Internationalization of Polish Higher Education within Knowledge Transfer and Innovation

Internationalization of Polish Higher Education within Knowledge Transfer and Innovation

Agnieszka Barcik (University of Bielsko-Biala, Poland) and Piotr Dziwiński (University of Bielsko-Biala, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8216-0.ch012
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Abstract

Internationalization of higher education in Poland is a relatively new subject which has been gradually gaining its importance. The economic and political transformation of Poland opened new opportunities for Polish universities. The accession to the European Union enabled the educational and research units to apply for European funds in this respect. Despite numerous difficulties, the universities reform their strategies and search for new solutions to increase the level of internationalization and thus their competitiveness. These actions are necessary and crucial for their further development. The chapter describes general issues of internationalization of Polish higher education and shows that the level of internationalization may be achieved successfully by various forms of cross-border cooperation. Polish-Czech cooperation in the field of knowledge transfer and innovation carried out by two partner universities located in the Polish – Czech borderland is a case study illustrating this process.
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Introduction

Higher education around the world is changing rapidly and internationalization at the moment should be the part of the development strategy of each university. The economic crisis and the lack of financial resources resulting from it affected the process of internationalization of higher education in the European Union. This trend is also visible in Polish universities which are the least internationalized academic centers in the European Union and in the OECD. Undoubtedly, this situation is influenced by the lack of a coherent development of internationalization strategy as well as Polish higher education and insufficient scope of research and scholarly debates in this respect. Despite these unsatisfactorily low results a gradual improvement can be seen recently in the presence of foreign students at Polish universities. The highest rate of internationalization is achieved in the largest and oldest Polish universities in biggest Polish cities - Warsaw University, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Łódź University.

However due to demand of equal and free access to education smaller academic centers, especially those operating in cities and regions of cross – border nature can play an important role in the process of internationalization of Polish higher education. Such an institution of higher education is the University of Bielsko-Biala operating on the Polish-Czech-Slovak border creating a unique market for cross-border cooperation in the economy, employment, knowledge transfer and innovation. Taking the advantage of these opportunities the University of Bielsko-Biala and Technical University in Ostrava have carried out a project in years 2010-2013 named: „The vocational training for specialists-leaders for innovation and transfer of new technologies into companies in the Czech-Polish border”. The project was co-financed from the European Regional Development Fund and the state budget in the framework of the Operational Program “Cross-Border Cooperation between Czech Republic and Poland in years 2007-2013. The main goal of the project was to support more dynamic economic development and to increase the international competitiveness of the Polish-Czech border by improving the quality of vocational education and especially the technical knowledge and practical skills of students as well as the neighbor's language. Tasks implemented in the project were directed not only at the professional support of future graduates of both universities but also at the mutual transfer of knowledge and access to innovation and new technologies.

The aim of the article is an analysis of the process of internationalization of Polish higher education with particular emphasis on knowledge transfer and innovation. The case study will be the above-mentioned project carried out in this field by two cross-border institutions: University of Bielsko-Biala (Poland) and Technical University in Ostrava (Czech Republic). The chapter will be enriched with the results of research carried out under the project within a group of 60 students and 60 entrepreneurs from Poland and Czech Republic.

Key Terms in this Chapter

R+D (Research and Development): Two interrelated processes, which result in the application of technological innovations and creating new products or new form of products in industry.

Knowledge Transfer: Knowledge sharing and collaboration between research units, institutions and enterprises.

Higher Education Internationalization: Process of building a strategy of internationalization of higher education at the state level, local authorities level and in individual institutions, an active policy of acquiring foreign students, foreign university marketing, creating foreign-language study paths, implementation of programs supporting students’ and researchers’ mobility.

Academic Entrepreneurship: Business activities of the academic community, including students, alumni, graduate students and research workers as a result of which the university begins to operate on a commercial basis, acting as a seller of certain goods and services, such as specialized courses or modern technology.

Innovation: New, creative changes used in business, which are accumulated, and therefore increase and refine existing technology or knowledge.

Cross-Border Cooperation: Cooperation of neighboring regions, including local authorities and local organizations as well as various institutions representing border areas.

Technologies: Knowledge about the methods of manufacture and processing of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products, present in a particular market at a given time.

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