two of them –the Faculty of Biotechnologies and the Faculty of History and Pedagogics – are the most prestigious.  According to the national system of evaluation, they occupy the first place in rankings and have an A+ category, which is the highest in Poland.   The Faculty of Chemistry has two international accreditations and is very popular among Polish and international enrollees. Beside those three, there are faculties of philology, law, management and economics, physics and astronomy, biology, geography and environment, mathematics and computer science, and social studies. There are 70 areas and 300 majors. University of Wroclaw is the only Polish university to be a member of the world network of academic exchange the International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP) with over 250 members. It also occupies high positions in number of students who participate in the Erasmus Mundus programme. Students are taught in Polish and English. The campus is located all over the city. If students need to go to technological faculties, usually they need to take tramways or use their bicycles.  

Современный корпус Вроцлавского университета

Wroclaw University is very proud of the fact that 9 Nobel Prize laureates attended it at different times. Most of them were German and Austrian students before WWII. Among the prominent alumni are four physicians (Max Born, Otto Stern, Erwin Schrödinger, and Philipp Lenard); three chemists (Friedrich Bergius, Eduard Buchner, and Fritz Haber); one physiologist (Paul Ehrlich); and one philologist (Theodor Mommsen). Many other famous scientists, public people, and artists graduated from Wroclaw University, including the philosopher and economist Ferdinand Lassalle, philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, sociologist Norbert Elias, educator David Cassel, historian Karl Neumann, the philosopher canonized as a saint of the Catholic Church Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), and singer Anna Germann. The history of Wroclaw University is full of interesting stories connected with science and academic life. I am talking not just about the Schrödinger's cat, but also, for example, about the famous Gaudeamus hymn. It turned out, that Johannes Brahms rewrote a light students’ song into a more formal melody especially for this university.   

Два ректора

Two days flew by. The programme was very rich in events. We had meetings with Rector Adam Jezerskiy and Vice-Rector Jan Burdukivitz, with some deans and staff members.  We renewed our agreement on collaboration. We talked about the possibility of including our Master students in the Erasmus Mundus programme.

Студенты программы Эразмус

We discussed other ways and areas of collaboration. One of the most promising is law, because both universities have great experience in working with law students. Though our countries have different specifics in legal spheres, we can do interesting comparative research. The former Rector was a lawyer and we began discussing ways of collaborating in this area with him. Today this topic is even more interesting for us, that is why Vladimir Utkin, Director of the Institute for Law, was a member of the delegation. He had prepared a detailed presentation for our colleagues from Poland.

We have the idea of starting a joint project on digitalization of cultural heritage, because both universities possess unique archives. Some time ago, a new Master’s degree programme on cultural studies was launched at Wroclaw University. 15 enrollees were expected and they had 140 instead! For us, the experience of carrying out such programmes is very interesting, as well as the ways to position and promote them.  Then we met an outstanding specialist – a professor who studies city shamanism. He dreams of coming to Siberia to do research here. We could see that despite all the sanctions, people in Poland are ready to work with us.  

By the way, the key word for our colleagues was “Siberia”. They treated us as Siberians in the best way possible. They understand Russian very well. They have trouble making long sentences but capture general meaning. Their understanding the Russian language and their special attitude towards Siberians are two factors that might help us a lot in the future. Visiting Wroclaw University assured us one more time of the possibility of having a fruitful partnership with our colleagues there. It was a pleasure to meet a graduate from TSU’s Faculty of Philology, who now is one of the leading staff at the Department of International Affairs. 

I invite all the members of our staff who have any educational or scientific interest in this university to ask for the contacts at the TSU Department of International Relations. That is what we went to Wroclaw for. 

Делегация ТГУ во Вроцлавском университете