There are 23 institutions of higher education (10 public and 13 private ones) in Krakow that employ 22,037 people (including about 1,427 titled professors) and educate 212,015 students (as of 2010).
Jagiellonian University (Universitas Jagellonica Cracoviensis) is at the forefront among Polish universities. It is Poland’s oldest and most important university. It was established following the example of the University of Bologna in 1364 as Studium Generale. After the University of Prague, it was the second university established in this part of Europe. Krakow’s school of mathematics and astrology was well-known. It was here that Nicolaus Copernicus studied. Krakow was also an important centre of alchemical sciences, taught by professors of medicine (doctor Faustus was allegedly of Krakow descent, which is reflected in the local version of the legend about Pan Twardowski). Today, it is also the best university in Poland – apart from the University of Warsaw – which is confirmed by global rankings (the Shanghai ranking and the ranking published by The Times Higher Education Supplement).
The Faculty of Polish Studies (formerly the Institute of Polish Philology), from which many significant names of the Polish humanities, literary criticism, and literary studies graduated remains an important faculty of the university. Today, the faculty includes 17 chairs. The UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication also operates at Jagiellonian University, educating future translators and specialists in translatology.
Famous graduates and partners of Jagiellonian University connected with literature include: Jan Kochanowski, the most eminent poet of the Polish Renaissance; Bronisław Malinowski, anthropologist; Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, columnist and translator of several dozen volumes of French literature; Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II; Stanisław Lem, prose writer; Wisława Szymborska, poet, Nobel Prize winner; and Norman Davies, British historian.
Jagiellonian University gave rise to the foundation of several other important educational institutions in Krakow: the University of Agricultural of Krakow, the Academy of Physical Education, the Pontifical University of John Paul II, and the Academy of Fine Arts. Later, also the Pedagogical University was established.
Krakow’s academic landscape is complemented by excellent art schools. The Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts is the oldest (established in 1818) and the most important artistic higher education institution in Poland. Among the graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts, we will find many famous names of Polish art: Andrzej Wajda, Tadeusz Kantor, Józef Mehoffer, Wilhelm Sasnal, and Xawery Dunikowski.
The Academy of Music, in turn, derives its history from the Krakow Conservatoire of the Music Society, founded in 1888. Its famous graduates and professors include: Adam Rieger, Egon Petri, Jan Hoffman, Artur Malawski, Roman Palester, Ada Sari, Eugenia Umińska, and Bogusław Schaeffer. In 1972, another of its famous graduates, Krzysztof Penderecki, became its vice-chancellor.
Another important artistic school, educating outstanding Polish actors and theatre directors, is the Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts, established in 1946. This is where Gustaw Holoubek, Jerzy Grotowski, Jerzy Stuhr, Krystian Lupa, and Grzegorz Jarzyna studied.
Krakow is not only a power in the field of the humanities, but also an important centre for technical education. Studies on technologies and technical sciences are carried out by the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Krakow University of Technology. One of the most important economic schools in Poland, and at the same time the largest one in terms of the number of students, is the Krakow University of Economics. Also educating in the field of economics are the School of Banking and Management, the Polish Open University, and the Higher School of Economics and Computer Science. The largest school in the group of Krakow’s private higher education institutions is the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University. Another well-known and popular private school is the Tischner European University. Moreover, the Pontifical University of John Paul II functions in Krakow, and the Jesuit traditions are continued by the Ignatianum Jesuit University.
In 2010, the National Science Centre was established in Krakow. It is an agency entirely independent of politics and central administration that decides about awarding grants for scientific research to academic centres across Poland. Krakow is also home to a branch of the Polish Academy of Sciences – a state scientific institution gathering the most outstanding native scientists (similarly to the French Academy of Sciences) and carrying out research at the highest level, as well as the Polish Academy of Learning – a corporation with a status of a scientific society, gathering the elite of Polish scientists and scholars.
For years, the number of international students has been growing in Krakow, thanks to international student exchange programmes, as well as research and postgraduate scholarships. Krakow has always been an attractive centre for studies for young people from behind the eastern border: Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. Today, more and more students from Western Europe, as well as the United States, Canada, South Korea, and China, study at Krakow’s universities. The status of the academic and scientific capital of Poland and the region springs from perceiving Krakow as the city of students. This is why Krakow’s authorities – in cooperation with local universities – carry out the Study in Krakow project, aiming at international promotion of the city and its higher education institutions, and thus attracting as many international students as possible.
Research and education are supported in Krakow by numerous foundations and associations, as well as social initiatives. The local business environment is also making an effort to meet the growing needs of the Polish schools. Dozens of language schools operate in Krakow, offering education in foreign languages, also those rare and exotic ones. Studying Polish as a foreign language has enjoyed growing popularity in the recent years. The Centre for Polish Language and Culture in the World operates at Jagiellonian University. In almost every bookstore, one may buy the most important literary works in their original language versions.
Pic. Paweł Mazur