Polish Studies program at the University of Cambridge

The Polish Studies program was launched at the University of Cambridge two years ago and already enjoys considerable popularity. However, raising an endowment is needed to ensure the program continuation - announced the Foundation for Polish Science representatives at conference in Warsaw.

The Polish Studies program was launched in 2014 at the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge. It was created with the involvement of, among others, Foundation for Polish Science. This one year course (so far a total of 70 participants) introduces Cambridge students to in the most important aspects of Polish history and culture. It is also associated with an intensive Polish language course. In addition to courses, the framework of Polish Studies includes research on Poland, as well as events - conferences and meetings concerning Poland for a wider audience.

Financial security of Polish Studies, however, is guaranteed only through 2018. To expand the formula of studies and ensure the centre’s financial stability, it is necessary to establish endowment fund of £3 million to finance its continued operations. The Foundation for Polish Science has decided to initiate the process of raising funds and encourage Polish and British sponsors to support this initiative.

Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin, who attended the Foundation for Polish Science conference remarked that Polish Studies at the University of Cambridge a unique opportunity for Europe to better understand our historical experience, our culture, science and modernity. "The creation of Polish studies at Cambridge is also an opportunity for us as Poles to better understand ourselves" - he said. He explained that if our experiences come back to us filtered through the minds of the best scientists from around the world, it will allow us to better understand the meaning of being Polish.

The minister stressed in an interview that it was not possible - neither from the Polish government’s nor the University of Cambridge point of view - to finance the Polish Studies came from the Polish budget. He expressed hope that Polish companies would invest in the program.

Prof. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz (Welsh of Polish origin), Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said at the conference that the program was a success. "This is currently the most popular course of this type at our university" - he explained.

Dr. Stanley Bill, head of Cambridge Polish Studies noted that among the students who currently take the Polish course at Cambridge, only one person has Polish roots. According to Bill, students who take this course are primarily the British, who are interested in Poland. He noted that there are about 800 thousand Poles in the UK, and they constitute an important part of the cultural fabric of the country. It is a natural decision for students that they want to learn Polish, added Dr. Bill.

Prof. Borysiewicz, in turn, emphasised that not studying the Polish language today, would mean to cut off from the most important and dynamic languages of world. He added that - in his view - we cannot understand the history of Europe if we do not understand the role of Poland in today’s world.

He said that while heading the University of Cambridge for him was a source of immense pride, leaving a permanent, fully-funded program of Polish Studies in Cambridge would be his greatest achievement.

Cambridge Polish Studies was launched in 2014 thanks to four sponsors: the Foundation for Polish Science, the Grabowski Foundation, the University of Cambridge, and the Zdanowicz Foundation. These institutions provided funding in the amount of £340 thousand, which ensures the functioning of the centre until 2018.

The Foundation for Polish Science already has experience in similar initiatives. Thanks to the Foundation’s long-term commitment, the Polish Studies Program was launched in 2014 at Columbia University in New York. It was made possible by collection of a fund which is now $ 6 million. The Foundation is counting on a similar success also in the case of Cambridge Polish Studies.

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland