Chancellor Zoltán Bács made a statement on Tuesday’s show entitled The Guest of the Day on Trend FM radio. The professor spoke about the opportunities that will open up with the change of model, the performance of the university, last year’s record university budget, and other opportunities in cooperation with the industry.
The Ministry of Innovation and Technology has recently submitted to the Parliament a proposal to change the model of ten more universities – Zoltán Bács, the chancellor of the University of Debrecen, edited and reporter Dániel Mezei, editor-reporter on Trend FM Radio’s Guest of the Day.
The economic manager emphasized that the management of the University of Debrecen has been preparing for a kind of model change for 10-15 years, initiating amendments to the law on several occasions, with partial success.
– In the case of the University of Debrecen and the other nine institutions, the Corvinus-type model change should not be considered, but the state should establish public foundations with publicly funded tasks, through which the activities of universities are financed in the same way as before – higher education, research, student scholarships, patient care – but in a different legal form. Universities will not become foundations but will remain universities operating in the maintenance of foundations, only classified in other organizations, so they will be subject to different accounting and other operational legislation, but resources from the state will have to be accounted for in the same way.
In connection with the board of trustees supervising the foundation, Zoltán Bács expressed the hope that in addition to the strategic directions, the new maintainer will also be able to support daily decision-making.
– We expect the board of trustees of the foundation to be the direct owner of the university, with whom it can be consulted on a daily basis, and to facilitate the higher decisions that are prepared by the university’s senate, management and committees. Currently, ITM is globally responsible for the maintenance of all universities, as when there are many children in a family, but the board of trustees will have only “one child”. We hope that the members of the board of trustees will make responsible decisions in the interests of the development of the university, which is also forced by the draft law, on the basis of which they have serious property and personal responsibilities, said Zoltán Bács on the radio program.
Regarding the members of the board of trustees, he noted that the joint presence of the rector and the chancellor is not typical, rather only a member of the rector in some cases, the chancellor has an important role in the daily operation of the university.
– We are preparing at the University of Debrecen so that the current composition will remain: the rector and chancellor, and the board of trustees of the foundation. We hope that people who are from Debrecen, attached to the city, especially to the university, will know the operation of the institution and will be able to take our decisions forward will be given a mandate. At the same time, as the University of Debrecen is a large enough university with diversified areas, we believe that a five-member board of trustees is not enough to see and represent an area sufficiently, so different bodies will be able to help their work,
Responding to a question on university autonomy, the Chancellor noted that freedom of education and research would continue to be guaranteed by the Basic Law, so only financial resources and the strategy of universities would limit what researchers do.
– In a leading university such as the University of Debrecen, basic research is also of great importance. We do not know when and what results will come out of basic research, or what kind of applied research will form the basis of which a truly usable market product can develop. These basic researches are needed, from which the world is moving forward, these must be sacrificed. In applied research, development takes place with a specific goal, in the direction of a specific product or prototype, there are other goals. Obviously, the strategy of the university matters a lot in defining these – said Zoltán Bács.
According to the chancellor, after the change of model, the revenue-generating capacity of the university and the self-owned corporate system surrounding the institution will improve.
– We hope that in addition to improving the flexibility of education and university operations, a fourth strong leg will grow, which will help and strengthen the functioning of the other legs as well. These are science parks, also known as science parks. The University of Debrecen established its industrial park in 2000, in which some companies moved, bought or leased the area, but no significant development took place. In recent years, however, we have set up a completely new strategy: we have decided that only companies that work with the university, develop, innovate, produce, sell, that is, we want to utilize ourselves, can enter the university industrial park, even in a way that we build the university knowledge ourselves and bring it to the market – explained Zoltán Bács.
He gave the example of the resumption of domestic vaccine production, which was initiated by the University of Debrecen in 2017, and now the establishment of the National Vaccine Factory and the coronavirus vaccine plant was realized in connection with the coronavirus epidemic.
– Government decisions have been made, through which work is already underway to organize vaccine production in Hungary and to build capacity. The development of a joint Hungarian coronavirus vaccine with our partners is also in an advanced state, and this will be done in university-owned companies. This would not have been possible under the previous framework, the university head emphasized.
He cited the financial data of the institution in recent years as an example of the strengthening of the university’s market role. Compared to HUF 80 billion five years ago, the total budget of the institution was HUF 217 billion in 2020. In the background of this, for example, is the fact that the proportion of foreign students studying at university has increased tenfold in a decade.
Speaking about the changes affecting university real estate, the Chancellor emphasized that the portfolio could be expanded by one significant element: from the state to the foundation maintaining DE, a 50 percent stake in the company that currently owns the Nagyerdei Stadium could be transferred.
– The people of Debrecen know that we still operate the facility together, as the university utilizes and rents the units on the outside of the stadium (HALL, Unifit Fitness & Gym, SET-center), and the interior is mainly for sports, so practical conditions will be put in place, he added.
Zoltán Bács also spoke about the university’s sports strategy, the activities of the university sports club, DEAC, which uniquely combines competitive sports and leisure sports, as well as the development and success of the departments.