Review of Summer School 2010

Published: 24 August 2010

CRCEES 4th Annual Summer School, 2010: ‘Economic and Social Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe’ Corvinus University, Budapest, and Széchenyi István University, Gyor, Hungary June 27th- July 10th 2010


The Fourth Annual CRCEES Research Methodology Summer School for postgraduate students was organised in cooperation with Corvinus University of Budapest and Széchenyi István University, Győr.

Around 20 postgraduate students participated in the Summer School which addressed theoretical and methodological aspects of the research process in relation to the theme Economic and Social Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe. These students came from CRCEES UK institutions as well CRCEES partner institutions from across Europe, Russia and the Caucasus. Twenty-seven teaching staff contributed to seminars, master classes and workshops during the 2-week Summer School. The teaching staff came from the following educational, business, governmental and non-governmental organisations: University of Glasgow; Corvinus University of Budapest; Széchenyi István University, Győr; the Central European University; the Herder-Institute, Marburg; the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; the Hungarian Foreign Ministry; Constellation Energy Institute; Oriens (a private equity firm specialising in growth capital investments); and Transparency International.  Additionally Professor George Schöpflin, a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, addressed the participants with his lecture on ‘The European Union and Central Europe in the post-Lisbon environment’.

The Summer School consisted of seminars, master classes and workshops; cultural activities; and group-based research projects. Students were given an opportunity to develop a greater awareness and critical understanding of the links between academia and business/commercial and public policy sectors. The first week of the Summer school was held at Corvinus University of Budapest while the second week took place in Győr at Széchenyi István University.

The emphasis of the 2010 CRCEES Summer School was firmly upon developing the research skills of the postgraduate students and affording them both an academic and social environment in which to discuss and to exchange views upon their own research and use of research methodologies. These students came from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and had a range of geographical focuses within the region.

CRCEES Director Professor Richard Berry delivered the opening session of the Summer School ‘Aspects of Hungarian History’.  The first day of the Summer School was devoted to familiarising students with Hungarian history; the development of Hungarian culture and society; and the ethnic cartography of Central Europe as well as encouraging them to evaluate the process of regime change in Hungary. During the first week, CRCEES language teacher Dr Zsuzsanna Varga (University of Glasgow) ran a series of lunchtime classes on basic Hungarian language ‘survival skills’ for all Summer School participants.

Seminars & Master Classes

Seminars and master classes by invited policy-makers, leading Hungarian social scientists and business leaders were held in a variety of settings. Most of the seminars/masterclasses were concentrated in the first week of the Summer School in Budapest where the following themes were addressed: regime change; gender issues; demographic trends and social insurance; welfare system and socials costs; transitional justice; state-building; energy policy; corruption; and nationalism and ethnic minorities.

During the second week in Győr the main theme was regional policy including regional regeneration and business innovation and the seminars given included case studies of the regeneration of the Győr-Moson-Sopron county. The students were given a guided tour of the Audi Factory, located in Győr, which is Hungary’s largest exporter. The factory was established in 1994 and now produces over 90 percent of Audi engines, employs over 5,000 people in Győr and has been one of the main factors in the regional regeneration of the county along with the Széchenyi István University and other international companies such as Phillips.

All of these activities fostered an understanding of how social science research can contribute to policy-making and the impact that such research may have on society. They have served to raise researchers’ awareness of the role of business and the impact it can have on improving social capital and contributing to regional development.

Award of Honorary Professorship to CRCEES Director, Professor Richard Berry

At the opening session in Győr on 5th July, Professor Richard Berry, Director of CRCEES, was awarded an honorary Professorship by the Széchenyi István University of Győr.  In 2006 Professor Berry was made an Officer of the Hungarian Republic (OBE). Both awards are recognition of Professor Berry’s "outstanding contribution to the promotion of Hungarian language, culture and society".

Cultural Activities

Dr Eamonn Butler guided the students on the 1956 walking tourof Budapest looking in particular at the many monuments which have been erected to commemorate the 1956 uprising of the Hungarian people against the communist regime. Among the many sites visited were the Imre Nagy memorial and the Hungarian Parliament where the first shots of the revolution were fired. The latter is also the site of the eternal

flame for the 1956 revolution commemorating all those who fought and lost their lives.

Students were given a guided tour of the House of Terror museum in Budapest. In 1944 it was the party headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis and between 1945-56, it was the headquarters of the much hated and much feared Hungarian Secret Police (the ÁVO, later known as ÁVH). Many hundreds of people were tortured and murdered here first by the Nazis and later by the communists. Now it stands a memorial to all victims of terror. 

At the end of the first week in Budapest a guided tour of one of the city’s largest attractions, Memento Park (which includes Statue Park and Witness Square), was organised. Over forty communist statutes which had previously occupied prestigious positions in Budapest’s main squares and boulevards were removed from the city after 1989 and placed in the Statute Park. As well as statutes of Lenin, Marx and Engels there are statutes representing the ‘worker heroes’. Students were also shown the adjacent Witness Square with the empty plinth which had previously contained a massive statute of Stalin. This statute was destroyed during the Hungary revolution and all that remained on the plinth were Stalin’s boots. The students also viewed an exhibition called ‘“Stalin’s Boots”: The myth of people’s longing for freedom’ and watched a special documentary about the Hungarian secret service during the Kádár regime entitled ‘The Life of an Agent’.

All of the above cultural activities were not only intended to teach the students about Hungarian political and social life under communism but were also aimed at encouraging the students to think about how Hungary or other central and eastern European states engaged with memory and representing the past in a public capacity.

Pannonhalma Monastery

The 1000-year old Pannonhalma Monastery, located outside the city of Győr, was founded in 996 and was a centre of medieval European culture visited frequently by Saint Stephen (1000-1038), the first Hungarian king. The Benedictine monks who occupied the Monastery revived the viticulture developed by the Romans. Pannonhalma had its own winery until it was confiscated by the Communist government after 1945. After the collapse of communism the monks resumed this tradition when on a 2000 square metre plot they built a new cellar and a wine-house in which they have been processing wines since the autumn of 2003. The students were given a guided tour of the Monastery which included visiting the 13th Century Basilica, the Chapel of Our Lady (dating from the 18th century) as well as the impressive library. This was followed by a tour of the Monastery’s winery which included instruction on the wine-making technology and an opportunity to taste the wines under professional guidance.

The trip to the Pannonhalma Monastery was more than an introduction to another aspect of Hungarian history and culture. It was also a very practical example of business innovation and regional regeneration. Student learned how money from the European Union was used to help establish the winery in 2003 allowing them to invest in the latest wine-making technology. The winery now has an international reputation in quality wines and produces more than 300.000 bottles of quality wine annually. Furthermore, the Pannonhalma Monastery has become a major centre of tourism contributing further to the regional regeneration of the surrounding area of north-eastern Hungary.

Design of Group-based Research Projects

The overarching focus upon research methodology and developing research skills was evidenced by the design of group-based research projects during the second week of the Summer School. The students were divided into 3 groups and asked to prepare a short presentation based on their allocated topic. The group work was supervised by CRCEES staff and students were instructed that their presentations should contain a brief background to the topic (basic literature review, key themes etc), a hypothesis and a proposal for how they would carry out a small scale project based on the identified research question/s. Students were also encouraged to carry out some small element of research if possible (i.e. observation exercise, interview, etc.) Student groups were also advised to consider lectures, trips and tours that they had participated in throughout the summer school for their presentation. The purpose of the task was to engage the student with the process of research design in the field.

On the final day of the Summer School each group presented their research proposal which incorporated an in-depth discussion of the research aims, existing literature on the topic and research methodology. Students obtained feedback from their peers and the assembled teaching staff. The student groups designed research projects around the following topics:

Group 1: Memory/History: How has Hungary or other central and eastern European states engaged with memory and representing the past in a public capacity. Use lectures, trip to House of Terror/Statue Park/1956 Walking Tour.

Group 2: Social Vulnerability/Winners and Losers of Transition: Use various lectures and general observations of time in Budapest and Győr as well as own knowledge.

Group 3: Regional Development/Foreign Direct Investment: Use trips to Audi Factory and lectures as well as observations of Győr.

Social Activities

The intensive research programme was balanced by building in space for social activities to encourage the students to form new friendships and new research contacts such as a walking tour and a bike ride around the medieval town of Győr.  CRCEES funded several dinners for the students including an opening Summer School dinner in Budapest and a dinner in the Pannonhalma Monastery (including a wine-tasting session in the Monastery), and a closing dinner in Györ. All participants clearly enjoyed these activities. A CRCEES 4th Summer School page on Facebook will be set up to allow the students to keep in contact with each other.

Feedback from Students

Feedback Questionnaires were distributed to all the Summer School participants and the feedback was extremely positive.  The overwhelming majority of participants agreed that the Summer School was intellectually stimulating and had a coherent and effective overall structure. All documentation and handouts were deemed to be of a high standard and to provide relevant information. Summer School tutors/lecturers were particularly commended for their enthusiasm and ability to make the subject interesting. There was an overwhelming consensus among the students that the Summer School had considerably contributed to their personal development in term of enabling them to present themselves with confidence; improvement of communication skills; and making them feel more confident when tackling unfamiliar problems.

First published: 24 August 2010