Brno tipped to gain Pounds 70m campus

June 30, 2000

Plans for a medical and science park in Brno - the Czech Republic's second city - are likely to win government backing later this year.

Jiri Zlatuska, rector of Masaryk University in the city, visualises a combined medical and science park on the site of a suburban wasteland.

Professor Zlatuska, 44, who was appointed rector two years ago, is keen to seize the opportunity to build a much-needed Pounds 70 million campus and apply political pressure on the Czech government to support an expansion in student numbers.

The 35 hectares of neglected land between Communist-era high-rise flats and a postwar hospital on the city's western outskirts will be transformed into an integrated medical, research and study complex with community access and a Europe-wide brief under the university's vision.

"We have a strategic plan to expand our facilities and student numbers and to develop lifelong learning in a city where the old industries - textiles, chemistry and machine-building - are in trouble," Professor Zlatuska said.

The city is a student town - its six universities and 40,000 students give it the potential to become a key learning and research centre.

The Czech government has increasingly come under fire from academia for its sluggish response to demands to increase university admissions. Access to higher education is almost the lowest in Europe - Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figures show the republic's enrolments at age 20 are lower than all other European countries, bar Turkey.

Brno city leaders and university heads such as Professor Zlatuska are attempting to drive a vision that will put the city, located between Prague and Vienna, at the heart of an expanded European Union.

Brno's Technical University and the city authorities are working with British construction company Bovis to develop a 120-hectare Czech Technology Park northwest of the city centre.

The park has a more commercial focus than Masaryk's plans, which include teaching, research and practice, particularly in the medical and biochemical fields.

Professor Zlatuska sees the creation of the new campus as the fulfilment of a promise made nearly a century ago. The university, named after the Czech Republic's first president, was established in 1918 in the city centre in dozens of old Hapsburg empire buildings, which remain occupied by faculties to this day.

The university's founding charter explicitly stated that a new campus should be made available on the banks of the Svratka River, but in a burst of enthusiasm for the tenth anniversary of the new republic, the site was given to the Brno Exhibition Centre, now the site of trade fairs.

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