ŻU: The start of a new year provides an opportunity to take stock of what was achieved and to plan new projects. Let's begin with the stock-taking first. What do you consider to have been the most important and rewarding achievement in 2022, and what do you find to have been the hardest challenge?
Prof. Krzysztof Jóźwik: The first thing that comes to mind is the evaluation of the university's research performance in the previous five years. It must have been the most consequential event as its results would have a direct impact on the University's future. As we were not quite satisfied with the outcome, based on a thorough understanding of the data collected for the evaluation, we prepared very well-founded appeals, and I may now say, albeit unofficially, to a good effect.
I am also very proud of how effective our researchers have been in obtaining funding from Horizon Europe research funding program. The number of grants they were awarded is truly impressive and places us at the forefront of Polish universities.
Another challenging but very rewarding project I would like to highlight was the hosting of the European Academic Games. We had spent several years preparing for the 16-day event. Even though we are not a university with any sports-related specializations, we proved to be able to prepare a world-class event superbly, which did not go unrecognized by our partners, and we received a lot of congratulations. It was unquestionably an overwhelming success, although one that required a lot of hard work.
The past year was marked by financial difficulties, which is why we had to be very frugal with our expenditure. Nevertheless, despite the destabilizing effect of inflation on energy prices and investment market, we managed to balance the university's budget. Still, I find it particularly disconcerting that the salaries are, in my opinion, embarrassingly low relative to the effort required to do our job well. This issue is an extremely difficult one for a rector, and I wish to be able to improve it as it adversely impacts our ability to compete in the job market as an employer.
What do you think this new year will be like? What are the biggest challenges that the top management of Lodz University of Technology will be required to tackle?
It is imperative that we continue to make great progress in research. I mean it in terms of the number and quality of scientific publications, the acquisition of research grants and collaboration with the world outside the academia. To facilitate this, we are planning to launch a research support center. It is intended to provide support for all activities relating to research and to identify opportunities for research projects.
As for the plans related to the university's governance, I think the time has come for a revision of the Statutes of the University. Over the last three years, we have gained enough insight to amend it in a way that should bring improvements to all areas of our operation.
Next, with regard to ensuring a high quality of teaching and learning, we will continue to seek accreditation by international accreditation bodies. One challenge we are facing in the area of education is that interest in second-cycle degree programs continues to decline. In order to make these studies more worthwhile for students, we will take steps to ensure they are relevant and in line with the latest advances in knowledge. Undoubtedly, it will require dialogue with the ministry, because flexible and highly individualized education is hardly conceivable under the current regulations. We have some ideas which now need to be formulated into a framework for the revision and amendment of the applicable laws so as to enable modification of the way education is organized.
Finally, in terms of investments and infrastructure development, we intend to continue the ones we have started, namely the construction of Alchemium and the modernisation of the A7 Building to house the Centre of Excellence for Universal Design and laboratories of the Faculty of Process Engineering and Environmental Protection. Alchemium is already rising above the ground and you can now see more than just the cranes. Then, the money we acquired in December shall further facilitate the work carried out in Building A7. There is hope for additional funding from the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, which would ease the strain on the TUL budget. We have also been renovating the old, and therefore 'historic', buildings in Roganty, to house technical facilities for our sailing club.
We are planning the installation of photovoltaic cells. The first are to be mounted on the roof of the Faculty of Textile Technology and Design.
At the same time, please note that there are two things we always need to consider: first, we need to make sure that our budget remains balanced and second, that it is our priority to secure money to increase salaries.
In closing, what would you like to wish our readers in 2023?
Mindful of the war in Ukraine, I wish us peace as the conflict across our border touches upon the fortunes of the entire world.
I wish us all good health. I wish we dare to dream and have the strength to follow our dreams. I wish for us to be able to cherish even the smallest of our victories, because it is the little joys that make up the lasting joy of life.
Interview by Ewa Chojnacka