Ladies and Gentlemen,
Members of the Academic Community of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University,
The pandemic realities have accompanied our community for the past year, often prompting us to redefine our goals. Nevertheless, the functioning of the University was not stopped, and our academic community bravely faced reality and made every effort to meet new challenges. This resulted in many significant initiatives and successes both in science and education, as well as culture, sports and organization.
Speaking of successes and awards, it is worth mentioning that our University, just like last year, was classified in the world ranking CWUR – Centre for World University Rankings 2021-2022, which includes nearly 20,000 universities from around the world. In this list, UMCS was ranked high 1496, taking 25th place among Polish universities and the highest place among universities in Eastern Poland. For the first time, our University was also classified on the 1201st position in the latest edition of the Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2022. This result is even more pleasing because we obtained high marks in the pn index. “Research”, which refers to the strategic area of UMCS operation. Last year, as many as 18 scientists associated with our Alma Mater were included in the prestigious ranking of the most influential people of science globally – the World’s Top 2% Scientists and classified in the above list, prof. Jaco Vangronsveld was also included for the fourth time in the prestigious list of the world’s most-cited scientists, according to the Web of Science database. We are also happy with the international success of prof. Marek Pietraś received the prestigious title: “Best Foreign Scientist of 2021 in Ukraine”.
It is impossible to list all the achievements of the members of our academic community here, but I would like to congratulate the winners of various prestigious competitions, and people appreciated in various areas of activity. I am pleased that the scientific and research work of UMCS staff has had a positive effect on the growth of our University’s scientific position and image.
When starting the term of the rector’s college in 2020, among the tasks in science and international cooperation, we have made it a priority to diagnose the needs and expectations of our University community resulting directly from the upcoming evaluation of scientific achievements in the country. We also consider it essential and advisable to continue and expand with new elements of the incentive system operating at the University. As part of it, financial bonuses are awarded to managers of research projects and prizes for publishing articles in highly scored journals. The results of introducing this type of system are already visible, for example, in the increase in the number of publications of our employees in highly rated magazines. In cooperation with the authorities of our city, we are continuing the “Research in Lublin” program. For outstanding researchers who have decided to create research groups at our University, we have introduced an additional incentive in grants of PLN 25,000, dedicated to the development of activities (the so-called “installation grants “). The ” mini-migrants ” system is an essentially new form of support for young researchers researching UMCS is the “mini-migrants” system.
It enables preliminary research, the results of which can be used when applying to research funding institutions, increasing the quality and competitiveness of these applications. Thanks to the financial commitment of our partner Santander Bank Polska, we also introduced a mini-grant system for PhD students.
The year 2021 is also a time of intensification of the development of research and teaching staff and grant activity of our employees. We are pleased with the increase in the number of professors at our University – currently, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University employs as many as 161 professors. Last year, we carried out over 130 research projects financed from external sources. Our employees and doctoral students of UMCS have also shown significant commitment to raising funds to implement further research and science popularization projects. They submitted a total of almost 200 applications in the NCN, MEiN, FP, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage calls and received funding with a total value of almost PLN 5.1 million to implement their research plans. In addition, we obtained over PLN 1.9 million for activities in the internationalization of the research sphere, and we implemented 33 research initiatives and international projects financed by the NCN, NAWA, NCBR and the KE-Horizon 2020 framework program.
One of the strategic goals in the field of science that we set ourselves at the beginning of our term of office is also a significant revival of the activity of the ECOTECH-COMPLEX Analytical and Program Center for Advanced Environmentally Friendly Technologies. In this spirit, a new Program Council was established, and the director of the Center – an outstanding science manager – prof. Ryszard Naskręcki. The effects of the activities of the new directorate allow us to look with great hope at the future of this unit, especially in the context of searching for and developing new research and development concepts for the Centre.
An important area of activity of our University is educating doctoral students. The activity of three doctoral schools affiliated with UMCS is directly related to researching institutes. In the past year, the group of partners creating the Doctoral School of Exact and Natural Sciences has been expanded to include the Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow. Moreover, the Doctoral School of Humanities extended the catalogue of disciplines to include music sciences and archaeology. We also managed to raise funds for the implementation of a strategic project with NAWA entitled “Doctoral Schools – Young Success in Globalised World of Science” under the STER program – Internationalisation of doctoral schools of PLN 2 million, which we will allocate to systemic support for the internationalisation of our doctoral schools.
Despite the problematic pandemic situation, we maintain and develop international cooperation. We have signed many bilateral agreements with European universities and continued work under international projects. We are also carrying out intensive activities to strengthen the strategic cooperation with the Palacký University in Olomouc (Czech Republic) and the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).
We still conduct education in a hybrid model, which means that classes are conducted both remotely – using methods and techniques of distance learning and in the form of stationary – following the principles of the sanitary regime. Despite the second pandemic crisis and the progressive demographic decline, we have maintained our recruitment rates at levels similar to those in previous years. In 2021/2022, the University community increased by over 7,200 new students, including about 700 foreigners. I am very glad that such a large group of young people from abroad have trusted us by starting their studies at UMCS. Every year, we try to expand our offer, responding to the changing labour market requirements. We proposed eight new fields of study during the last recruitment to candidates. We are currently working, among others, on the launch of studies in the field of Technical Physics or International Economic Relations. We also strive to constantly improve the quality and innovation of education processes, so I am pleased to inform you that the fields of study and doctoral student education conducted by the Faculty of Chemistry at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University have successfully passed the European Chemistry Thematic Network (ECTN) accreditation. On 29th December 2021, they received three international ECTN Chemistry Eurobachelor, ECTN Chemistry Euromaster and ECTN Chemistry Doctorate Eurolabel certificates. These are the first international accreditations at UMCS, and obtaining them is tantamount to recognising the highest European standards in education quality.
In addition, in the area of education and study services, we emphasise the implementation of tasks related to providing people with disabilities with conditions for full participation in the recruitment process for studies, education and scientific activity. For this purpose, the activity of OPTIMUM – a team for the optimisation of learning conditions for students with individual educational needs. Our University has also started implementing the project entitled “Student Assistant with ASD” and the project “Available UMCS”, under which, among other things, work was carried out on the Universal Design Strategy and the Social Responsibility Strategy.
Despite the restrictions and limitations resulting from the pandemic, cooperation with the socio-economic environment was also noticeable, bringing tangible benefits. An excellent example in this regard is the Lublin Digital Union project, to which our University joined (along with four other public universities in Lublin). LUC is designed to improve teaching, learning and administrative services at universities. This project, implemented as part of the Lublin University Association, received financial support of PLN 1 million to develop its activities.
In May 2021, we established the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research (CeReClimEn). Several dozen design proposals have been submitted, implemented in the formula of several Internal Centers of CeReClimEn Centre. These units will deal with, among other things, integrated chemical, biological, geographic, spatial analytics, research on the carbon footprint, development of hydrogen technologies or climate reconstruction reaching even tens of millions of years back. We also look with great hope at strategic projects related to implementing the Lubelskie Voivodeship Development Strategy until 2030, submitted to the Marshal’s Office of the Lubelskie Voivodeship and pre-qualified for implementation. Projects such as: “UMCS Botanical Garden as a centre for the protection of biological diversitcentrea centre for natural and ecological education together with the Ecological and Environmental Explorer in Guciów”, “Open Main Library of UMCS in Lublin” or “Laboratory of Environmental Research with an extended level of security” will not only for the development of our University but also allow UMCS to maintain a strong position among the research and development units of our region. Our University was also involved in preparing the project entitled “Green Human Space” by the Poviat Starosty in Lublin, which will be implemented under the program contract of the Lublin Voivodeship adopted by the EU. Last year, we also managed to obtain funds under the Regional Excellence Initiative program for PLN 1 million, which we will allocate to the further development of the University.
Last year, the University also acquired new business partners. It is worth mentioning here, among others about Asseco Data Systems SA – a company belonging to the Asseco capital group, the sixth-largest software producer in Europe, the Central IT Centre – the largest company in the country implementing IT projects for the public sector, on research and development cooperation between UMCS, Lublin Commune, MPWiK and Nexbio or an agreement concluded with the Development Association Logistics and Export KRESY.
Intensive work on the commercialization of research is also underway at the University. We established the UMCS Synergia particular purpose vehicle, and we co-financed several innovative ideas as part of the Incubator 4.0 project, implemented together with the Medical University of Lublin. In 2021, negotiations were successfully concluded, and four patented inventions were licensed concerning the preparation and purification of substances produced by bacteria, called Nod factors, which are the active ingredient of a preparation that stimulates the growth of crops. The contract was concluded between UMCS and INTERMAG from Olkusz and the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation – National Research Institute in Puławy. Further commercialization activities in the field of science-business planned for 2022 are related to the works covered by internal grant competitions for the implementation of pre-implementation works under the “Innovation Incubator 4.0”. The WAXO solution is being developed to test beeswax contamination, which was left in December last year—submitted for international patent protection. In total, last year, the University submitted six inventions for protection in the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland and made three applications for international protection; one utility model, one industrial design and two trademarks were also submitted. UMCS was granted: 1 right of protection for a utility model, one right of registration for an industrial design, one right of protection for a trademark and 21 patents. In addition, one patent was obtained in the US.
The computerization of the University is our priority – especially in the period of a progressive pandemic, which accelerated specific processes. We are one of the leading universities that uuseIT systems. We implement new ones that will facilitate the implementation of UMCS internal processes and relations of the University with the environment and reduce the digital risk of our functioning in research, education and administration. Among other things, for the above reasons, we implement IT tools that will allow the safe use of our users’ electronic accounts due to connecting and securing all platforms used by our community. The second half of the year also saw the launch of the USOS system for periodic appraisal of academic teachers (USOS EVA), which allowed for a departure from traditional paper appraisals and made it possible to conduct a mandatory periodic appraisal of almost all UMCS research and teaching staff in a short time. The implementation works of the new electronic evaluation system for non-teachers are also being finalized (this group of employees will be assessed in the SAP HR and payroll module), and the migration of employee e-mail accounts to MS Exchange has been completed. In the perspective of the following year, we will face, among others, the following implementations of the electronic module of public procurement in UMCS units.
One of the critical implementations currently being carried out is also the repository of scientific publications of our employees, which will allow not only to gather the scientific achievements of employees in one IT system but also – in the perspective of works carried out, among others as part of the Lublin Digital Union and the aforementioned Open Main Library project, for the creation of a central digital repository of the Main Library and making available resources available to a wider audience.
I support cooperation, networking and cooperation between universities, which is why we are constantly developing cooperation within the Lublin University Association. By integrating the functions characteristic of each University, we have a chance to significantly increase the possibilities of obtaining funds for individual activities and create values resulting from cooperation, among others in the field of teaching, research or commercialization. Working together, we have managed to implement some successful initiatives. Among others, you can mention joint inviting foreign visiting professors or activities planned as part of the Lublin Digital Union and the Eastern Center of Digital Medicine. We also initiated an action entitled “Vaccination stop”, which brought excellent results – for 23 days, we vaccinated nearly 2,700 people, thus contributing to the increase in the epidemic safety of our Lublin academic centre. Advanced work is also underway to create several new study courses conducted jointly by various universities. Among them is industrial design implemented by our Faculty of Arts, the Lublin University of Technology and the University of Life Sciences, physical education and Sustainable development (English-language major). We also want to introduce solutions that will facilitate studying, e.g. create a standard library card for all students and employees of our universities and a similar sports card, allowing entry to academic sports facility.
The past year was full of significant moments for Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, such as awarding the title of doctor honoris causa of UMCS to the world-famous scientist prof. Yurij Oganessian and prof. Stefan Sokołowski by the Institute of Condensed Matter Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Lviv celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Zoological Museum and the 30th anniversary of “University News”. We also officially inaugurated the operation of the Illumination Park in the UMCS Botanical Garden. It is worth noting that this is the first attraction of this type in the region, thanks to which the Garden can also function in the autumn and winter season. So far, the Illumination Park has been visited by nearly 40,000 people.
The 17th edition of the Lublin Science Festival, hosted and organized by Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, was also a grand celebration. As part of the Festival, 1,370 Polish and foreign-language projects were submitted. In preparation, over 1,600 people were directly involved. The total duration of all lectures, exercises, laboratories, workshops, etc., was 2580 hours, which gives 3.5 months of constant contact with science. As part of the Festival, a spectacular show of fountains in Litewski Square and the Lublin Science Picnic. We also hosted eminent science popularizers: prof. Jerzy Bralczyk, prof. Charles H. Bennett, prof. Robert Huber or Dawid Łasiński. The event was widely reported in local and national media, and the LFN was in the final of the prestigious competition “Science Promoter 2021” organized by the Science in Poland service of the Polish Press Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science.
Our University has also traditionally supported various types of social and charity campaigns, such as donating blood and plasma of convalescents, Szlachetna Paczka, Compatriots to Heroes or collecting gifts for people in a homeless crisis. UMCS also organized a company vaccination point against COVID-19 and initiated flu vaccinations for employees.
We also experienced some difficult and sad moments in the past year. Twenty-two people associated with our University and played an essential role in it left us. It is worth mentioning the former Rector of UMCS and the outstanding scientist prof. Wiesław Skrzydło, highly respected in the scientific community, and his work for the academic community significantly contributed to the development of the academic staff and university infrastructure.
The development of various spheres of academic activity is not limited only to science and didactics, which is why we constantly support sport and academic culture. I do not doubt that we will take the lead regarding Poland’s new version of student culture. At the Chatka Żaka Academic Centre for Culture and Media, we have rebuilt the tools to encourage students to participate in culture. The role of Chatka Żaka as a leader among student culture units in Poland was also strengthened, incl. Thanks to the organization of the National Forum of Student Culture. I am convinced that we set trends and set an example for other universities in this area. At the same time, we must remember that networking and joint activities, as well as the need to obtain the necessary financial support, are also of crucial importance, therefore, together with the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, we are looking for formal and legal solutions in this area.
The year 2021 was also full of successes for our student sportsmen. Our students’ spectacular and historic success: Małgorzata Hołub-Kowalik and Malwina Kopron, who won medals at the XXXII Summer Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, come to the fore.
Currently, UMCS is in a stable financial situation, despite its extraordinary commitment to the flagship investment concerning the new seat of the Institute of Pedagogy at the Campus Zachodni im. Union of Lublin. The implementation and finalization of this project are particularly demanding due to the problematic situation in the market of construction materials and services. The facility will be put into use at the beginning of 2022. Our university is currently carrying out advanced renovation and modernization works of the “Zana” Student Dormitory and the Faculty of Law and Administration. Construction works in both buildings will be completed in the first half of 2022. I would also like to inform you that we have managed to obtain additional budget funds of PLN 5 million, which will be allocated to the modernization of the building of the UMCS Main Library, taking into account the needs of the Lublin University Association and the Lublin Union Cyfrowa, as well as co-financing from the Ministry of Sport and Tourism in the amount of 2 million 900 thousand. PLN for the modernization of the swimming pool hall with facilities and technical rooms in the Centre for Physical Culture.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the coming new year, I wish you and your loved ones peace, warmth, mutual kindness and much health. May 2022 bring prosperity, success, and worthwhile initiatives and actions. Thank you for your commitment and diligent daily work. Together with the rector’s college, I can assure you that we remain open to cooperation and exchange of ideas, wishing to jointly create a unique community of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University and act to build the reputation scientific achievements of our Alma Mater.
Rector of UMCS