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Leaders of the "Excellence Initiative – Research University" competition - the best universities in Poland


We already know the results of the first competition in the "Excellence Initiative – Research University" programme. The aim of the competition was to select and support universities that will strive to achieve the status of a research university, and will be able to successfully compete with the best academic centres in Europe and in the world.

Minister Gowin with the laureates

From among the 20 best universities in Poland entitled to take part in the competition, an international team of experts selected 10 universities, which in the years 2020–2026 will receive a subsidy increased by 10%. Other universities participating in the competition but which were not in the top 10, will also receive financial support – a subsidy increased by 2%.

Best of the best

The result of the first competition under the "Excellence Initiative - Research University" programme is a key element of the 4-year reform period of the Polish higher education system. This is one of the most important initiatives implemented by the Constitution for Science. It is also the culmination of several years of efforts to select research universities the Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin said while announcing the results of the competition.

20 best universities in the country were qualified to participate in the first "Excellence Initiative – Research University" competition [pl. IDUB]. All of them met the statutory conditions regarding scientific categories obtained during the last comprehensive assessment of scientific units in relation to the number of fields of study and disciplines in which the university conducts scientific activity. In addition, none of the fields of study conducted by the university could have a negative assessment of the Polish Accreditation Committee. An international team of experts associated with the science and higher education sector has selected 10 universities that will become research universities in the future.

List of universities:

  • University of Warsaw
  • Gdańsk University of Technology
  • Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
  • AGH University of Science and Technology
  • Jagiellonian University
  • Warsaw University of Technology
  • Medical University of Gdańsk
  • Silesian University of Technology
  • Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń
  • University of Wrocław.

20 universities ‒ 20 winners

‒ The formula of the IDUB programme allows to state that there are no losers among the universities participating in the competition. All 20 universities are winners. All participating institutions met the restrictive conditions for participation in the competition related to the quality of scientific research and diversification of the profile of activity ‒ the Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin pointed out. As a result of the assessment, 10 universities were selected, which in the years 2020–2026 will receive an annual increase in subsidies (in the amount of 10% of the subsidy obtained in 2019). Other universities that took part in the competition, but were not selected, will also receive additional financial support – an increase in the subsidy for the period 2020–2025 in the amount of 2% of the subsidy obtained in 2019.

Among these universities:

  • Lodz University of Technology
  • Wrocław University of Science and Technology
  • University of Gdańsk
  • University of Łódź
  • Medical University of Białystok
  • Poznań University of Medical Sciences
  • Medical University of Łódź
  • Pedagogical University of Cracow
  • Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences
  • University of Silesia.

‒ Discussions in the academic community show that all 20 universities have gained prestige thanks to the award that was the opportunity to participate in this programme. In addition, at many universities the prospect of participating in the competition was an incentive to analyse their own strengths and weaknesses ‒ the Deputy Prime Minister Gowin emphasised.

International Assessment Team

Each of the 20 universities was assessed by 15 outstanding experts. Among them were people who served as rectors, presidents or vice-rectors of leading European universities, including University of Göttingen, University of Amsterdam, Aarhus University, University of Manchester or University of Southampton. The team members were also scientists enjoying authority in an international scientific community. The selection of experts was made in such a way as to ensure participation in the team of representatives of each field of science.  

Team members have experience of working in institutions from various countries, including Germany, England, France, Spain, Benelux, Scandinavian countries, Switzerland and Hungary. The team leader, prof. Lauritz Holm-Nielsen, co-authored the Poland’s Higher Education and Science System report prepared in 2017 under the European Commission Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility programme.

Help in preparing applications

In the applications assessed by experts, universities presented, among others analysis of own potential and development plans covering goals and activities primarily related to:

  • increasing the impact of the university's scientific activity on the development of global science
  • strengthening research cooperation with internationally renowned research centres
  • improving the quality of students and doctoral students education
  • improving staff policy at the university
  • as well as improving the quality of university governance.

Universities were also required to identify priority research areas within which they will conduct intensified scientific activities.

All universities entitled to participate in the first competition of the IDUB programme received in 2018, as part of the "Excellence Strategy – Research University" project, additional financial resources (in the amount of PLN 700,000 – PLN 1 million) to support the preparation of applications and the implementation of relevant scientific research and analysis.

Assessment of applications – specific criteria

The applications presented by the universities were assessed in terms of:

  • substantive level
  • significance of the objectives for raising the international significance of the university's activities
  • adequacy of the described activities for the objectives
  • and the potential of the university.

The assessment was of an expert nature. In assessing the criteria regarding objectives and potential, indicators measuring primarily the quality of scientific activity conducted by universities were also taken into account.

In addition to the assessment based on the content of the application, an international team of experts interviewed representatives of all universities. Universities also had the opportunity to submit objections to draft reports. The result of the teams' work will be final reports and a ranking list of positively assessed applications. Final reports include the assessment of the application, along with the justification.

Evaluation of the implementation of plans and the next financing period

Universities have presented an action plan for the coming years. The implementation of this plan will be subject to evaluations. The first mid-term evaluation will be carried out in 2023, and the final evaluation in 2026. After this time, universities will have the possibility to extend funding for the following years (2027‒2032). However, not all of them.

At least two universities that will receive a negative result or will be in the lowest positions of the ranking list after evaluation will not receive further funding. Universities or federations that will win another competition under the "Excellence Initiative – Research University" programme will be able to take their places. The competition will take place in 2026 and will be directed to those academic centres that were not financed under the first competition.

Information on universities qualified for the competition

AGH University of Science and Technology

The university was established in 1913 and opened in 1919. It educates on over 60 fields of study, runs 16 faculties. The university also offers education at the doctoral school and with over 100 types of postgraduate studies. Over 2,000 scientists, including 600 independent science workers. 800 laboratories equipped with modern apparatus are support for conducted research. The university's strong position is confirmed by numerous successes in international rankings. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2019, known as the Shanghai List, which presents the 1,000 best universities in the world, the AGH University of Science and Technology was classified in the range 601‒700, taking 1st place among Polish technical universities and 3rd place in the overall ranking of Polish universities.

Medical University of Gdańsk (MUG)

For nearly 75 years, it has been providing high quality education in all medical professions and scientific research at the highest world level. MUG educates over 6,000 students, doctoral students and post-graduate students. Among them - 935 foreign students, which represents over 15% of all students at the University. It is a modern academic centre recognized in the country and in the world.

Gdańsk University of Technology

Organizer of numerous national and international conferences, symposia and seminars. The university's priority research areas are focused around the most promising scientific research directions and the implementation of innovation in Europe and the world: health, safety, digital technologies and enabling technologies, climate protection, energy acquisition and conversion, mobility, food and the rational use of natural resources. Since 2017, GUT may use the HR Excellence in Research logo.

Lodz University of Technology

Established in 1945. Currently educates approx. 15,000 students. It conducts research and education for the needs of the economy. Actively raises funds from international programmes and involves in the implementation of projects. LUT’s scientists are the creators of many innovative solutions and projects at the global level. The number of reported inventions and granted patents ensured its place at the forefront of inventiveness among Polish universities. 

Silesian University of Technology

The oldest technical university in Upper Silesia. Established in 1945. The mission of the university, as a prestigious European technical university, is to conduct innovative scientific research and development work, to train highly qualified personnel for the knowledge-based society and economy, as well as to actively influence the development of the region and local communities. The university, by constantly improving processes and organization, is a friendly and open place for work and development of the academic community. So far, SUT has promoted over 200,000 engineers.

Warsaw University of Technology

It started its independent activity in 1915. However, its history is much longer ‒ since 1826 educates subsequent generations of engineers, making a significant contribution to the development of technical sciences in Poland and in the world. WUT is a university with a high reputation, which is continuously built by the numerous successes of its scientists, employees, students and graduates. New fields of study launched, new laboratories created, closer cooperation with foreign enterprises and centres provide a development perspective and ensure obtaining the best technical education in the country.

Wrocław University of Science and Technology

It educates nearly 27,000 students, including 1,000 foreigners. It has 175 research laboratories, including 12 accredited laboratories. Over 2,000 research and teaching employees work here. Since May 2019 a doctoral school has been operating at the university, which educates 153 people. Wrocław University of Science and Technology has nearly 5,800 reported inventions and utility models, with over 1,400 patents. It also can boast almost 16,000 publications in the Philadelphia List journals and 14,000 publications in journals with Impact Factor.

University of Gdańsk

It educates professional staff for the administration and economy of Pomerania and the entire Baltic Sea Region. 26,000 students, doctoral students and post-graduate students study at 11 faculties, and the academic staff consists of over 1,700 research and teaching employees. UG as one of five Polish universities belongs to the network of 17 European universities, forming a consortium of the European University of the Seas - SEA-EU.

Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

Nearly 38,000 students study here and over 5,000 employees work here. At 20 discipline faculties and in 4 branches (in Kalisz, Słubice, Gniezno and Piła) the University offers 80 fields of study and 237 specialties of first-degree and second-degree studies as well as 50 postgraduate courses. There is also Kolorowy Uniwersytet [Colourful University] with classes for children and the Open University with courses for people over 16 years old. Since the beginning of 2018, the University, along with 7 European universities, has been forming the EPICUR consortium within the network of European Universities. Last year, scientists from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań carried out 595 research projects worth PLN 279 million and published almost 8,000 works, including 1273 in journals from the JRC list and 318 monographs.

Jagiellonian University

The oldest university in Poland and one of the oldest in our region of Europe. Jagiellonian University, founded by Casimir III the Great in 1364, today employs over 540 professors, 730 habilitated doctors, 2,600 people from the remaining teaching staff and over 3,500 administration employees, and educates about 50,000 students and doctoral students at 16 faculties, including 3 medical faculties, which returned to unity with the JU in 1993 and form the so-called Collegium Medicum. The university is constantly improving and expanding its infrastructure through, among others construction of the Jagiellonian University Campus 600th anniversary of the Renewal, the Nature Education Centre and the Institute of Geology, construction of a new and modernization of the existing Paderevianum facility for the Faculty of Philology, comprehensive renovation of the Collegium Novum building and streets of the “university quarter”.

University of Łódź

The largest university in Łódź. About 30,000 students study here, including over 3,000 from abroad. At 12 faculties, it is possible to study in over 20 scientific disciplines and a doctoral degree can be obtained at one of four Doctoral Schools. The University invests in interdisciplinary research in which participate both experienced researchers and people who are just starting their adventure with professional science.

Poznań University of Medical Sciences

The university educates over 7,000 students a year in all fields of study, and in this year's recruitment it has registered 9,753 candidates for studies. The candidates can choose bachelor studies, uniform master's studies as well as postgraduate and doctoral studies. The educational offer includes 20 fields of study, including the latest: judicial and forensic analytics, pharmaceutical engineering as well as neuroscience. The University has an A category at all faculties. Thanks to the efforts of the University authorities, the Poznań University of Medical Sciences can be proud of educating almost one thousand students from over 50 countries on five English-language programmes. The student’s internationalization factor is nearly 15%.

Medical University of Białystok

It was established in 1950. Today, over 5,000 students, including almost 500 in English, study at 15 medical fields of study. MUB is a precursor and leader in conducting innovative large-scale research, including in particular innovative techniques related to the development of artificial intelligence in medicine, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, radiomics, bioinformatics. The first Artificial Intelligence in Medicine Centre in this part of Europe was established at MUB, based on generating high-quality comprehensive data sets from patients with civilization diseases.

Medical University of Lodz

A leading research and didactic centre in the European Research Area, focused on supporting scientific research and developing innovative healthcare solutions. The parameterization results confirmed the implementation of world-class research – MUL as the only medical university in Poland obtained the A+ category for the Medical Faculty and the A categories for the other faculties. MUL dynamically develops scientific as well as research and development activity based on the adopted and consistently implemented University Development Strategy, which results in: 96 scientific grants for a total amount of PLN 65 million, 9 scientific projects under the STRATEGMED Programme, 37 international projects (H2020, COST, 3 Program Zdrowia [3 Health Programme], EIT Health).

Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń 

It was established in 1945. Consists of 16 faculties and the Centre for Modern Interdisciplinary Technologies. Currently, 22,000 students (including more and more foreign ones) study here and over 4,000 people work at the NCU.  It offers studies in almost all areas of knowledge. In addition to traditional university studies, it also offers medicine, fine arts and technical sciences. Medical faculties are located in Bydgoszcz. The university also has its branches far beyond the borders of Poland: since 1975, the Nicolaus Copernicus University Polar Station has been operating in Spitsbergen, and the Polish Historical Mission operates at the University of Würzburg in Germany.

Pedagogical University of Cracow

Conducts education and research at 4 faculties: Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, Exact and Natural Sciences and Faculty of Arts. It is entitled to award degrees in 12 disciplines. Priority research areas include both mathematics, physics, technology as well as issues related to cognitive science and a wide spectrum of activities in the field of AR/MR/VR technology. Almost 12,000 candidates applied for studies this year. In the academic year 2019/2020, about 12,500 students study at 22 Institutes of the Pedagogical University at 56 fields of study.

Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences

Conducts education and research in natural and agricultural fields as well as in engineering and technical fields, including biotechnology. It is the only university of this type in south-west Poland and largely co-creates the academic and scientific community of the region. Employs over 1,600 employees, including over 700 academic teachers. Approximately 9,000 students study at 5 faculties. In 2018, WUELS was included in the international Shanghai Ranking in the category of the best universities in the world in the fields of: Food Science & Technology (208th place) and Veterinary Science (241st place).

University of Silesia

Offers over 70 fields of study and over 200 specialties. Currently educates almost 25,000 students, post-graduate students and doctoral students in full-time and part-time studies. Currently, US researchers, which includes not only employees but also doctoral students and students, are implementing almost 200 research and development projects acquired in the competitions of the National Science Centre, National Centre for Research and Development, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and other national institutions.

University of Warsaw

Established in 1816. Currently educates 48,000 students in over 100 fields of studies and specialties in the fields of humanities, social as well as mathematics and natural sciences. University archaeologists, astronomers, physicists and IT specialists, as well as specialists in other fields, developed in such large numbers at the capital's university within 21 faculties and other research and development units, achieve extraordinary scientific successes. Six Nobel laureates studied at the University of Warsaw.

University of Wrocław

Under the guidance of 2,000 academic teachers, including over 450 professors, also from abroad – 25,000 students, doctoral students and post-graduate students acquire knowledge here. The University of Wrocław is one of the leading Polish universities most often chosen by foreign students. Currently, nearly 1,500 foreigners study there. In the Perspektywy ranking, the University of Wrocław came in 4th place in the universities category.

Biographical notes of the members of the team for the assessment of applications in the first "Excellence Initiative – Research University” competition

Prof. Lauritz Holm-Nielsen – chairman of the team. In the years 2005–2013 rector of the Aarhus University. Co-author of the report on the Polish science and higher education system 2017 Peer Review Report on Poland’s Higher Education and Science System prepared by experts of the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility. In the past, he held many functions in institutions working for higher education and science, including in the years 2012–2015 he was the vice-chairman of the European University Association, and in the years 1993–2005 he worked as the main expert of the World Bank for higher education. Currently, serves as president of the Danish Nature Conservation Foundation (Den Danske Naturfond) and executive director of the Sino-Danish Centre. Scientifically associated with botany.

Prof. Enric Banda – specialist in science policy and innovation, geophysicist. He was, among others Secretary of State at the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kingdom of Spain (1996–1997), director of the Catalan Research and Innovation Foundation (2004–2007), chairman of the EuroScience association (2006–2012). He currently conducts consulting activity; he is among others permanent associate of the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre.

Prof. Ulrike Beisiegel – in the years 2011–2019: president of the University of Göttingen. In the years 2012–2018 she was the vice-president of the German Rectors Conference. Biochemist and university professor. In the period from 2006 to 2011, she was a member of Wissenschaftsrat – an advisory body of the German federal government and federal states governments. In the years 2001–2010 she was the director of the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Medical Faculty of the University of Hamburg.

Dr Jo Bury – Managing Director of the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology - a virtual research institute - and a member of the Consultative Board of the European Innovation Council (EIC). In 2016-2017, chairman of the EU-Life alliance of leading research centres in life sciences. Scientifically associated with pharmaceutical and medical sciences.

Prof. Therese Fuhrer – classical philologist, from Switzerland, works at the University of Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität). Before that, she worked, among others at the Free University of Berlin, the University of Freiburg and the University of Zurich.

Prof. Simon Gaskell – chemist, chairman of the Board of Directors of the British Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. In the years 2006–2009 he was the vice-president for research at the University of Manchester, and in the years 2009–2017 the president of Queen Mary University of London.

Prof. Éva Kondorosi – biologist. She heads a scientific unit dealing with symbiosis and functional genomics at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In the years 2013–2018 she was a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council, including – in the years 2017–2018 – its vice-president. She was the founder and the first director of research at the CNRS Institute of Plant Sciences (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France).

Prof. Yvan Larondelle – biotechnologist, specialist in the field of nutritional sciences. He is a professor at the Catholic University of Leuven. In the period from 1993 to 2010, he held managerial functions at this university. A member of numerous scientific associations specializing in nutrition issues.

Prof. Mireia Las Heras – Spanish researcher in the field of people management at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa (IESE) Business School University of Nawarra. She deals with the issues of leadership and balance between professional work and family life. She received a Ph.D. in Business Administration at Boston University in 2009.

Prof. Peter Maassen – expert in research into the research and higher education sector. Chairman of the Higher Education Development Association (Hedda) – the European association of institutions researching higher education. Professor at the University of Oslo.

Dr Sijbolt Noorda – president of the Magna Charta Observatory. Former president of the University of Amsterdam and former president of the Association of Dutch Research Universities. Scientifically associated with research on the history of culture and religion in Europe.

Prof. József Pálinkás – nuclear physicist. Professor at the University of Debrecen. In the years 2015–2018 he was the president of the Hungarian Office for National Research, Development and Innovation, and in the years 2008–2014 he was the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Former Minister of Education in Hungary (2001–2002) and rector of the University of Debrecen (1996–1997).

Prof. Sir Christopher Snowden – from May 2019, chairman of the Board of Directors of the ERA Foundation – British organization supporting engineering training and commercialization of scientific activity in engineering. In the period from March 2015 to March 2019, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton. President of the evaluation team in the international competition - Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering in the field of engineering sciences. In the past, president of Universities UK (2013‒2015). He conducts scientific activity in the field of electronics and electrical engineering.

Prof. Carl Johan Sundberg – director of the Department of Education, Computer Science, Management in Medicine and Ethics and professor in the Molecular Exercise Physiology research group at the Karolinska Institute [Karolinska Institutet]. In addition to physiology, his research interests also include issues related to innovation, entrepreneurship and intellectual property. For 10 years he was the director of the Karolinska Institute investment fund.

Dr Cathie Vix-Guterl – French engineer specializing in materials sciences. Vice-President for R&D strategy of the French petrochemical company - Total Group. Previously, she was the research director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the director of the Materials Institut Carnot Alsace research institute.


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