Masaryk University has awarded the second ever Muni Award in Science and Humanities to Matthew Rampley, a British expert on art history. Professor Rampley will become a full-time employee of MU from 1 April, when he transfers from the University of Birmingham together with his project funded by the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grant. The unique grant awarded by MU means he will spend the next five years in Brno studying the art and architecture of Central Europe between the wars.
The award of the grant is preceded by a months-long process of trying to attract top international researchers to MU, which includes publishing advertisements in the most popular research journals.
“The Muni Award is based on the implicit trust that a top researcher with a strong research programme best knows how to use the grant funds and offers them full flexibility, use of the university facilities, and progress in their academic career. We offer exclusive conditions and carefully select the best candidates,” says Petr Dvořák, vice-rector for research at Masaryk University, when talking about the selection of grant recipients.
Professor Rampley will transfer his ERC Advanced Grant of €2.5 million to the university. There are currently only two projects in this highest category of ERC grants in the whole of the Czech Republic. However, the status and previous achievements of this grant recipient are more important for the university than the amount of the grant.
In his current project, Professor Rampley studies the changes in art and architecture following the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the creation of newly independent republics, focusing on Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. As his wife his Czech, he also has personal ties to the Czech Republic. The upcoming Brexit gave further impetus to his interest in the Czech grant since it is still unclear whether the project funding of current ERC grant holders at UK universities will continue after Brexit.
Professor Rampley’s career history is a perfect fit for the requirements laid down by the university for the recipients of the Muni Award: they should be world-class researchers who have previously received ERC grants or researchers who received a high score in the competition but did not receive financial support due to a lack of funds.
“It is the second year of the Muni Award and the second time the recipient is a holder of the ERC grant from a UK university. Last year’s recipient was Daniel Kráľ, who is working on his second ERC grant project at the Faculty of Informatics,” notes Roman Badík, the head of the MU Research & Development Office.
The British researcher and his team will become part of the Department of the History of Art at the MU Faculty of Arts. For Professor Rampley and his family, it means moving to Brno, and this is where the university will also help. “We want to make sure that he has the best conditions possible because the stays and referrals from researchers such as Professor Rampley improve the international reputation of our university,” adds Badík.
For the Department of the History of Art, this will mean organisational changes and new obligations. While the presence of Professor Rampley will improve the – already strong – international connections of the department, it also means changes to the structure of the department. However, Ondřej Jakubec, who heads the department, views this primarily as a vital addition to the academic staff, which, as he hopes, will have many positive implications.
“The presence of a researcher of his status shows that the humanities can receive prestigious international grants and conduct excellent research. I also hope that such a figure will naturally inspire other researchers and promote a spirit of collegiality at the department that will attract other colleagues, post -docs, and PhD students,” says Jakubec.