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Palacky University Olomouc and its International Relations in 2020

Palacky University Olomouc (UP) is a university with long-standing traditions, located in the historical City of Olomouc. Students constitute nearly 25% of the city's population, which creates a unique atmosphere of a real “college town”. Founded in 1573, the second oldest university in the Czech Republic is a leading university in the field of research, striving for a permanent position among the three most important universities in the Czech Republic and among the top 500 universities in the world. The University actively supports internationalisation of educational and research environments, as well as the international mobility of students, academics and researchers. Particular attention is paid to the development of international strategic partnerships within its inspirationally diverse international academic collaboration framework.

In the recent years, the University has been actively represented at major international student fairs and EAIE, NAFSA, APAIE international professional conferences in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America. As to the total number of foreign students, in 2015 there were 2895 international students from 90 countries studying at UP. The total number of foreign students in 2016 was 3201, which represented an annual increase of 10.56%. In 2017, the total number of foreign students increased to 3432 from 98 countries, in 2018 it was 4045 foreign students from 107 countries, and in 2019 it grew to 4497 foreign students from 108 countries. This continuous growth of the total number of foreign students studying at the University was between 2019 and 2013 more than 72% and in ten years 100%.

Speaking about the very recent years and activities related to excellence, in 2018 UP organized the Times Higher Education (THE) International Summit aimed at the possibilities of developing excellence in science, academic community and research in Central and Eastern Europe. UP ranked among the top ten in the THE New Europe 2018 Ranking evaluating universities from the 13 countries which had joined the EU since 2004. UP has been very active in the Erasmus+ programme, in mobility actions including Erasmus Mundus JMD and in many other significant international programmes, grants, projects such as Horizon 2020, ERC, Operational Programmes, Fulbright, Visegrad Fund, etc. Also due to the aforementioned, but particularly for reflecting the EAIE values (collaborative, inspiring, inclusive, excellence), in 2019, UP received the 2019 EAIE Award for Excellence in Internationalisation. Thanks to the Award, the University´s internationalisation has truly received the credit bringing in even more attention of national and international HEIs, international associations, institutions, institutes, and has also brought practical proposals for joint projects, consortia and stronger specific global academic collaboration.

The very beginning of 2020 has marked all of us by a completely different phenomenon of COVID-19 and its impacts, in general putting all HEIs under enormous pressure while checking out their own international emergency services, instruments and further strategizing plans and planning reconsiderations as well.

Palacky University Olomouc has been closely observing the development of this situation and recommendations by the WHO, the Czech Ministry of Health and other European recommendations in order to be able to react appropriately to the situation. Since mid-January we have, gradually and temporarily, suspended academic mobility and physical cooperation plans with affected countries and regions (firstly China, followed by Iran, Italy, etc.) and we have been closely assisting our cohorts of students, academics wherever they have been. UP has adopted stricter measures for its students and staff in order to avoid possible contamination and these issues get developing on everyday basis.  Based on the emergency governmental measures, the UP management has, as is/has been the case of many other European universities, temporarily suspended all physical classes (this has also applied to life-long learning classes). Alternative forms of instruction and studies are carried out at this time. A special attention is being paid to our international students studying at UP. They have been informed about the virus, its spread and what to do in case they do not feel well, since it is the facts that can prevent panic and possible infection. On daily basis we provide our students with support, help them follow the decisions made by the Rector of Palacky University Olomouc and its relevant units. Up-to-date measures are communicated to staff and students via a special information portal, emails, social media, and other forms of communication means. This truly very different (these months more cancelling than developing) situation - in comparison to the previous many years of the international academic collaboration - is bringing us to the point when we have to incorporate these pieces of experience into the new planning of our internationalization strategy that we have just started preparing for the coming decade at our University (UP Internationalisation Strategy 2021+). Yes, Palacký University Olomouc is strongly committed to the idea of internationalization of academic training in its broadest possible sense, and yes, we believe that plurality of cultures helps create the intellectually stimulating academic environment while contributing to the higher quality of science, research, teaching and living in society as such. It is these principles that we are going to continue working with in the coming months of 2020.

April 2020

Dr. Dalibor Mikuláš
Head of UP International Relations Office