Only one student signs up at conservative Polish university established to educate new “elite”

A university set up in Warsaw by Ordo Iuris, a prominent conservative legal group, with political and financial backing from the Polish government has registered only one new student this year. They will be taught by 34 lecturers.

Collegium Intermarium was founded two years ago, declaring at the time that it would “become a forge of elites for the entire region”. Its inauguration was attended by Poland’s education minister, Przemysław Czarnek, and culture minister, Piotr Gliński, as well as Hungary’s then justice minister, Judit Varga.

Czarnek said at the event that Collegium Intermarium would bolster the struggle against the “absurd ideologies” of “postmodernism and neo-Marxism”.

A university is being launched in Poland by conservative group Ordo Iuris with the participation of two Polish government ministers and one from Hungary

It aims to “forge elites for the entire region” and oppose “ideological censorship” of academic debate

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 11, 2021

In 2021 and 2022, the university and the foundation that runs it received almost 2.7 million zloty (€606,000) in grants from the education ministry and the National Freedom Institute, a body set up by the government in 2017 and overseen by the culture ministry, reports news website Wirtualna Polska.

However, despite that support, Collegium Intermarium has been educating relatively few students. In its first two academic years, it signed up just 14 people for the only degree course it offers, law. Only 11 of them currently remain on the programme.

Recruitment was even lower for this academic year, which began last month. According to public information obtained from the education ministry by activist Jakub Gawron, only six students applied for a place at Collegium Intermarium and just one was accepted.

In response to questions from news outlet, Collegium Intermarium’s rector, Bartosz Lewandowski, said that two further prospective students are currently applying to join this year’s law programme.

But he also added that the institution was always intended to be small and elite, based on the Anglo-Saxon model of Catholic universities in the United States.

The college also notes that, in addition to its law students, it has 192 students taking one of its two postgraduate programmes. Wirtualna Polska notes that the majority of them – 120, according to – are taking courses for ethics teachers subsidised by the education ministry.

In 2021, Czarnek announced plans to make it obligatory for all school pupils to take either Catholic catechism classes or ethics, which until now have been optional. Most of the universities he tasked with training new ethics teachers are Catholic institutions.

As the government prepares to make it compulsory for all children who choose not to take Catholic catechism classes in school to instead study ethics, it has chosen a number of Catholic universities to train more teachers in the latter subject

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 20, 2021

Ordo Iuris has become an influential organisation under the current national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government. It has led campaigns to toughen and more strictly enforce abortion laws, to combat “LGBT ideology”, and to prosecute those who insult Poland and the late Polish Pope John Paul II.

The president of Ordo Iuris, Jerzy Kwaśniewski, is the head of Collegium Intermarium’s board of trustees. The university’s rector, Lewandowski, is the director of Ordo Iuris’s legal intervention centre.

On its website, the university currently has 34 people listed as lecturers for its law degree, including William L. Saunders, a scholar from the Catholic University of America, and Piotr Patkowski, a Polish deputy finance minister.

Conservative group Ordo Iuris has been “auditing” hospitals to ascertain whether they are providing abortions to refugees from Ukraine and, if so, whether they are taking the required steps to „verify if the woman is telling the truth that she was raped”

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 16, 2022

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Main image credit: MEiN (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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