Social Sciences at Masaryk University
Blazek, Ladislav, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology
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.
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.
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. Professor Englis is renowned in the history of economic thinking as the founder of the teleological national economics theory. He was also a noted practitioner--he was governor of the Czech National Bank and minister of finance. Together with Professor Weyr he significantly contributed to the establishment of Masaryk University and became its first rector. Professor Weyr, a philosopher of law and founder of the normative theory of law, became the first dean of the Faculty of Law and until 1948 worked at the university as a professor of constitutional law. Englis and Weyr, together with their followers, are also credited with the high standard of the Brno Faculty of Law, as well as for connecting the science of law and that of economics, an endeavor in which Englis was especially active. Professor Blaha, who worked at the Faculty of Arts in the period between the two world wars, was influenced in a major way by Durkheim, whose lectures he attended in Paris. He is regarded as the founder of the general functionalist theory of the social system. Thanks to him and his followers, the so-called Brno sociology school is respected in professional circles.
In the contemporary organization of the faculties of Masaryk University, the center of teaching and cultivation of social sciences is in the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Economics and Administration, and the Faculty of Social Sciences. An important role is played also by the Faculty of Arts, with branches oriented towards historical sciences, sciences focusing on art and society, and philological sciences, and the Faculty of Education, which covers the pedagogy of the humanities.
THE FACULTY OF LAW, as noted above, has already gone through eighty years of history. Teaching and scientific research is developed in the fields of legal theory, constitutional law and political science, civil law, commercial law, labor law and social security, environmental and land law, administrative science and administrative law, finance law, criminal law, international and European law, economy, and management.
The faculty has direct contact with the highest judicial authorities of the country, as Brno is the seat of the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and the Supreme Public Prosecution Office. There are close professional contacts between these institutions and the faculty, which has positive effects on the transfer of the findings of theory into practice and, in the other direction, the transfer of practical results into theory and the teaching process. Among the numerous activities with foreign partners of the faculty, we can mention the Czech-American seminar which takes place every year and is organized in cooperation with John Marshall Law School, Chicago, or the regularly repeated attendance of the students and teachers of the Summer School of European Law organized by the Faculty of Law of Paris XI. University.
The representatives of the faculty are aware of the fact that teaching law must reflect the emergence of the information society, where the knowledge of the law and norms and judicature itself is, thanks to information systems, accessible to anybody, both complete and in selective configurations. The traditional way of teaching, focusing on the knowledge itself, must therefore give way to teaching aimed at the development of the ability to work with singular pieces of information on a professional level. This especially means developing abilities in systematic thinking, identification of the legal essence of a problem, judging various constructions that could be used for solving individual cases, and the art of analysis and synthesis executed convincingly and clearly. It is also necessary to avoid excessive knowledge specialization, which in a dynamically developing society leads to great problems in finding an appropriate job because of difficulty in adapting oneself.
THE FACULTY OF ECONOMICS AND ADMINISTRATION was established in 1991. Its aim is to educate economists who can employ their knowledge in private enterprise as well as in the public administration. The subjects taught here are national economics, corporate economics, public economics, finance, trade, and regional development and administration. In the first half of the nineties, the subject enjoying the most popularity was finance. A number of graduates gained advantageous positions in the dynamically developing banking sector or in newly established stock brokerages, auditing firms, or other similarly specialized firms. Some of them, although they are young with only a few years of working experience, are nowadays respectable experts on the stock exchange, and their opinions are regularly published in specialized journals. Recently, however, public administration subjects are increasingly important. The main reason is the need of reorganization and improvement of the whole system of public administration as a consequence of the Czech Republic's preparations to join the European Union. This is precisely the area at which a substantial part of the faculty's applied research publications are aimed, the most important example being analysis of the Brno region's development plan.
The rapid development of the faculty was considerably stimulated by visiting professors from the United States and countries of the European Union, who brought the necessary know-how in teaching, as well as in didactics and organization. Mainly with their help, contacts with important foreign universities were established. Among many, we can mention Babson College, Iowa State University, Haagse Hogeschool in the Hague, and Wirtschafts universitat in Vienna.
It is the ambition of the faculty that, together with teaching the scope of information standard in the world-class universities, skills and attitudes are also developed, with the aim of developing students' personalities. The means to this end is, in some subjects, the use of interactive teaching methods, especially managerial games, or other simulation techniques or case studies.
THE FACULTY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES was established in 1998 by separation of the branches of psychology and sociology from the Faculty of Arts. New subjects of social politics and social work, humanitarian environmentalism, media studies and journalism, international relations and European studies, and political science were introduced. At present the most popular subject is International Relations and European Studies, which should be judged most positively in the context of the Czech Republic's efforts to join the European Union.
There are many research activities in progress at the faculty. They are to a great extent grouped in interdisciplinary centers, the Center for Research on Children, Youth, and Family, and the Center for Research on the Social Problems of Minorities. The faculty advances systematically and energetically to develop international cooperation, aiming to reach equal status with the Western European universities in this respect. The following projects are ranked among the important international ones: research on Romany questions conducted in cooperation with British universities, research on the youth problems in cooperation with the University of Stirling (UK) and Pennsylvania State University, and cooperation with the University in Tilburg conducted within the Socrates project. Last but not least, the Jean Monnet project--European Integration in University Studies--which is coordinated by the European Commission should also be mentioned.
As with both of the above mentioned faculties, the Faculty of Social Science also attempts to modernize the didactic process. Greater emphasis is put on independent work done by students and on a similar scope and profile of books and teaching material to those which support courses at prominent universities abroad. As a consequence, the amount of direct teaching is diminished while the requirements are greater concerning knowledge of source books, independent creative and research work, and consulting with teachers individually. In this way the faculty tries to bring its style of teaching social sciences closer to that of prestigious American and Western European universities.
The author is Professor of Economics and former Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Administration at Masaryk University, 65979 Brno, Lipova 41a, Czech Republic, email: email@example.com…
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Publication information: Article title: Social Sciences at Masaryk University. Contributors: Blazek, Ladislav - Author. Journal title: The American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Volume: 59. Issue: 3 Publication date: July 2000. Page number: 517. © 1999 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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