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Faculty is opening its door

Even with the diversity of fields of knowledge, research topics or methods, everybody working for or studying on the Faculty of Science shares two common things: dedication to science and concern about faculty’s prosperity and its development into a high quality and a modern science institution of world’s highest standards. Whilst the first is actually happening by itself, the other thing needs to be properly taken care off. What plans does the faculty’s Dean, prof. RNDr. Bohuslav Gas, CSc., for the future development of our faculty?

Dean, what topics do you regard as the most essential for the future development of our faculty?

First and foremost we need to realize the faculty finds itself in more and more competitive environment. The competition is apparent on virtually all levels: starting with funding sources, new students and their interest in studies, to scientist-pedagogues. At the same time we need to take into account the fact the competition won’t grow smaller in the future. That is the reason why we need to take as many steps as needed to not only keep pace with others, but to ideally be one step ahead.

Could you be more specific?

Dean in his office
Sure. Today the state is the main funding source. But to keep up the level of the departments, particularly as for the technical equipment, we need to look for some other ways of funding. The significance of participation of the private companies will grow; the other important funding sources are European grants and grants from abroad. None of that will be possible without the faculty opening towards the public. In the first case it means the private sector or larger state commissions, in the other it is the influx of new scientists from abroad or at least scientists returning from abroad. At the same time the faculty started the project to underpin the graduates, alumni, and we expect this project to help us in this area. Basically, we need to be ready for considerably more complex system of funding which would flexibly respond to sudden lack of funding from certain areas. This would, naturally, increase the demands on the administrative facilities of the faculty. But that’s a tax we have to pay.

Do you mean the returnees from the post-graduate stays?

Yes, but not only them. One of my visions is the utmost suppression of the inbreeding effect, thus the degeneration which is unavoidable consequence of the overly exclusive university environment. Leaving the Alma Mater and post-graduate stay abroad, or at least in a different institution in the Czech Republic, is essential for the young scientists and pedagogues. First of all, it’s all about improving their professional skills; however the effects of leaving the nest are much far-reaching. Long story short: people get worldly. And to make anything like that happen, a longer stay, ideally measured in years, is needed. Only this way can people get to know other institutions, their strengths, their problems and thus their views for judging of our faculty’s affairs can change.

Post-graduate stays are often an open gate to the definite redeployment of the top scientists. Is there any way how to motivate the best of them to return?

You’re right, it’s complicated. At present, the only thing we can do is to expand. Virtually all the faculty building are vastly overloaded, many laboratories are literally overcrowded. The fundamental solution to this is the Albertov Campus Project; that means building two new buildings to the Albertov areal – Biocentre and Globcentre. Not only new premises will be created, so will be new work and science opportunities, these are sure to attract many excellent scientists from abroad. The salary politics have been considerably improved during the past few years, Prague is a pleasant city with high living standards, comparable to any western metropolis. The top scientists from abroad will also attract the European grants. The state will only provide money for the buildings and equipment. The future development of Albertov Campus is in our hands.

Founding of the faculty kindergarten should significantly increase the quality of life of the younger scientists and pedagogues. In what phase is this project at the moment?

In the past, there were rather many ideas how to use the building in the Benatska street. In the end we decided the building should be shared by the traditional student club Mrtva Ryba and newly established kindergarten Rybicka. The building was rebuilt on the expense of the faculty, the OPPA development program helped to start the running of the kindergarten. However the funding was time-limited and in the present we are looking for other financing sources. The financial contribution from the parents will be necessary; the exact amount will depend on the faculty’s budget. The university creditably promised to set off part of the budget for running the faculty kindergartens. Naturally, the kids of scientists, pedagogues, or students from our faculty will be placed in the kindergarten preferentially.

A similar model will apply to language education. What changes are to be expected by the students?

The necessity of a reform has been discussed for years, maybe even for decades. But the reform is taking place now; the students will notice the changes in the upcoming academic year. Our basic stand is it should be the student himself who is interested in managing the basic communicative language of science – English. Faculty will not force anybody – we are not planning to enforce the obligatory language exam.

Does it mean English will no longer be taught and the students will have to go for self-education, possibly financing private courses from their own resources?

We are definitely not resigning on teaching English. Education will, of course, go on, provided mainly by the Institute for Language and Preparatory Studies of the Charles University, with which we have a deal on educating our students. This department grants the professional level of lectors not only as for languages, but for the professional areas as well. After the reform the education will apply to the students of the follow-up M.A. study programme as well, which was not possible before. In the courses (of higher level) our students will gain useful language competence, suitable for their field of studies. However it’s important to remind providing language education is a costly thing and we need to consider whether we invest into that or into building background for science. That is why we decided to bet on the student’s motivation in the form of financial participation, namely in the in an amount of 20% from the expenses. The price for a semester will be a few hundreds crowns, which is incomparable to expenses for language schools.

Dean in his laboratory
That means the students need to get used to a more active attitude towards their studies than it used to be before. One of the best examples of student activities is the Albertov hillsides revitalisation project.

Albertov hillsides are an important part of the faculty environment; the stairs from Vinicna to Albertov are used by hundreds of people every day. Before the start of the revitalisation it used to be an unhospitable place that was no good publicity for any of the Albertov institutions. The Albertov hillsides project was draught by the students of The Institute for the Environmental Studies lead by Prof. Frouz. The work itself was accomplished through the students’ voluntary work. One part of the project is an area designated for lecturing in the open air, amphitheatre, which will be located on the right side of the stairs, in the beginning, in the direction towards Vinicna. It is not very surprising the father of the idea of lecturing in the open air is doc. Jan Cerny from the Department of Cell Biology, who was recently awarded as the pedagogue of the year by the Siemens company.

Thank you for the interview.
Michal Andrle

Published: Mar 01, 2014 07:50 PM

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