TEMPUS Programme Outputs as Part of the Development of the Silesian Technical University

Jerzy Mosciñski

Silesian Technical University
Akademicka 2, 44-101 Gliwice, Poland

Tel.: +48 32 371084, Fax: +48 32 372127

e-mail: j.moscinski@ia.polsl.gliwice.pl

Keywords: TEMPUS, university management, curricula development

Abstract: The paper presents the development strategy of the Silesian Technical University with respect to teaching and research process modernization, university management and the role of the university in the highly industrialized and polluted Upper Silesia region. The role of TEMPUS programme in the realization of stated tasks was evaluated and the potential impact of the TEMPUS programme on future development of the Silesian Technical University was discussed.

1. Silesian Technical University and its role in the Upper Silesia region of Poland

Silesian Technical University was established in 1945 in the centre of highly industrialized Upper Silesia region of Poland in order to meet its high demands for engineers and technology. Nowadays the university is one of the greatest technical universities in Poland. It consists of 11 departments: Architecture, Automatic Control, Electronics and Computer Science, Civil Engineering, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Mining and Geology, Power and Environmental Engineering, Mathematics and Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Metallurgy and Transport, Production Engineering and Management Science.

The first 9 departments are located in Gliwice, the last 2 are situated in Katowice. The University also includes a subsidiary Engineering Education Centre in Rybnik, offering those full-time, part-time and extramural BSc courses which are taught at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and the faculty of Mining and Geology. 8 departments have full academic rights to qualify assistant professors and 2 to confer doctor's degrees. The university also contains extradepartmental and interdepartmental units like Foreign Languages Teaching Centre, Research Centre for Teaching Techniques, Computer Centre, Central Library and Publishers of the Silesian Technical University.

Nowadays about 18800 students (14400 day-time) study at the Silesian Technical University of Gliwice. The University employs about 1800 academic teachers including 85 Professors.

The Silesian Technical University carries out fundamental and applied research in several subjects being the leading institution. Simultaneously, the university prepares well educated engineers for Polish industry as well as for the needs of the Upper Silesia region. Some courses are unique in the Polish educational system. The university has established close links with industry all over the country thus contributing to the improvement of industrial processes.

2. Significance of Silesian Technical University for Gliwice and Upper Silesia region

The Silesian Technical University fulfills 3 basic tasks: education, development of academic staff, research projects charged by industry. Scientific and research activity is an important part of University's work. It is financed by state budget and industry. In the past the majority of research work was supported by industry but now it has very little share. Thanks to the location in the industrial region of Upper Silesia the university is closely involved with industry which can be regarded as its main strength. Therefore, in many cases research work aimed at the development and application of modern technology is promoted by contracts between the university and industry. In addition many members of the university staff are engaged in industrial consultancy work.

The academic staff of Silesian Technical University is its best point. The university staff and laboratories are prepared to satisfy the research needs of the theoretical and applied research projects. Although some laboratories need modernization, other have up-to-date equipment, despite the limited funds for this purpose. Experimental research carried out in these laboratories has resulted in numerous papers published in Polish and international periodicals. Many results of applied research have been implemented and patented in Poland and abroad. The Silesian Technical University is prepared - with respect to both human resources and modern technical facilities - to meet the demand for research in the highly industrialized Upper Silesia region. Members of the university obtain numerous grants in competitions of the Committee of Scientific Research and from abroad. The important activity of the Silesian Technical University is persistent aim after degrees obtained by its young scientific workers.

There exists wide scientific and educational cooperation with academic and industry-oriented institutions abroad and the Silesian Technical University. An important task is to make the results of the research work available to other scientists and engineers. To achieve this, conferences, symposia and seminars are organized by all university departments. Annually there are 60-70 such events which attract the attention of both research workers and experts from industry. Newly established Division of Technology Transfer serves to promote the results of research work.

3. Present situation of Silesian Technical University

The Silesian Technical University of Gliwice nowadays has to cope with problems mainly in the following two areas: 1) economic - the funding coming from the state concerning the students' education is very low therefore it is difficult to modernize the laboratory equipment, intensify international cooperation and mobility, etc., 2) legal - the legal framework of Polish higher education seems to block several important changes in the structure of the university, management rules and education process, also due to the excessive role of trade unions in the university life.

The university leadership recognizes the following core issues with respect to the university participation in the international scientific/educational cooperation: 1) the university academic staff is not sufficiently well prepared for starting and maintaining international cooperation, especially with respect to European languages skills, 2) the university's efficiency with respect to acquiring funds from European cooperation programmes is much below the university expectation; 3) there exists a "capital syndrome" in Poland - e.g. TEMPUS JEPs originating from Warsaw and 2 or 3 other largest cities seem to be much more probable to receive warm welcome from experts during the projects evaluation; such situation causes much discouragement and frustration among applicants from smaller universities - even as large as Silesian Technical University;

Two main changes occurred during last years with respect to changes in the university structure and management. First, two new departments were created: 1) Power and Environmental Engineering; 2) Industrial Engineering and Management Science. Second, the devolution of financial management has been performed in the university, mainly thanks to the possibilities of international cooperation.

The main objectives of reforms being performed in the Silesian Technical University are the following: 1) changing the university education system from one stage 5 years long MSc studying scheme into the versatile system of types and levels of education starting from the basic undergraduate to various levels of postgraduate studies; 2) system of credits should be introduced at the university on the basis of western European standards; the credits transfer system should be worked out and implemented thus enhancing the students mobility possibilities; 3) university education should be related more closely to the needs and specific characteristics of the Upper Silesia region in which the Silesian Technical University is placed; the Upper Silesia region is totally damaged with respect to ecology, also the average education level is the lowest in the country, therefore there exists an urgent need for enlarging the higher education offer of the university especially in the fields of high technology and environment protection sciences.

4. Perspectives and institutional goals of the Silesian Technical University

A short-term institutional goal of the Silesian Technical University is the improvement of dramatic financial situation of the university with respect to acquiring the external funding and improving the financial management within the institution. A long-term goal seems to be adjusting the education offer of the Silesian Technical University to the needs of the Upper Silesia region and the region specific labour market, diversifying the types and levels of courses, internationalization of the university curricula, implementing the credits transfer system in the university.

All faculties/institutes of the university should become much more active with respect to international cooperation which should result in better possibilities of getting external funding, modernization of the university higher education offer and improving the qualifications of the university teachers. The university plans include also the improvement of qualification and skills of the supporting staff - actually the university administration and department of international cooperation staff participates in two TEMPUS JEP+ projects.

5. TEMPUS involvement of Silesian Technical University

The TEMPUS policy of the university concentrates mainly on motivation and assistance in preparing the applications of the TEMPUS grants. This has been accomplished upon appointing TEMPUS coordinators at each department. Their role is to disseminate information to the teaching staff at each department, preparing themes of future TEMPUS grants and coordinate their content.

TEMPUS policy of most faculties is to back and to be involved in projects which enable to build a bridge over the gap between European and our curricula and systems of study. More precisely our strategy is to develop a system of undergraduate studies in various files of higher education compatible with European standards, and create a flexible link between such studies and postgraduate studies leading to MSc or PhD degrees. This strategy has been formulated in late eighties but it receives a real impulse coming from our university involvement in the TEMPUS programme. The Department for International Cooperation helps all TEMPUS scholars, students and visitors with tickets, plane/train/coach reservations, lodgings, hotel reservations and loans (if by chance mobility funds are retarded). Some lack of interest at the university and departmental level may be explained by the fact that most TEMPUS-JEPs granted were very much an inter-university initiative. At the roots of them there are usually clearly defined strategies, worked out by an inter-university group of people from various universities. Such group (referred to as organizing group) usually worked splendidly together, first by formulating the JEP-s objectives, by writing a proposal and by monitoring the progress through regular meetings of some steering body. It should be added that on each stage of such work (formulating the objectives, writing the proposal, monitoring the progress) we were usually very effectively supported by our partners from European Union Universities.

The themes of TEMPUS Joint European Projects are defined at the level of a given Institute/Department wishing or being asked to apply for TEMPUS grant. The most important guidelines come from the Polish TEMPUS Office who defines the priorities for a given year. Universities can influence the choice of the priorities by submitting topics to the Polish TEMPUS Office. At the university level, the topics are selected by collecting the suggestions coming from the TEMPUS coordinators. The themes of JEPs were defined and proposed based on following criteria: TEMPUS priorities; policy of developing modern courses to meet the expectations of regional and local bodies. There is no relation between the projects at department, faculty and university level. Some JEP themes (e.g. the ones involving the information technology and industrial controllers oriented group of people) were worked out at meetings of the inter-university group and were accepted by the Institute of Automation of our university, mainly because they aimed at filling a wide gap in our curricula. There is a strong inter-relation between topics developed by members of the inter-university group participating in both JEP's. However, there does not seem to be much inter-relation between projects at department and university level, besides exchanging experience connected with running the JEP's and having a common denominator which is the need to bring our curricula up to date.

The University Department for International Cooperation plays an important role in coordination and managing of the TEMPUS projects. The staff of this office is responsible for the preparation of the mobility, organization of Intensive Courses and administration of the project. Another important point is the coordination of the financial management of the grants (transfer of foreign currency, commission of equipment, handling custom duties and VAT). These activities are carried out under the supervision of the Accounting service of the University. As such activities have not been carried out before the TEMPUS projects started, new methodologies and approaches had to be established to accomplish these tasks. Practically all these procedures will be used after the end of TEMPUS projects. Most JEPs were coordinated by an inter-university Steering Committee which met at regular intervals to set targets and evaluate progress. To locally manage the JEPs was not a task for which new institutional regulation were needed, because everything that ought to be done fitted nicely into established and well-known regulations. In general there seems to be no need of special coordination and management of the JEP's and other TEMPUS project at the faculty level.

6. Dissemination of results of TEMPUS related activities

The TEMPUS-JEP results were usually disseminated by means of summer schools and workshops, by starting new courses and publishing new textbooks. A number of students and academic staff have been participating in all summer schools and workshops organized within the TEMPUS framework at the university.

With respect to most projects the assessment was mainly done on institutional level by presenting copies of reports written to Polish and European TEMPUS authorities, presenting summaries of targets and informing on progress. The assessment resulted in channeling additional funds into further developing and maintaining laboratory and computer facilities, originally purchase with TEMPUS funding. The list of people taking part in mobility flows was usually formed at the institutional level. In some cases the worked out programs of new courses were assessed by STU staff and representative of foreign partner institutions on special seminar. All the seminars at which TEMPUS activities have been presented were found to be very useful and successful events. JEP's coordinators usually prepare internal reports on the projects which they are involved in which are disseminated among the interested academic staff. The results of the some JEPs were reported by the local coordinators at the specially organized seminars with staff and students participants.

The main contribution of TEMPUS to the development of new management practices was to provide the opportunity to see how to run things in a way decidedly different, more transparent and more efficient than the way we were accustomed to. Another contribution was to provide the chance for a relative large number of people on TEMPUS mobility to come across academic establishments in EU, organized and run on a different basis. Technically, the contribution consisted in popularizing management software tools like spreadsheets and data bases for day-to-day running of the group. TEMPUS contributed decidedly as far as the introduction of new software tools into the teaching process was concerned. This opened a new and exciting dimension for many students and staff to learn new skills and get new expertise in field like computer simulation of processes, computer aided control system design and computer networks.

TEMPUS contributed also by substantially raising the average level of English language skills, by giving many the chance to get acquainted with English as used on a day-to-day basis and as a vehicle for lectures and seminars. Last but not least, it contributed by providing some of us with the unique opportunity to get acquainted with the English administrative dialect as embodied in all those piles of TEMPUS instructions and information and as needed to write proposals and reports.

The main factor supporting the changes resulting from TEMPUS involvement are the coordinating activities of the Rector's and Department of International Cooperation and the University TEMPUS coordinator. The positive impact of the TEMPUS coordinators at Department level should also be mentioned here. The other factor supporting changes is without doubt the growing number of academic staff and university managers at all levels, which fully realize the need for changes, which do not feel threatened by them, which consider them as a challenge that will enrich their professional lives.

The factors blocking changes are: (1) an outdated legal framework, which impedes further development of academic education, (2) The still large number of academic staff and university managers which feel threatened by changes, which stick to old courses, old schemes and old notions, (3) the bureaucracy at the faculty level which diminishes the efficiency of TEMPUS JEP planning and management by the local coordinator. Not good enough English command (both students and teachers!) should also be mentioned here.

TEMPUS policy, which insisted on JEPs proposed by teams of staff members from different Polish academic institutions had a powerful impact on making us aware of each other, of what we are doing and how, contributed doubtless to closer collaboration between those teams and contributed to the revitalization of various academic meetings countrywide. On the other hand, the impact of the TEMPUS programme onto the reform process in the country is mainly controlled by setting the priorities by the National TEMPUS Office. Universities can influence, to some extent, these priorities.

7. TEMPUS impact on education and management in Silesian Technical University

For many projects the criteria concerning their application were: (1) practical relevance of the educational tools to be developed (courses, laboratory exercises, software), (2) the need to modernize existing laboratory facilities by a massive introduction of modern computing power. Usually there was a link with students demand and interest as well as with the acute shortage of computing facilities and relevant software. In some cases the reason for choosing the project topic was the amalgamation of several teaching groups. As a result teaching staff should be retrained, new curricula developed, new laboratory equipment purchased and installed.

The expected impact was to influence necessary curricula changes and bring the students in touch with modern computing facilities. Most TEMPUS JEPs fitted perfectly into strategic educational targets of the department, institute and unit. Development of new curricula and staff retraining is a long and expensive process. It was expected that the know how of the cooperating institutions and the financial means available through the TEMPUS project would make the process quicker and much more efficient. Active scientific research into the selected area and integration of the groups beyond work could also be expected.

The key person in most Joint European Projects was obviously the coordinator and contractor. However, all strategic decisions were usually consulted with the members of the some kind of consortium. The final decision has to be accepted by every member of the consortium. In the case of projects concerning new curricula, close cooperation with the Dean and Faculty Council is required. The content of the new curricula and the mobility of the teaching staff were accepted by the Faculty Council. Some members of the council were involved in the development of new curricula. The coordination with other TEMPUS projects granted to the University is restricted to the coordination of equipment purchase, organization of intensive courses etc.

8. Practical results of Silesian Technical University TEMPUS involvement

The TEMPUS Joint European Projects results were most often disseminated by means of TEMPUS Summer School, lasting typically a fortnight, attended on the average by 35 participants (the number was limited by available laboratory equipment), on which results were presented via lectures and laboratory exercises for a group of junior staff and students form EE and EU partner, universities. The results were often disseminated by embodying a substantial part of them into existing curricula and making them available for those working on diploma projects. Part of the results achieved were published as articles.

The internal assessment of the projects results and impact was mainly done on institutional level by presenting copies of reports written to Polish and European TEMPUS authorities, presenting summaries of targets and informing on progress. Participation at the Summer Schools was available to any member of the departmental community wishing to attend. The assessment at the institution level was generally favorable and resulted in channeling additional funds into further developing and maintaining laboratory and computer facilities, originally purchased with TEMPUS funding. The list of people taking part in mobility flows was usually formed at the institutional level.

The impact of several projects on the university departments and institutes was effective to a substantial extent, because it created a hardware/software basis for new courses, attended by students from all institutions of the department. The broader impact was rather that of an example to be followed by others. The projects contributed towards updating some basic courses in several subjects by providing a new perspective, some inspiration and a lot of new ideas and techniques. Some projects played a decisive role in starting preparation for a modern B.Eng. course in control. The main new ideas were field-tested during the TEMPUS Summer Schools. Many projects contributed substantially towards introducing and establishing modern management techniques based on computer networks and spreadsheet/database software.

Some TEMPUS projects contributed to the development of the strategy of the university institutes in establishing firm links with cooperating EC institutions. The main impact of the TEMPUS projects on the strategy of the university institutes seems to be in developing international cooperation and institutional tools of handling problems associated with this cooperation.

The university needs at the beginning of TEMPUS involvement were to establish new and strengthen the existing links with western partners, retraining and improving the command of foreign languages of the teaching staff, creating networks of students exchange. All these needs are still the same. Some difficulties encountered are connected with students mobility; students are reluctant to study abroad. The problem is mainly caused by poor command of foreign language and some conservative mentality. There are also communication problems when contacting with some members of the co-operating groups. Typical needs when starting Joint European Projects were like follows: 1) purchase of equipment; 2) advise and help of the partner universities in development of modern course; advise and help of the partner universities in staff retraining and updating; develop student mobility. These needs are still actual

Obvious positive aspects of the Silesian Technical University participation in TEMPUS were new laboratory equipment, new computer equipment, new software, new ideas, new courses, new contacts, new friends. The most important positive aspect of the participation in TEMPUS programme is a reform of the university curricula and the increase of motivation among young members of academic staff in their participation in development of new laboratories and courses.

On the other hand the coordination of TEMPUS projects should be stronger. This might be achieved by frequent meetings of the coordinators. The activities to be coordinated are introduction of new systems of education, post graduated courses (often interdisciplinary, thus requiring interdepartmental cooperation) and purchase of equipment. A system of credits should be introduced at the university. This would require an introduction of some institutional measures both to inform the students about the possibilities and monitor the results of the examinations. Both could emerge from the existing Deans Offices coordinated by central administration of the university.

9. Future TEMPUS related priorities and plans for the development of Silesian Technical University

The Silesian Technical University has been undergoing various stages of scientific, educational and organizational development. Since 1989 the university has been an independent body, thanks to which its continual development is mostly stimulated by the academic staff. The transformation and development of the University is focused on the following objectives:

The restructuring and development of the Polish higher education is a vital necessity and one of the objectives of the Polish government, following radical changes in the political and economical system of the country. Higher education system in the Silesian Technical University is still aimed at almost only long (5 years) higher education and all students are obliged to obtain the university Master degree. Thus, only limited number of young people can be educated. Therefore, there are urgent needs at the Silesian Technical University to develop and implement a new structure of the education. The fundamental goal will be the diversification of types and levels of the education: starting from a basic undergraduate to various levels of postgraduate studies. This should better adapt the graduates to the requirements of the market and enable to increase the student enrolment rate. The internationalization of the curricula is another vital need, along with the introduction of more practical, professional equipment and application oriented courses. Actual graduates from Polish technical universities have, for obvious reasons, no in depth grasp of the new technologies and need to be retrained on the site by the equipment suppliers. Many of the smaller Polish companies can hardly afford this and just expect to get graduates which have already been exposed to these technologies. There are specific plans to start such two-stage higher education system with the curricula internationalization in the fields of Information Technologies, Computer Science and Robotics and Automation, also as a result of the TEMPUS involvement of the university.

One of the side-effects of the heavy industry concentration in the Upper Silesia is a degradation of the natural environment in the region. Therefore the development plans of the region promote the growth of industrial branches of high technology, like electronics and computer engineering. These priorities played an important role in the development of TEMPUS JEPs topics and scope.

Recently, postgraduate courses organized by the Silesian Technical University have become very popular, especially in the following fields: computer networks, industrial controllers, microprocessor systems, management, restructuring of industry and industrial regions, auditing of power engineering, electric power engineering in the period of economic transformation, computer-aided design and manufacture, waste management, protection of historical monuments, town development and environmental engineering. The courses attracted wide interest from the industrial enterprises of the Upper Silesia region from which most of the courses participants are recruited. It is planned to enrich the offer of the Silesian Technical University with respect to the number of postgradute courses being provided, especially in the field of electronics, computer networking and computer aided design and control. TEMPUS programme has an important impact on such plans and courses realisation.

All TEMPUS related activities taken up in last years are to modernize teaching and research processes and improve management what should ensure high level of education and results of research useful for industry and further development of Silesian Technical University.

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