A brief history of the University of Silesia
The idea to establish a university in Upper Silesia [Górny Śląsk] region first appeared in 1921. It was an initiative of Father Stanisław Adamski and Wojciech Sosiński, deputies to the Legislative Sejm. Further talks on this topic were held in the late 1920s. The need to create in Katowice an institution that would, among others, improve the qualifications of primary and secondary school teachers resulted in the establishment of the Pedagogical Institute [Instytut Pedagogiczny] in 1928. The outbreak of World War II interrupted the development of the Katowice didactic centre, yet as early as March 1945 the activities aimed at its reactivation began. At that moment the University of Silesia Civic Preparatory Committee [Obywatelski Komitet Przygotowawczy Uniwersytetu Śląskiego] was established. The result of its work was The memorial on the establishment of a university in the Śląsko-dąbrowski Voivodeship, which put forth the postulate to establish the University of Silesia.
In 1950 the State Higher School of Pedagogy [Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna] was established, which took the place of the liquidated Pedagogical Institute. The first years of its operation were difficult, but the later period brought a resounding success. The Higher School of Pedagogy in Katowice gained full academic rights and several programmes of humanities studies were launched. In June 1962 an attempt was made to establish in Katowice a branch of the Jagiellonian University. It was a breakthrough moment. The initial plans to launch the extramural humanities studies were modified; finally mathematical, physical and legal programmes were launched. Prof. Kazimierz Popiołek was appointed vice-rector for the Branch of the Jagiellonian University. The still present need to create an independent academic centre was gradually being realized, thanks to the idea of merging the two universities: The Higher School of Pedagogy and the Branch of the Jagiellonian University.
The final decision to establish a university was made in 1968 – on the 8th of June the University of Silesia was founded as the 9th university in Poland. On 1st October 1968, in the Park Hall in Katowice, a ceremonial inauguration of the first academic year took place in Alma Mater Silesiensis. The University offered the following programmes: Polish philology, pedagogy, psychology, history (extramurally), law, administration, mathematics, physics, chemistry, physical education, electrotechnology and mechanics. Prof. Kazimierz Popiołek was appointed to the position of the rector of the new institution. The University launched its activity with 5724 students attending full-time, evening and extramural studies at four Faculties: Humanities, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, Law and Administration as well as Technical Education (in 1971 its name was changed to the Faculty of Technology, and in 2003 to the Faculty of Computer Science and Materials Science). Two years later, a branch of the Silesian University in Cieszyn was established. In 1973, three new Faculties were opened: Philology; Social Sciences, and Biology and Environmental Protection. In 1974 the Faculty of Earth Sciences was established, in 1976 the Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology and in 1978 the Faculty of Radio and Television. In 1989 the Senate of the University of Silesia passed a resolution on the establishment of the Faculty of Theology, yet the initiative was suspended. The Faculty was finally opened by the Senate of the University of Silesia in 2000 and in 2004 the seat of the Faculty of Theology was established. In 2005, the last two Faculties – Artistic as well as Ethnology and Education Sciences were launched in the place of the liquidated branch of the Silesian University in Cieszyn.
In May 1997 the Senate of the University of Silesia adopted the document Mission Statement of the University of Silesia, which states that the University in its activities adheres to the following values: the truth which can be reached though scientific research and artistic creativity, and knowledge which is disseminated through high-quality teaching at various levels of education.
On 28th May 2019, the Senate of the University of Silesia adopted the new statute of the Silesian University, a document defining new organisation of the university, which regulates, among others, a university structure, its organs, collegial bodies and their competences. The changes in the organisation of the University were the result of the enactment of ‘The Law on Higher Education and Science’ by the Polish Parliament in July 2018. Eight new faculties were created as of 1st October 2019: Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Science and Technology, Law and Administration, Arts and Educational Science, Theology, and the Krzysztof Kieślowski Film School. One of the most significant changes brought about by the higher education reform is the new model of doctoral student education in doctoral degree studies. The University launched Doctoral School at the University of Silesia and the International Environmental Doctoral School at the Centre for Polar Studies of the University of Silesia.
Today, the University of Silesia is the largest public humanities university in Silesia, providing education for nearly 24 thousand students and doctoral students, including 900 foreigners, enrolled in 77 programmes: full-time and part-time studies, first and second cycle studies as well as long-cycle studies. The University has 3.2 thousand employees performing didactic and scientific work, including 1.9 thousand academic teachers. Since its inception, nearly 260,000 graduates have completed their education at the University of Silesia.
The University also offers various forms of educational activities addressed to people of different age groups within the framework of Open University. The most important forms of such education include: Children’s University of Silesia, Teenagers’ University of Silesia, Prospective Students’ University of Silesia, University of the Third Age, and Academy of Diplomacy.
The University of Silesia has the right to confer academic degrees of Doctor of Philosophy [doktor] and Associate Professor [doktor habilitowany] as well as to award the highest academic acclaim – Doctor Honoris Causa. Among those who have been honoured with this title are: Eugene Ionesco, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Josif Brodski, Prof. Jean Nicod, Prof. Stanisław Barańczak, Ryszard Kapuściński, Prof. Jacques Derrida, Tadeusz Różewicz, Prof. Józef Szajna, Prof. Jerzy Stuhr, Archbishop Damian Zimoń, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prof. Walery Pisarek, Sławomir Mrożek, Wojciech Kilar, Prof. Tomas Tranströmer, Archbishop Szczepan Wesoły, Rev. Prof. Michał Heller, Prof. John Maxwell Coetzee.
The first rector of the University of Silesia (1968-1972) was Prof. Kazimierz Popiołek. Then, the position of rector was held by: Prof. Henryk Rechowicz (1972-1980), Prof. S.M. Klimaszewski (1980-1981 and 1982-1990), Prof. August Chełkowski (1981-1982), Prof. Maksymilian Pazdan (1990-1996), Prof. Tadeusz Sławek (1996-2002), Prof. Janusz Janeczek (2002-2008), Prof. Wiesław Banyś (2008-2016). On 15th March 2016, the Electoral College of the University of Silesia in Katowice elected the rector of the Silesian Alma Mater for the term 2016-2020. This position was assumed by Prof. Andrzej Kowalczyk. On 26th February 2019, the Senate of the University of Silesia adopted a resolution to establish the first Council of the University of Silesia in Katowice. Piotr Uszok, the former President of Katowice, was appointed as the chair of the Council.