Abstract: This article is the product of the writer's deliberations about the impact of Poland's 1990 Bill on Schools of Higher Education using an information technology theoretical model consisting of three parts: participation, feedback and partnership. The main findings of the investigation revealed that: (1) there is wide participation in the management processes of institutions of higher education, (2) admissions to higher schools have greatly increased, and (3) private schools are not only allowed but exist in great numbers. Also, no national quality assurance mechanism exists to evaluate higher institutions even though there appears to be a need for one. Furthermore, there are advantages and disadvantages to foreign partnerships involving Polish higher schools.
The aim of this paper is to weigh the impact of Poland's 1990 Bill on Schools of Higher Education making use of an information technology theoretical framework. Furthermore, it is advisable to do so because of the following changes in higher education legislation and related policies that are now being considered by the Polish government: (1) only the Ministry of National Education is to be involved in the supervision of higher schools, (2) the enlargement of "financial support for students," (3) the establishment of a government--controlled national accreditation body (the Central Accreditation Council) with powers to give recognition to higher education institutions based on quality assessments and 4) an extention of "the system of student loans" (Ministry of National Education, 2000, p. 39-40). Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that the likelihood of these changes being implemented in the near future are slim due to the fact that the Polish government has seriously reduced expenditures on higher education which in turn has forced higher institutions to take drastic measures. For example, the University of Mining and Metallurgy was closed for five consecutive days last May (May 2001) in order to save on operating costs.
Poles have been interested in higher learning activities for many years--the Jagiellonian University (1364), where Copernicus studied, is their oldest university (Liwicka, 1959, p. 10). Moreover, institutions of higher education in Poland are regulated by the 1990 Bill (1 & 2) (Ustawa o Szkolnictwie Wyzszym) which is based on an 1989 report (Stachowski, 1989, chapter X), and the Minister of National Education is responsible for enforcing and establishing the particular framework for it (Article 31(1)). However, he or she must take into account the views of the Central Council of Higher Education (Rada Glowna Szkolnictwa Wyzszego) (Article 35 (2)) which is the freely elected organ consisting of representatives of the academic community (Article 36(3)). And higher education is carried out in various types of state (public) and non-state institutions such as universities, technical universities and higher pedagogical schools. Besides, a number of ministries (for example, education, agriculture and transport) are involved in its administration.
Theoretical Framework (3)
Since the 1980s (Byron & Glagiardi) massive changes have occurred in the area of information technology (for example, the development of the internet and CD-ROMS) which have resulted in more knowledge being available which in turn has brought about a novel style of human relationships in terms of participation, feedback and partnership. That being the case it is reasonable to judge the effectiveness of the Polish higher learning process in terms of the manner in which it adopts this different mode because "Education is not only a preparation for life; it is a development in life" (King, 1979, p. 12). (3)
The Bill gives full autonomy to some state institutions of higher learning and limited autonomy to others. (4,5 & 6) Also, in order for a school to have enlarged autonomy they have to engage 60 professors and half of their faculties must have the right to grant the degree of doctor habilitated (Article 12 (1). (7) Are these good reasons for determining autonomy? No they are not. This division of autonomy favors larger institutions over smaller ones and consequently academic staff and students might want to be associated with the former instead of the latter kinds.
Furthermore, the proposed legislation (referred to earlier) which will only permit the Ministry of National Education to supervise higher institutions will most definitely influence the impact that the Polish government has upon the management of such schools, however, at the moment it is difficult to predict what it will be.
In accordance with the Bill all public higher schools are governed by a rector and a senate; and each faculty within these institutions by a dean and faculty councils (Article 46 (1 and 2)). Furthermore, both the senate and councils are composed of professors, other teachers, other workers of the higher institution and students (Articles 47 (1-5) and 50 (1-3) respectively). Unfortunately, people from outside the school are not included in these bodies (as is the case at the University of Toronto, University of Toronto (1997-98), p. 509) thereby excluding society's direct involvement in higher education management. This point was mentioned in a recent OECD Report (OECD, 1996, p. 104).
Also rectors and deans as well as their assistants (pro-rectors and vice-deans) are elected for no longer than a 3 year period with the resolution that they do not serve in their respective posts for more than 2 terms thus allowing others to do so (Article 63 [1 & 4]). (8)
As a matter of interest, provisions are made in the Bill for students to form self-governing bodies in each school...