Dedicated to the 35th Anniversary of the University of Niš,
40th Anniversary of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of Niš,
and 10th Anniversary of the Series Mechanics, Automatic Control and Robotics

JUNE 15th 2000
Thirty five years ago, the People's Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Serbia decided to establish the University of Niš. The newly formed University included three faculties that had started working in 1960 as the academic units of the Belgrade University - the Faculty of Law & Economics, Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Engineering.
That decision had a far-reaching significance for the development of the southeast Serbia and the town of Niš. The demand for the establishment of a university was justified by its indispensability in the progress of industrial firms, business organizations and regional economy in general. Another indicator of its importance in the development of the town is the growth of its population. Namely, back in 1965, Niš had some 67,000 inhabitants while today it is the second biggest city in Serbia, after Belgrade.
The development of our University can be evaluated as very successful, and it is proved by the following elements:
- When established in 1965, the University had 6,800 students and the teaching staff numbered 234 teachers and assistants. At that time, the only new structure specifically designed for the University needs was the building of the Faculty of Engineering. I am still keeping the opening of the faculty building in memory. I was just about to graduate then, and I remember that the hall of that new faculty seemed so huge to me and my colleagues, as if it was conveying a particular message of the future.
- The University of Niš consists of 12 faculties today. It presently has 24,000 students, including 360 foreign students, and the full-time teaching staff of 1,300.
- Since 1965, 33,000 students graduated from the University, 1,340 earned master's degree and 850 successfully defended their doctoral dissertations. Our graduates may be found in almost all distinguished positions in economy, science, governmental admini-stration, schools and other places, particularly in the southeast Serbia, so the University of Niš may rightfully be considered to have extremely powerful alumni.
Scientific research is presently carried out in all the disciplines incorporated in the University of Niš, and almost all of the teaching staff are included into research projects. Taking into account the technical and technologic basis of the research and educational work, we have to be proud of our Information System, which is the most developed one in the academic network. There are also some projects in progress concerning the introduc-tion of quality system in education and science, and a self-learning system is being devel-oped, as well as the system of long distance learning.
The University also comprises the Joint Research Center with the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The work within this Center has been carried out in seven sections: for history, archeology and history of art, language and literature, ethnology, materials and components, applied mathematics and biomedical research. The Center has acquired good reputation as a scientific core around which, to our great satisfaction, more and more young researchers are gathering, together with distinguished experts of both institutions.
The University has recorded remarkable results in the scope of its publishing activi-ties, as well. Among Serbian universities, this is the only one that edits an international scientific journal. The Journal "Facta Universitatis" comprises 13 series covering almost all major fields of study, and it is regularly sent to numerous foreign scientific institutions. Through this exchange, more than 350 different scientific publications are provided from all over the world. We also have our University Journal for Social Theory and Practice "Teme", which meets all the international criteria, likewise. Relying on its yearly pub-lishing plans, the University issues a range of scientific publications. I would like to point out that 14 new textbooks and scientific monographs were published in the previous year through our publishing unit.
International relations have always been cherished at the University of Niš, and the previous period may be evaluated as successful in that respect. The University of Niš maintains bilateral protocol-based cooperation with 25 foreign universities. As one of the founders of the AIMOS Academic Network, it is among the leading members in this academic association, which consists of some 30 universities from 14 Southeast European countries. Our University is also included in several other international academic associations.
Extremely rapid development of new technologies has implications for the provision of higher education and training. We are entering the century that shall be dominated by the economy of services and ideas and up-to-date scientific and technological knowledge shall be applied more and more in all the spheres of human activities. It is supposed that many professions will die out and be subsequently replaced by new ones.
All of these processes require social changes, particularly in the system of education. It is believed today that the development of educational systems should be directed towards including all the population into the process of learning, regardless of their present employment status. The system has to be so organized as to enable every one to develop as fully as possible to the limits of their individual capacities and aspirations. The right to learn and acquire high-quality knowledge is regarded as one of basic human rights in a democratic society, as only the high-quality knowledge can afford individuals to become true members of the society, to be able to understand the complexities of the technical, economic and socio-political environment and to participate in its development.
Our aim is to make universities centers of excellence that would be ready to quickly adopt new knowledge and transfer it to both students and industry, taking into consideration, of course, diversities like national heritage, economic resources and other specific conditions. As a small country with limited resources, we can protect our political, economic and other independence, as well as enter the international division of labor, only if we learn fast, adopt and apply latest knowledge. In a word, we have to fight all troubles with knowledge. This is apparently the most important task of this time and our sacred obligation towards the generations to come, as we have to create for them the conditions to provide worthy lives by their own knowledge and abilities. Our University shall always be dedicated to this task, to its students, and I believe that the University and the society in general will dynamically develop in the next period, regardless of all the difficulties.

Prof. Dr. Branimir Djordjević
Rector of the University of Niš