New Year's thoughts - Rector's message
2021 brought significant changes to the life of Óbuda University. In his traditional New Year's message, Prof. Dr. Levente Kovács, Rector, looks back to the most important changes of the past year and ahead to the challenges of 2022.
Dear ÓU community members,
"The greatest achivement of life is not giving up, the preservation of hope, the constant restart." – as János Csőgl, Hungarian religious writer, put it, and the end-of-year and the first days of the new year make us all have a look at what we have done and what comes ahead.
2021 was a year of positive changes and major transformations in the life of Óbuda University. An era is over for a new one to begin. The challenges may never have been so stimulating and forward-looking. The year 2021 was full of work, all we accomplished was visible and worth it.
“Sometimes it is enough to change the point of view for clear vision,” wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and we did so. We have initiated the change of governance model, which has opened a whole new, different perspective for our university: more flexible and less complex management model, remedy of academic salaries, infrastructural developments, establishing science and innovation parks, creating competitive conditions, to sum up everything that can make our university an internationally visible higher education institution. But let’s look back a little at what we have done, what happened in this unusual and radically developing year of 2021.
2021 yet again started with difficult times due to the coronavirus pandemic, which, unfortunately, left its mark on the first few months. Our university could cope with this challenging period, though, and we could overcome the difficulties smoothly. I could not be more thankful to all our colleagues, academic and non-academic staff alike, for their proactivity and innovative attitude in providing appropriate responses in such hard times. We were exemplary in taking the covid19 vaccination – 85% or our community is now fully vaccinated including booster jabs - so that our entire community of teachers, non-teachers and students can return to face-to-face education in the new academic year beginning the fall of 2021.
However, the biggest change in 2021 was related to the organizational structure of the university. “Don’t be afraid to go big if it seems necessary. We can't cross the gap with two small leaps,” wrote British statesman, David Lloyd George. We adopted this view, on February 15, 2021, when with the full support of the Senate, we initiated the transformation of Óbuda University from a state-run higher education institution to a public-interest trust-based higher education institution. The negotiations were conducted with discipline and success, at the end of which, as of August 1, 2021, the Rudolf Kalman Foundation for Óbuda University was established. It is a great honor for our foundation to be named after our first honorary doctor, with the consent of his family , the late Rudolf Kalman, a Hungarian scientist who is the father of modern management theory.
The board of trustees of our foundation brings together social, industrial and academic actors. Its chairman is Mihály Varga, Minister of Finance, who is also the MP representing the district our university is located. Dr. András Cser-Palkovics, Mayor of Székesfehérvár, home to our rural campus, and Ottó Sinkó, co-CEO of Videoton, the largest Hungarian-owned technical company, and Dr. Győző Drozdy, former Deputy CEO and current consultant of Telenor, are curators. . On the academic side, it is my pleasure to be a member of the Board of Trustees as Rector and ensuring the transfer between rapid and efficient strategic decision-making and operational implementation.
Through the Foundation, an organizational transformation has taken place in the life of our university, with which the institution of the chancellery was terminated. The Director General of Economic Affairs is now in charge of the non-academic governance of the university under the direction of the Rector. During negotiations with the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, as the sector manager, we entered into a long-term financing agreement, which will provide our university with a much more stable form of operation and a significantly increased budget. Along these lines, we can plan and achieve our objectives in a more predictable way, in line with the objectives set out in the Rector's Strategy and in our Institutional Development Plan. In many ways, we can level up, as our new five-year financing agreement has increased the amount of resources available for operation and development by about 2.5 times. Contributing to all this is the fact that with the support of the Hungarian government, we managed to get rid of the PPP construction, which burdens our budget by about HUF 500 million annually, by replacing our Tavaszmező utca campus and dormitory.
Thanks to all this, we have the opportunity to eliminate the decades-long backlog: we can implement an outstanding wage arrangement as of January 1, 2022, and we can launch a number of development programs that raise the standard of education and research not only in Hungary but also in the Central-Eastern European region, we can become a dominant technical higher education institution.
Compared to the 2019 level, from January 1, 2022, the gross minimum salary of our teaching assistants will increase by 94 percent, assistant professors by 106 percent, associate professors by 80 percent, and university professors by 62 percent (which already includes the 15 % pay rise).
In addition to the new salary arrangements, we will introduce a talent management system to serve university quality and youth education, and we will launch rewarding opportunities for faculty and in various subject areas to meet the university indicators.
One of the most significant goals of 2021 was to be able to join the field of Science and Technology Parks as an active player and thus position our science and innovation activities in a completely new dimension. We were able to significantly exceed this plan by having the opportunity to establish not one, but three Science and Innovation Parks outside Budapest in the five-year time interval between 2021-2026, which is unique in Hungarian higher education. We can develop a Mechatronics Science and Technology Park in Székesfehérvár, a Smart Industry Science Park in Kaposvár, and a Future Industry Science and Technology Park in Zsámbék. In addition, we have received green light to launch our integrated campus development scheme, which is also a huge step forward in our university life.
New ideas are matched with a new look. We were all delighted to have completed our newly designed website, which was launched on December 21, 2021. We could say, that the “face” of our renewed institution is important because our virtual visitors get their first impressions here. We have redesigned our website by unified image elements. It is designed to meet the modern age expectations through a logical menu structure. It is continuously updated, so our university community and those interested could see our events and results.
We are immensly proud of our excellent teaching staff and dedicated scholars, our talented students and their excellent mentors whose goal is to get creative, thinking and willing people out of the walls of our alma mater. We must be optimistic, as this is the first time this year we officially appeared on the international rankings of the best higher education institutions. Based on the Times Higher Education World University Ranking published in October 2021, we are ranked 1079th. In the middle of 2019, at the beginning of my rectorate, we were unofficially positioned in the 2083rd place, so we have jumped 1000 places in 2.5 years. By achieving this Óbuda University is no longer a “gray” higher education institution, it has earned itself the rank and name that makes it more and more visible both in Hungary and internationally. In order to maintain the position and to continue the hoped-for progress, we need to perform even better, we are moving forward step by step, as we have all the capabilities to do so. As a result of our scholarship program launched last year to encourage quality publications, the number of our publications in the D1-Q1-Q2 journals has increased almost 1.5 times. 2 % of our researchers were listed in the Stanford University database, which by 2021 doubled.
We managed to win the innovation ecosystem tender once again after 2019 and as we exceeded the undertaken indicators by 1.5-2 times, the result of this year's tender is that we won almost double the support, as practically the only higher education institution in Hungary. I also consider it a strategic achievement that Óbuda University won the Thematic Excellence Program competition for the first time, which will give us the opportunity to strengthen our positions in the healthcare industry. With this, after our ERC application and our Competence Center application won in 2019, we can make significant progress and present a real university allure.
With that being said we could prove that a new time period can begin for Óbuda University in 2022.
At the same time, despite our successes, we need to be able to stay humble and avoid what Bill Gates also pointed out: „Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.” However, with enough humility, perseverance and ant diligence, we can look forward to a very beautiful future.
I must also thank all the university staff for their work. For the first time in a long time, we can adequately reward their efforts. We must continue to work in 2022 to lay the foundations for what we achieved in 2021, to develop and to be deeply committed to our country and our nation, to humanity and to the future. I still consider the lines of Gyula Juhász, renowed Hungarian poet, to be a suitable quote for us: "Maybe our voice is still weak, our steps may still be uncertain, but we are en route, we want the beautiful, the good, and we feel that our faith has wings."
Dear ÓU community members,
Knowing that, unfortunately, the threat of the pandemic has not passed, we must continue to carry out our work with the attention and discipline shown so far, and I need all of you in this effort. I will continue to do my best to make the ÓE/ÓU brand more and more important to students, faculty and staff. Students should be proud of the knowledge they have gained here and of being surrounded by a work environment that inspires teachers, administrative staff and our entire university community that help each other and provide security.
As before, I need everybody on board in the future too, as that is the only way we can achieve our goals as a community of people who want to do it. Borrowing Victor Hugo’s words, "The future has many names: For the weak, it means the unattainable. For the fearful, it means the unknown. For the courageous, it means opportunity”, in the hope of an easier year, I wish you 2022 a year of success and health!
January 1, 2022.