The University of Bialystok was founded by virtue of the Act of 19th June 1997 as a thirteenth university in Poland from the Branch of Warsaw University, which was established by virtue of a decree of Minister of Science and Higher Education - Prof. Henryk Jabłoński, as of 15th July 1968. The first official inauguration of the academic year 1997/1998.
Teacher’s College in Bialystok
Initially, the Branch of Warsaw University in Bialystok functioned as Teacher’s College (TC), i.e. a triennial vocational school composed of three Faculties: Humanities, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, and Primary Education. On 31st August 1969 the Branch incorporated Vocational College of Administration (VCA) as a branch of Faculty of Law and Administration of Warsaw University. The Act establishing the Branch permanently connected it with Warsaw University. Upon Warsaw University President’s motion, Eugeniusz Niczyporowicz, Assistant Professor at Bialystok Technical University (then College of Engineering), was entrusted with the task of organizing TC in Bialystok, whereas a position of his deputy was conferred to Antoni Konarzewski, MA, from the Teacher’s College. In the very first year of the College’s functioning, studies were successfully launched in all offered courses within three TC and VCA Faculties; 515 students commenced studies.
Thanks to the College’s systematic development, a fundamental change took place in the academic year 1972/1973. TC was transformed from a vocational school to a university with the right to confer a master degree. Prof. Andrzej Jezierski was appointed Head of the Branch, whereas in October 1972, Jerzy Niemiec, Assistant Professor, was appointed Vice Deputy of the Branch. Eugeniusz Niczyporowicz, Assistant Professor, took office of Vice President of Warsaw University for Branch Affairs. At that time the structure of the College was changed. Three Faculties were created: Humanities, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Administration and Economics. Interfaculty organizational units were also founded: Centre for Foreign Language Teaching, Military School, Physical Education and Sports Centre, Department of New Teaching Techniques, Department of Pedagogical Trainings, and Library.
Dynamism of the Branch development was extraordinary. In 1978, more than 4,600 students studied in daily and weekend modes of programs. During ten years, a number of students increased nine times. On 1st October 1977 a new Faculty was established – Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology. What is more, a number of academic staff increased too. At first, the Branch’s academic staff included one assistant professor, four doctors and 25 masters. In 1978 as many as 280 academic teachers were employed full time, including 37 professors and assistant professors, and 83 doctors. Moreover, the Branch joined the governmental research project by starting works on biological resources and nature protection in Arctic. The Branch also carried out research “benefiting the region”, e.g. referring to organizational and legal matters of simple forms of cooperation in agriculture as well as the system of supplying the countryside with agricultural machines. The society of North-Eastern areas of Poland from a perspective of historical development was researched too.
On the way to autonomy
The Branch’s intensive development became its strategic objective. Thanks to this, a jubilee of twenty fifth anniversary was celebrated by the Branch under the banner “On the Way to Autonomy”. It was becoming more and more attainable since the Branch of Warsaw University in Bialystok was successful despite the fact Poland suffered from a considerable decrease in expenditure on education and science at that time. The Branch extended its structure – it already comprised five Faculties; on 27thJune 1990, by virtue of a decree of Warsaw University’s President, the Institute of Law was transformed into the Faculty of Law of Warsaw University Branch.
The Warsaw University Branch was, at that time, the largest school of tertiary education in Northeastern Poland. For this reason, the University Senate Commission for the Affairs of Warsaw University Branch in Bialystok forwarded a motion to Warsaw University President and Senate for active cooperation aiming at transformation of the Branch into an autonomous university. It was decided that an independent University of Bialystok could be a center of international comparative research and stood a chance of providing education in the spirit of penetration and supplementation of cultures of the bordering regions by searching for and teaching dialogue, recognizing and cultivating tradition, thus realizing europeization of attitudes and education, which is now commonly recommended.
The idea of the university as a “cultural bridge” was considered a priority as it was accepted by the city and region authorities, political activists, the Branch’s professors and employees as well as the academic environment of Bialystok.
The establishment of the University of Bialystok
On 19th June 1997, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland passed the act founding the University of Bialystok as of 1st October 1997. The Act stipulated that the University of Bialystok was seated in Bialystok and was subject to Minister of National Education. Additionally, it was established therein that the University was created from the Branch of Warsaw University in Bialystok taking over its assets and other property rights. It was agreed that the Warsaw University staff employed at the Bialystok Branch became employed at University of Bialystok whereas Warsaw University students studying at the Branch became University of Bialystok students.
The University’s Articles of Association were passed on 8th July 1998 at the sitting of the University of Bialystok’s Senate. One of the most crucial clauses therein was an entry stating that the University was an academic community of academic teachers, students and employees who were not academic teachers, administered by its collective and one-man bodies. It was also agreed that a basic objective of the University’s activity was providing education and doing research in the field of economic, humanistic, mathematical, natural and legal sciences. The Articles described the image of the University’s official emblem. It was decided that 10th October, the date of the first inauguration of the academic year, was the University’s Day. According to the Articles, the University’s one-man bodies were President and Deans, who were appointed for 3-year terms of office starting on 1st September of the election year and finishing on 31st August.
The University of Bialystok’s first Rector
Prof. Adam Jamróz, a lawyer and political scientist, held the position of the University’s Rector during its organization. First elections to University authorities were conducted in accordance with academic procedure – presidential pre-election was held on 13th May 1998, followed by final election on 20th May. Overwhelming majority of electors voted for the prolongation of a term of office of the previous Rector – Prof. Adam Jamróz. In secret vote for Vice Rectors proposed by His Majesty, Prof. Andrzej Maziewski, a physicist, was appointed Vice President for Science whereas Prof. Jerzy Niemiec, a teacher educator, was appointed Vice President for General Affairs. Michał Gnatowski, PhD, a University of Bialystok Professor, continued to hold a position of Vice President for Teaching Affairs. The first term of office of newly elected University authorities was shortened and terminated on 30th September 1999. The Rector Elect’s priority as far as university facilities were concerned was building the University Main Library and Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology Library. President A. Jamróz’ s organizational skills were noticed and greatly appreciated by local academic environment, which contributed to the fact that he was appointed University President for the next term of office.
It was high time to build up the University’s position, inter alia by gaining subsequent rights to confer doctoral and postdoctoral (doktor habilitowany) degrees. At the beginning of the academic year 2000/2001 the University obtained the seventh right to confer a doctoral degree in the scope of chemistry, and applied for the right to confer a postdoctoral degree in the scope of economics, biology and history. Since the standard of each university is measured not only by its scientific development but also by the quality of education provided thereon, it was decided that the University would join the process of accreditation.
Joy of learning
During a next term of office of the University authorities, in 2002-2005, the University of Bialystok Rector was Prof. Marek Gębczyński. A new Rector decided to work under a banner of “ Joy of Learning and Teaching”. It was concluded that due to intensifying problems of deterioration of values in interpersonal relations affecting our society, this saying should be enriched by the maxim: DO, UT DES – I GIVE, SO THAT YOU MAY GIVE. In 2005-2008 the University’s Rector was Prof. Jerzy Nikitorowicz, a teacher educator. According to him, a strategic task for the nearest future is evolution of the University of Bialystok “from a regional university into the most important university in East Europe”.
Since 1st September 2007 there have been nine faculties within the University structure: Biology and Chemistry, Economics and Management, Philology, History and Sociology, Mathematics and Informatics, Physics, Pedagogy and Psychology, Law, and the Faculty of Economics and Informatics in Vilnius. As of 1st July 2007 836 academic teachers were employed in all organizational units of the University. Such a figure was achieved thanks to systematic scientific development of the entire academic environment. Today, the University of Bialystok has the right to confer doctoral degrees in 10 fields.
In 2007 the University realized 55 research projects. It is also a party to the European Union research programs. Thanks to different grants the university is modernizing its research facilities (inter alia the Institutes of Physics, Biology and Chemistry), and considerably extending the libraries’ book collections whereas the employees take part in foreign internships and lectures within Socrates-Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci programs. What is more, the University is performing agreements for direct cooperation with overseas centers, inter alia in Boston, Brest, Petersburg and Voronezh.
The region’s unique nature and cultural diversity, which attracts scientific studies, are applied to science research carried out at the University. A research activity of the University staff may be proved by a number of publications – monographs, handbooks and scientific articles, which totaled over 1,900 in 2006. The University of Bialystok is continually developing and improving its facilities to provide the best possible conditions to study and research. The real 21st century challenge it is facing now is building a campus, which would assure further development and contribute to the cohesion of the European Union with East Poland.
Based on the article prepared by Elzbieta Kozlowska-Swiątkowska