Joint plan renews old academic ties

February 4, 2000

Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, have discussed founding a joint Polish-Ukrainian university.

For both sides, this is a sensitive issue. During the inter-war years, when western Ukraine was under Polish rule, demands for a Ukrainian-taught university fell on deaf ears in Warsaw.

There was a flourishing university in western Ukraine at the time, in the city then officially known as Lwow. But when, after the second world war, western Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union, the Polish Jan Kazimierz University of Lwow became the Ivan Franko University of Lviv. Polish faculty also became the core staff of the newly Polonised University of Wroclaw, in the territories "recovered" from Germany after the second world war.

Despite a clampdown by the Soviet authorities on foreign contacts, an informal "special relationship" was maintained between Wroclaw and Lviv.

The proposed joint university will, it is hoped, play an important role in building a new amity between Poland and Ukraine.

Prospects for the multicultural university promised to the Hungarian minority in Romania are less happy. In 1998, hoping for accession to Nato, the Romanian government promised to establish a multi-ethnic university. When the Nato bid failed, Romanian politicians began to drag their feet over the proposal.

Now, following consultations with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Andrei Marga, Romania's education minister, has announced an agreement to consolidate the existing structures of the Babes-Bolyai university in Cluj.

The Hungarian government has given 2 billion forints (Pounds 5.2 million) to upgrade Hungarian-taught higher education in Romania.

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