UO signs student and faculty exchange agreement with Charles University

UO forges partnership with Prague's Charles University

"Prestigious and a great win for the Ducks" is how UO Provost Scott Coltrane describes the university's new partnership with Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

The partnership is also an example of how research collaboration between UO faculty members and colleagues at other institutions can lead to wider opportunities.

In this case, the agreement stems from research and teaching interests shared by young Czech scholars and senior UO faculty members, one in computer science and the other in physics.

The first began in 1994 with mathematician Jan Kratochvil’s arrival in Eugene on a Fulbright fellowship. Outgoing and eager to pursue new ideas, he spent a year teaching undergraduate courses and launching grant-funded work with Andrzej Proskurowski, now a professor emeritus, and other UO computer scientists. Their collaborations are ongoing.

Now, as dean of Charles University’s Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, an academic unit or school that also includes computer science, Kratochvil has helped shape the new academic exchange program that will send students — and faculty members — back and forth between Eugene and Prague.

“Making big steps forward in research and education is impossible without international collaboration,” Kratochvil said. “The University of Oregon is a very natural match for Charles University.”

The other friendship behind the UO’s new partnership goes back 20 years, when Russell Donnelly, a physics professor who died in June 2015, invited Ladislav Skrbek to become his protege.

Skrbek was a member of Donnelly’s lab for nearly five years before returning to Prague, where he is forging new frontiers based on his mentor’s pioneering discoveries in low-temperature physics and fluid dynamics. He leads Charles University's state-of-the-art Superfluidity Laboratory and serves as associate dean of mathematics, physics and computer science.

“If not for my stay in Eugene, the kinds of research that I am now performing in Prague would never have existed,” Skrbek said.

Kratochvil and Skrbek returned to campus this spring to witness formalization of the UO-Charles University agreement, which Coltrane signed with his counterpart, Vice Rector Lenka Rovna. An expert on the integration process of the European Union, she is a regular commentator on politics for international media and the author of several books. In 2004, she received France’s National Order of Merit in recognition of the impact of her work.

Founded in 1348, Charles University is named for its founder, Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. It is the oldest university in Central Europe and ranks among Europe’s top 10 universities. In addition, the three most respected global benchmarking systems for higher education rate it among the top 2 percent of the world’s leading universities.

Charles has a student body of 51,438, including more than 1,400 international students. It offers more than 300 accredited bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs, with many courses available in English, French and German languages for international students.

The Charles exchange leads a growing list of new international partnerships for the UO. In June, the Office of International Affairs announced an agreement with Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia. In April, the UO renewed a long-running international collaboration with Senshu University of Japan.

— By Melody Ward Leslie, University Communications