In which areas is Masaryk University exceptional, and what does it have to boast about? Although opinions on this are bound to differ, we have chosen to highlight a few things to mark the 95th anniversary of the University's founding.
University campus in Bohunice
Masaryk University started to build its Bohunice campus ten years ago. Pavilion after pavilion was added as teaching was introduced in stages. The whole site was opened at a gala event in 2010. Today students of the Faculties of Medicine, Science and Sports Studies are taught in more than twenty pavilions. The creation of the campus was one of the largest building schemes in higher education in central Europe, and it cost over five milliard Czech crowns. The campus also houses projects such as CEITEC, the Centre of Experimental, Systematic and Ecological Biology and the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment. The campus is connected with the University Hospital in Bohunice, which is involved in the training of (future) doctors and in medical research.
Inter-University Hockey Challenge
This was first held in 2009, when three friends from two Brno universities decided to try to organize the kind of event they knew from their home town of Nitra, Slovakia. After the first hockey duel between teams from Masaryk University and the Brno University of Technology, the idea caught on quickly. In the first two years the match was played in fancy dress, following the Slovak model. After that it became a genuine contest which in each of the last two years has succeeded in attracting over 7,000 spectators, on each occasion delighting those from the 'blue university' by the victory of their team. Although both the main organizers, Rastislav Bekényi and Matej Vravko, have now left university, they intend to continue in their roles.
Six letters that hold great scientific potential. The Central European Institute of Technology is a centre of scientific excellence in the fields of life sciences and advanced materials and technologies. It was created as a joint project of two research institutes and four Brno schools of higher education led by Masaryk University. It has been supported by European Union funding to the tune of 5.2 milliard Czech crowns. Scientists of CEITEC MU work in five of its seven research centres. Their work includes the study of tumour cells, the genomics and proteomics of plant systems, and the brain and the human mind. Researchers are already making use of the facilities of the Bohunice campus. Two more buildings, which will be used as laboratories, are still under construction and will be opened soon.
These debates on the Oxford model have been a remarkable success. By their choice of themes and invited guests, the organizers have ensured that sometimes every seat in the hall is occupied. At a time when the Czech Republic was about to choose a new president and it was not yet known how the choice would be made, a debate was held in the Main Lecture Hall of the Faculty of Law on whether direct election should be introduced. And who spoke in favour of this idea? Current head of state Miloš Zeman, of course. And almost five hundred people attended the debate on whether the communist party should be dissolved.
“It all started some time in spring 2010," says Matěj Feldek, a student of Political Science at the Faculty of Social Studies, of the initiative he formed with schoolmates Ondrej Lunter and Bára Rácová. “Like people everywhere, we were having our discussions over a beer or two, but it was driving us crazy. There had to be a better way, we thought."
Now such debates are held in other Czech cities, too.
Information System (IS)
This tool caused quite a commotion when it was introduced, but now students and teachers alike cannot imagine their work without it.
“University leaders first got behind this idea when they began to consider how studies could be made more fluid," explained Michal Brandejs, head of the Computer Systems Unit at the MU Faculty of Informatics, in an interview for Muni. “At that time all this was unprecedented – using the multidisciplinary nature of a university so that students could extend their education by taking subjects in different fields, even at different faculties. And the Information System was essential to this."
At the behest of a university leadership headed by then Rector Jiří Zlatuška, it was Brandejs who launched the IS in March 1999. In the years since, this technology has won a number of awards, and following its successful application at MU it has come to be used at a number of other universities.
Research in Antarctica
For several decades scientists at Masaryk University have taken an interest in polar regions. In 1999 they came up with the idea of building their own research station in Antarctica. The Johann Gregor Mendel Station was opened on James Ross Island in 2006. Every year it receives a scientific expedition from MU and other institutions. Researchers have made several discoveries in the world's southernmost continent, including (last year) a new bacterium named Pseudomonas prosekii after Pavel Prošek, the research station's founding father. The research performed at the station in geology, geomorphology, palaeontology, climatology and biology has attracted a lot of attention. Since last year the Czech Republic has had a say in what happens in Antarctica, thanks to a large extent to its significant scientific activities.
Mendel Museum and Mendel Lectures
Johann Gregor Mendel established the basic laws of heredity, thus laying the foundations of the science of genetics. Today his life and work are commemorated at Masaryk University's Mendel Museum, which is housed in the Augustinian abbey in Old Brno, where Mendel worked. The focus of the museum is on the popularization of science. This year will see the continuation of MU's Step by Step through Science series, which takes a systematic look at biology and archaeology. The museum is also involved in the holding of lectures for the general public and for specialists. One such lecture series is Genetics in Medicine. Introduced in 2003, the Mendel Lectures series welcomes to the museum leading figures of world science, including Nobel Prize winners, who are active in the fields of cell and molecular biology and genetics.
Teiresias, the support centre for students with special needs, takes its name from the blind prophet of Greek mythology. It provides support not only for students with disabilities of sight but also all those with impairments of the senses, physical disabilities or learning disorders. Teiresias staff strive to adapt tuition and learning aids so that the end user receives the same amount of information as students with more regular needs. The centre's director Petr Peňáz is at pains to point out that it is not in the business of helping. “We don't help, we provide a service," he likes to say. Penáž and his colleagues are now spreading this philosophy to other Czech schools.
Archaeological research at the Pohansko fort
Archaeologists from the Faculty of Arts have been exploring the Great Moravian fort at Pohansko near Břeclav for 56 years. The first fieldwork there was performed by František Kalousek in 1958. According to Jiří Macháček, current head of the research team, in terms of extent and density of population Pohansko was comparable with centres in western Europe such as Regensburg. In the 1960s fieldwork concentrated mainly on the inner fort surrounded by a two-kilometre-long rampart, where the remains of a church and an extensive burial site were found. Important discoveries of recent years include the remains of a church building and the graves around it; these were found in one of the outer wards. Last year archaeologists made a discovery a kilometre and a half from the fort: the tomb of a warrior with a sword.
Scala University Cinema
Do you know any other Czech university that has its own cinema? No? Neither do we. But Scala has made our list not only for its uniqueness. You may know its story already, but here's a reminder. Just a few months ago you couldn't even look from the street into the lobby. There were no screenings because the Brno Tourist Information Centre was no longer in a position to run the cinema. So the university came to the rescue. Under the university's management, necessary repairs have been made to the auditorium and the interior as a whole, and the cinema has acquired modern technology. And there is another reason why it is known as a 'university cinema': it hosts other university events, too, as well as being used for teaching and conferences.