Social Sciences at Masaryk University

Article excerpt

LADISLAV BLAZEK [*]

The Revival of an Important Tradition

ABSTRACT. The Czech Republic's second university after Charles University in Prague has restored its commitments to research and teaching in the social sciences after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989.

I

THE FOUNDATION OF THE UNIVERSITY in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, is closely related to the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakia after the First World War. The university was set up in 1919 as the second Czech university after Charles University in Prague--the oldest one in Central Europe. The university was named after the first Czechoslovak president, T. G. Masaryk. At the time of its founding, Masaryk University had four faculties, or departments: the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Medicine. After two decades, its successful development was violently interrupted in 1939 when, after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, Czech universities were closed down and many students were imprisoned in concentration camps. After the end of the Second World War, the university was revived and in 1946, it was expanded by the addition of the Faculty of Education. However, the Communist coup in 1948 negatively affected the promis ing postwar restoration. The free development of higher education institutions was suppressed, especially in the case of social sciences. This suppression affected, among other bodies, the Faculty of Law of Masaryk University. After political cleansing, during which many of its outstanding teachers had to leave, it was closed down in 1950. Its re-establishment was only achieved nineteen years later.

A crucial change in the conditions of development of universities in the Czech Republic was brought about by the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. Freedom of research and teaching returned to the universities. Thanks to generous help from developed democratic countries, a massive transfer of modern knowledge took place. The attraction of university education rose sharply and as a result, the interest in university study rose dramatically. Compared to the situation in 1989, the number of applicants to universities has more than doubled during the nineties. Thanks to the expansion of teaching capacity, the number of university students has increased by approximately 40% over the same period. In spite of the considerable increase, the number of applicants not admitted to study at the university for capacity reasons is nowadays 50%. The changes, however, are not only in the quantity itself, but are also reflected in the structure of subjects. The traditional structure, with the dominance of technical educati on, has been modified to the benefit of broader representation of social sciences. The proportion of students at faculties of arts and law, faculties of education, and especially at faculties of economics, has risen sharply. Despite the increasing enrollment of these faculties, as well as the establishment of new ones in these specializations, the number of applicants for humanities study is several times higher than the number of people who can be accepted. In contrast to this, the enrollment at some faculties with technical orientation are not filled to capacity.

The above-mentioned trends obviously fully accepted the development of Masaryk University. During the nineties three new faculties were established, out of which two--the Faculty of Economics and Administration and the Faculty of Social Studies--are devoted solely to social sciences. The number of students at the university has risen from under 10,000 to 17,000 currently, which is specifically due to the ascension of the social science subjects. These subjects are now studied by 60% of the students at the university.

II

AMONG THOSE WORLD-RENOWNED PEOPLE who are considered the founders of the development of social sciences at Masaryk University, it is necessary to mention Karel Englis, Frantisek Weyr, and Arnost Inocenc Blaha. …