Efforts to establish the Mining Academy

On 31st May, 1913, Emperor Francis Joseph approved the establishment of a higher school of mining in Krakow. This act had preceded long endeavours to establish an academy that would educate engineers of mining and metallurgy. In the 19th century, also named “the era of coal and steel”, Europe was building the foundations of modern nations. The most important feature of western societies in the phase of modernisation was progressing industrialisation. The lack of sovereignty until the end of the 18th century had a huge impact on the economic and social development of Poland. At the time when Western Europe was building capitalist economies and the structures of modern states, the Polish land was still part of the territories of rapacious countries, and regardless of their development, it was for them of secondary importance. 

Many wise Poles, however, could see the need to include Poland in the modernisation processes. It should be noted that different social environments were involved in this activity. One of these groups were politicians, members of the Diet of Galicia and Lodomeria and the Parliament of Vienna (dominated by aristocrats and landlords, participants of national uprisings), the second was composed of the councillors and presidents of the city of Krakow, and the members of the third group were the graduates and students of the Austro-Hungarian higher schools of mining, forming various types of associations of engineers and technicians, which had started to come into being at the turn of the 20th century. What is important, all activities were coordinated and aimed to reach the ultimate goal – the establishment of a mining academy in Krakow. For it was believed that the only chance for Poland to make up for civilizational backwardness was through educating its own technical and technological elite.

Despite the existing autonomy of Galicia since the 1860s, the authorities of the Habsburg Monarchy were not initially willing to consent to the establishment of a university in Krakow. Only after some time they changed their mind. Deep involvement, varied argumentation, and good preparation of the Polish representatives were remarkable. Reports were sent to Vienna; they dealt with the deposits of mineral resources in Galicia, the productivity of the Galician industry, prospects for development, as well as the needs for qualified workforce. The second kind of argumentation was connected with the feeling of a mission to mould the national elite indispensable for the functioning of a modern country and society. The mission of the academy could also be seen in the curriculum, which placed emphasis on a broad theoretical framework combined with professional, specialist education, and the need to deliver knowledge related to the law, economics, and social sciences. The third category of arguments was associated with practice and the needs of the neighbourhood. 

It is incredible how wisely the vision of a university linked to the social surroundings working in its favour was pictured one hundred years ago. Perhaps it is worthwhile to restore these arguments in the context of the current discussion on the model of institutions of higher education.  

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 made it impossible in October to commence the first academic year of the newly-established university. A clerk of the Municipal Council, probably tidying up documents, scribbled a note in the corner of one of them: “Due to the outbreak of war, the Mining Academy was not opened, the whole matter being postponed to more peaceful times, 21st March, 1915.” 

Professor Anna Siwik
AGH UST Vice-Rector for Student Affairs in the years 2012–2020