The scandal-plagued Plzeň faculty of law appears to have come to the end of the road. On Wednesday the Czech Accreditation Commission announced that the West-Bohemian law faculty’s undergraduate programme had failed to pass muster and its accreditation would not be extended past this autumn. On Thursday some 300 of the faculty’s 2,000 students gathered outside their school to protest against the decision and have appealed to Education Minister Josef Dobeš to intervene. However their chances of success are meager, since under Czech law the minister is not in a position to question the verdict of the accreditation commission. We spoke to its chairwoman prof. Vladimíra Dvořáková to find out what was behind the commission’s decision.
“I have to say that after 2009 (when the school was hit by a scandal involving plagiarism and fast-track degrees) with the arrival of a new staff at the faculty it looked like there was a good chance the faculty could turn-around the situation and restart its activities. It is a great pity and I am very sorry to say that in the course of the last year or year and a half the situation was not consolidated. There were many internal conflicts that led to some leading personalities at the faculty leaving. There were attempts to get new professors, associate professors and experts but more-or-less we do not see a very strong perspective and ability of the faculty to re-start and reach a level that a masters programme would require.”
So apart from lacking qualified staff, I understand that they are not publishing enough, there are not many requests for grants and signs of academic activity. Is that right?
“Yes, those were some of the reasons cited. The personnel situation is not very good and the faculty is not very successful in getting external financing – grants – for its projects. So yes, that is part of the reason. Of course you find that here or there there is some professor who is very good, but the fact remains that for a whole year the faculty was not able to create a concept for change. When there was a lack of staff they would take someone on, but they had no vision, they did not think about the faculty’s future development or create a strategy which would bring in more scientific grants or projects. There was no clear idea how to develop the faculty and this is very important. That is why we decided as we did – and it was not an easy decision. But above all, it really seems to me that the faculty lost the ability to solve its problems. ”
So is this the end of the road for the faculty? What will happen to its students?
“I think it is the end of the road. We do not know what will happen in the future but the accreditation runs out at the end of October of this year. According to Czech law the university is obliged to find a solution for the students –so I suppose the rector and dean of the faculty will contact the other 3 faculties of law in the Czech Republic do discuss the conditions under which students could continue their studies at other faculties. And I would also appeal to the students of those other faculties to show some solidarity with these students who are really not to blame for what happened. They are victims of the fact that the Plzeň faculty proved unable to consolidate its situation.