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Conference on the role of women at universities

Conference on the role of women at universities

On June 6, the Jagiellonian University hosted the conference “Women in the University – the past, the present and the future”. The event had the status of Coimbra Group Annual Conference, which accompanies the General Assembly of this prestigious university network.


The participants were welcomed on behalf of the Organising Committee of this year’s General Assembly and Annual Conference by Prof. Piotr Laidler, member of JU Internationalisation Committee and a former Vice-Rector of the Jagiellonian University.

The audience were addressed by the Rector of the Jagiellonian University Prof. Wojciech Nowak, who briefly discussed the history of JU’s membership and activity in the Coimbra Group. In relation to the topic of the conference, he referred the beginnings of the presence of women at the Jagiellonian University, who have been able to officially become its students since the late 19th century. The Rector stressed that, despite many challenges, women have successfully entered the world of the academia, and the present conference will contribute to the continued progress in this area.

The conference began with the lecture on the history of female presence at European Universities by the JU Vice-Rector for University Development Prof. Dorota Malec. The talk began with an overview of the present situation of women in European research and academia, based on the latest report of the European Commission. Then the JU Vice-Rector discussed the historical process which led to the current state of affairs, starting with the earliest known cases of women at European universities, such as Bettisia Gozzadini (13th c.) Nawojka (15th c.), Beatriz Gallindo (early 16th c.), or Luisa de Medrano (16th c.). The Age of Reason saw an increase in the role of women in higher education, but the real breakthrough came in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Prof. Malec briefly presented the major steps on the road to gender equality at universities in different European countries.

The JU Vice-Rector’s lecture was followed by the first discussion panel entitled “Women in the University –  issues and perspectives”, moderated by Dr. hab. Beata Kowalska (JU), featuring Prof. Věra Sokolova (Charles University), Prof. Eileen Drew (Trinity College Dublin), and Prof. Marina Hughson (Institute for Criminological and Sociological Research Belgrade). The panelists examined the status quo with regard to the major issues related to women in the university. They pointed to strategies which may help to strengthen the role of women in the higher education sector and their contribution to the knowledge development in general. After the panel, Prof. Patricia Hill Collins from the University of Maryland delivered the lecture "Who cares? Women’s Work, Intersectionality and Academy".

The second panel composed of female rectors of Coimbra Group universities reflected upon their experiences related to women at universities, especially from the position of leadership, along with best practices and challenges regarding gender equality in academia.

The conference is part of a three-day long summit of the Coimbra Group, an association of the oldest and most prestigious European higher education institutions, hosted by the Jagiellonian University. The participants include presidents and other representatives of 39 universities, who meet within the framework of the Coimbra Group General Assembly and Annual Conference, accompanied by meetings of the network’s Executive Board and working groups.

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