Publish Date: 10.02.2020

Category: News from the University

To mark the centenary of the University of Ljubljana, the oldest and largest higher education and scientific research institution in Slovenia, we published a monograph in Slovenian and English. Its authors – Rector of the University of Ljubljana Prof. Dr Igor Papič, Prof. Dr Božo Repe and Prof. Dr Mladen Dolar – presented the work at the National and University Library. The monograph offers a comprehensive overview of the hundred-year history of the Slovenian university, its importance for the Slovenian nation and state and a consideration of its current position and future. 

University of Ljubljana Rector Prof. Dr Igor Papič spoke about the current position of the University and its future. “People often ask me, where I see opportunities for our university. The easiest answer would of course be in increased financing, but I always say that the younger generations are our greatest opportunity. The period of five to ten years after gaining a doctorate is the most fruitful period; we must give young people the opportunity to develop at the university, and to develop their ideas. Here of course we also need older colleagues. We need to combine youthful playfulness and the experience of older people. But Slovenia’s key potential is knowledge. Without knowledge it will be hard for us to compete with other countries,” he said, noting that in the future the identity of universities will no longer be national, but supranational. “The University of Ljubljana is heading the European project Eutopia, where together with five other European universities we are laying the foundations of a European university. I do not mean by this that a new independent university will be created, but certainly the future of universities lies in linking together, and in linking together universities from different countries.”

Prof. Dr Božo Repe shed light on the history of the University of Ljubljana. In answer to the question where would our society be if we had not acquired the first Slovenian university a hundred years ago, he responded: “It would still exist; people have lived here since the earliest communities and managed for a long time without a university, but the least we can say is that this society would not be a Slovenian society.”

Upon the founding of the University of Ljubljana, questions arose as to whether this was the result of exclusively national aspirations, or did the university have greater ambitions. Prof. Repe illustrated his response with the words of a former Rector of the University of Ljubljana, Prof. Dr Milan Vidmar: “He held the university to be a sharp and necessary instrument of society, an institution ‘whose sole purpose is not to provide the state and nation with a certain number of officials, doctors, lawyers and so forth, but to be the highest temple of the spirit, a creator of lasting free values, the public free property of a free nation.’ Within this triangle between maintaining the Slovenian identity, the universality of science and the right to freely create ranges the history of the Slovenian university.” 

Prof. Dr Mladen Dolar is the third author, and touched on the critical spirit of the University of Ljubljana. He himself enrolled at the Faculty of Arts in the exact same year that the University of Ljubljana celebrated its 50th anniversary: “I enrolled at the University a year after May 1968, when pretty much all the universities in the West were being shaken by the student movement, a mass movement of protest and critical resistance. That wave of student protests also took hold of Ljubljana University, reaching a peak with the occupation of the University’s Faculty of Arts in May 1971, in which I myself was involved,” recalls Prof. Dolar. “Our learning process at that time did not just take place in lecture halls and libraries, but also outside them, in the fierce responses to the challenges of the time, on the streets and in action committees.” As Prof. Dolar says, the principal role of a university is to maintain a critical and independent spirit. “It is my strong wish that on its centenary and in the future the University of Ljubljana will be able to maintain and re-invent that critical spirit, as it was able to do extensively in many challenging times in the past.”

The monograph was presented in the Manuscript Reading Room at the National and University Library, which is no coincidence. “The history of our library has been inseparably tied to the life of the University ever since it was founded in 1919, when it took over the function of the main university library, and despite impossible spatial constraints it performed this task right up until the construction of the building in which we are assembled today,” said the Director of the National and University Library, Viljem Leban, in his welcome address. In his words, the founding of the University of Ljubljana contributed significantly to the construction of the present building, since it was not possible to imagine a university without an appropriate library. “With a little imagination the story of the University and the National and University Library could be woven together even more closely. In a commemorative book in which for more than 150 years we have been entering the names of famous guests and visitors, there is an entry noting that on 6 August 1919 the library was visited by the brothers Janez and Jože Plečnik. The purpose of their visit is not known. The older brother Jože, who at that time lived and worked in Prague, was clearly on a brief visit to Ljubljana, where his younger brother Janez was getting ready for a new job. On 31 August 1919 he along with 17 other professors were appointed the first generation of professors at the University of Ljubljana.” Perhaps this visit was also crucial for the architect Jože Plečnik, who decided then that Ljubljana urgently needed a modern library, for which he then created the plans in 1930 and 1931.

Photos from the event are available here. 

Photographs by Nik Jevšnik/STA