Czech Republic presidential candidate Jiří Drahoš will speak at Times Higher Education’s upcoming summit on research excellence and address how universities can tackle the rise of populism in Europe.
Professor Drahoš, former president of the Czech Academy of Sciences, who describes his views as centrist, stood in last month’s presidential elections but lost out to standing populist leader Miloš Zeman.
He will be speaking at a panel on establishing partnerships between new Europe and the rest of the world at the THE Research Excellence: New Europe Summit. The event will take place at the Czech Republic’s Palacký University in Olomouc from 24 to 26 April 2018.
As part of this debate, Professor Drahoš will discuss how the political climate in the country and across the continent will impact higher education.
The summit will also hear from prestigious speakers in other European countries that are tackling the same issue.
A session on whether political protectionism is a threat to higher education and how institutions can effectively respond to political pressure will be chaired by Jacques Rupnik, who is director of research at Sciences Po’s International Research Center (CERI) and a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. It will hear from Liviu Matei, provost and professor of higher education policy at the threatened Central European University in Budapest.
Maciej Duszczyk, vice-rector for research and international relations at the University of Warsaw, will explore how countries can project a new global image thorough research excellence. Poland elected right-wing populist Mateusz Morawiecki as its new prime minister in December.
Meanwhile, Austria also took a sharp turn right last year after electing the People’s Party’s Sebastian Kurz as chancellor.
Tilmann Märk, rector of Austria’s University of Innsbruck, will debate what Europe might look like in 2028 at the summit.
The event also takes place just weeks after Hungary’s parliamentary election.
Phil Baty, editorial director of global rankings at Times Higher Education, said that “electoral data appears to show more and more that universities are little islands of progressive values in the Visegrád Four”, the alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
“The recent election in Czech Republic shows that universities are in a pivotal position in Europe. It is not much of an exaggeration to suggest that the future of the whole of the continent is under scrutiny with the rise of populist right-wing governments.
“Our Research Excellence: New Europe Summit, which takes place 50 years after the Prague Spring, provides the perfect opportunity to convene in the Czech Republic and discuss these topics and more.”
Jaroslav Miller, rector of Palacký University, added: "As institutions promoting critical thinking and free exchange of ideas, universities are bastions of freedom and tolerance.
“Given the unprecedented and, indeed, unexpected rise of populism across Europe, academies definitely have a moral duty to educate not only their own students but also, and perhaps primarily, the wide public.
“Education is arguably the best weapon in the neverending battle with extremism, poverty and populism. This is why universities should stay in the forefront. Debates in the Olomouc THE summit may revolve around these issues."