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Celebrating the Day of Hungarian Higher Education
On the occasion of the 650th jubilee of the foundation of the first Hungarian University, last year the Hungarian parliament decided to pronounce the first day of September from 2017 onward as the "Day of Hungarian Higher Education" and the memorial day of the University of Pécs, founded in 1367. According to the justification behind the decision, the government emphasized that this step highly promotes the significance of the international forward-looking role of Hungarian higher education maintained throughout the centuries, and thus Hungarian scientific achievements, together with Hungarian higher education itself will become a national heritage. In the morning of September 1st, with the participation of Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, the City of Pécs, and the diocese commemorate this illustrious date with a ceremony held in the Kodály Center. The following events will include the Closing Conference of the Hungarian Brain Research Program, the ceremonial inauguration of the Statues of King Louis the Great and Bishop William next to the site of the Medieval University, and a festive mass in the Cathedral.
When King Louis the Great sent the Establishing Charter of the University of Pécs to Pope Orban V, he recommended it using the following words: "Pécs is particularly appropriate for sowing the seeds of knowledge." Referring to this citation, József Bódis, Rector of the University of Pécs told in his opening address that: "I think that the last centuries clearly proved that the trust given in advance have been earned by the intellectual strength of the city. At the same time, it has to be underlined that this is not the festive ceremony hailing Pécs or the University of Pécs only, but also it is the day celebrating Hungary and Hungarian higher education. From the first moment of our series of events on, it has been our objective that this red-letter day become important to all of us who ever did, or does in our present times for the development and progress of Hungarian higher education."
Many signatory universities of the Magna Charta Observatory, which held its anniversary conference for the first time in Central Europe, attended the ceremony, during which several awards were given. Neuroscientist György Buzsáki – who earned his medical degree at the University of Pécs, and was rewarded with The Brain Prize for his activities in 2011 – was inaugurated as the honorary doctor of the University of Pécs. Gábor Kovács L. professor and member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and Christopher Wilson, the executive director of IT Services Hungary received one of the most prestigious awards, the Pro Universitate Quinqueecclesiensi. The King Louis the Great Prize, which was founded in honor of the jubilee year, was given for the first time to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pécs. The diploma and the statue of King Louis the Great made with 3D printer technology were received by György Udvardy, Bishop of Pécs. The Day of Hungarian Higher Education was also greeted by Pope Francis, whose letter was delivered and read out to the celebrating audience of the Kodály Center by Archbishop Alberto Bottari de Castello, the Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary.
The all day-long festive events continue with the Closing Conference of the Hungarian Brain Research Program. As it is known, the Government of Hungary decided to launch a 4-year-long (2013-2017) national brain research program, supporting it with 12 billion Hungarian Forints financed by the Research and Technology Innovation Fund. According to the World Health Organization, the severe societal and economic burden of brain disorders could be decreased effectively only by new treatments and prevention processes based on discoveries.
In the afternoon, the inauguration of the statue composition representing the founders of the university, King Louis the Great and Bishop William, takes place on the promenade between the northern side of the Cathedral of Pécs and the site of the Medieval University. The piece of art was made by Norbert Kotormán who had won the competition organized by the University of Pécs. As it was announced earlier by the jury: this statue expresses the most the spirituality of the era, the significance of the foundation of the first Hungarian university, moreover it visualizes the characteristics of gothic art.
The Day of Hungarian Higher Education goes on with a festive mass held in the Cathedral, then, finally, it closes with the concert of the Pannon Philharmonic which is especially organized also on the occasion of the Day of the City of Pécs. The celebration is still not over after this fascinating day. On September 2nd, the University of Pécs hosts a program open and free for public in the heart of the city, the Jubilee 650 PTE Day, where the multi-faceted and creative work going on inside the university buildings is presented to the society at large, so that every visitor can be actively taking part in university life and the special jubilee at least for a day.