Experts from the Institute of Economics and Management of the Non-production Sphere and economics teachers from the Faculty of Arts of what was then known as the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně were instrumental in founding the first post-Velvet Revolution faculty to be established at MU.
“It was clear to us that with the fall of Communism and the transition to a market economy there would be a great demand for experts. But there were very few people with theoretical let alone practical experience,” say Professor Ladislav Blažek, the first dean of the faculty, recalling its origins.
According to him, the Faculty of Economics and Administration was born in the atmosphere of great enthusiasm and spontaneity that defined this revolutionary period in Czech history. “It came into existence very quickly. It took less than a year to go from the initial plan to the actual founding,” says Blažek, who taught at the faculty for 30 years and who was named professor emeritus last year. In that capacity, he is still in touch with students as a thesis adviser.
As the first dean, he quickly found his hands full. “We needed to rapidly add teachers and administrative workers to the faculty’s staff. But there was a lack of qualified people, so it was no easy task. We had to create and then grow the library’s collection and somehow obtain technology and other equipment. On top of that, I had to deal with constructing a new building. Funding this work was no banal thing. It cost hundreds of millions of crowns,” recalls Blažek.
The idea of founding an economics faculty received substantial support from the rector at the time, Milan Jelínek. His proposal to establish the faculty was approved by the MU Academic Senate in autumn 1990. The first classes were held a year later in September in the building of the former Cyril and Methodius Bank on Zelný trh, which was previously the home of the Faculty of Law. Growing interest in studying at the faculty in the following years led to the sale of the building, which was not suitable for holding classes.
For several years after that, the faculty was located in a provisional space on Antonínská Street. “That place was extremely unsuitable, but we survived it – thanks in part to the initial enthusiasm of our entire academic community. The new modern building in Pisárky was for us a fundamental change that we all welcomed,” says Blažek.
Thanks to the hard work of many university and faculty leaders a bold plan was realized: a modern building with a useable area of 10,000 square metres was built at a cost of 260 million crowns. The state-of-the-art building was completed in March 1998, and almost eight years after the faculty was founded, its new home was ceremonially opened. Putting this seemingly simple plan – constructing a new building – into action took five years. Construction work began in the summer of 1995 on an unused, asphalted parcel of land adjacent to Masaryk University dorms on Lipová Street.
The faculty’s insignia were created at that time and include a winged sceptre and a medal depicting the first rector of MU, Karel Engliš, which was designed by academic sculptor Michal Vitanovský. The sceptre was created by sculptor Pavel Filip. The head of the sceptre features the winged helmet of the god of Mercury, the patron of the economic sciences. The obverse of the medal contains a portrait of MU’s first rector, prominent economist Karel Engliš. On the reverse we find a symbolic temple of wisdom and knowledge and a motto encapsulating Engliš’s main teachings: “Productivity, economy, solidarity.”
During celebrations of Masaryk University’s centennial two years ago, the Faculty of Economics and Administration opened its doors to alumni. Besides exhibits and guided tours of the faculty, there were also commemorations of important historical events, a debate with prominent graduates, and a lecture titled “100 Years of MU, 100 Years of a Czech Currency”. Afterwards, the festivities moved to the Brno Exhibition Centre, where all MU’s faculties, institutes, and offices celebrated together. In the exhibition centre’s rotunda, MU’s rector bestowed awards upon graduates of the faculty: Robert Franče, Stanislav Kutáček, Dita Přikrylová, Lukáš Rozumek, and Petr Sklenář.
In its 30 years of existence, the faculty has become a respected institution that now provides high-quality, modern university education in economics, management, finance, and public administration to nearly 3,000 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students. Students have the opportunity to spend part of their studies abroad and even acquire a second diploma in a foreign country.
The faculty also prepares students for international exams and certificates (ACA, ACCA, CFA, PRINCE2, etc.). It also seeks out and supports talented students through the TopSeC programme. The faculty is also home to experts on FinTech and other emerging fields. It is the only university in the Czech Republic to use a Bloomberg terminal for teaching activities. “We are one of only two Czech universities in the UIC Alliance of Universities for the Development of High-Speed Rail. We also have a state-of-the-art laboratory for economic experiments,” says Vice-dean for External Relations and Partnerships Sylva Žáková Talpová.
In the 30 years of the faculty’s existence, five men have held the position of dean: Professor Ladislav Blažek was the first dean from 1991 to 1999; Professor Antonín Slaný headed the faculty twice, in 1999–2004 and 2013–2020; Assistant Professor Ivan Malý also served as dean twice, in 2005–2007 and 2013–2020; Assistant Professor Martin Svoboda was dean in 2008–2010; and Professor Jiří Špalek is the current dean, serving since last year and presiding over the celebrations of the faculty’s 30th anniversary.
“This year’s celebrations provided an opportunity to stop and reflect upon our past. But we want to set our sights mainly on the future. Although what we are now is important, what we can be is critical. We want to be a faculty that prepares students for the jobs of the future, where flexibility, the ability to think critically, and the skills to analyse and work with information will be crucial,” says Dean Jiří Špalek.
The faculty’s 30th anniversary was celebrated by a major conference about the future of society and the economy. The keynote speech was delivered by Czech economist and cofounder of CERGE-EI, Jan Švejnar, who teaches at Columbia University in New York. In attendance were also leaders from business and the public sphere, as well as successful alumni, such as Marek Třeška, the CEO of HARTMANN-RICO, and Dana Kovaříková, the head of the European Commission Representation in the Czech Republic.