The Doctoral Program in Medievistics
The past of the program
As the first program of the doctoral training in historical sciences, the Medievistic PhD program has been operating since 1994 at the Faculty of Humanities of the Szeged University. Its founder was one of the most versatile, outstanding scholar of Hungarian medievalistics in the second half of the 20th century, Gyula Kristó, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His ouvre and heritage had a major impact on the baselines, training directions and research methods of doctoral studies in the Middle Ages. His disciples and close associates have participated in the doctoral training from the beginnings.
Certain characteristic features of this medievistic program can be mentioned: disciplinary complexity and discipline diversity in training. It means, that besides historical sciences in the narrower sense a lot of other sciences have an important role in the training: Byzantine, Oriental, Slavic studies, linguistics, archeology, Church and educational/cultural history and historical auxiliary sciences (first of all diplomatics). The highly qualified internal and external staff with varied professional orientation, with rich research experience is able to maintain the thematic diversity and to represent the variety of scientific approaches, methods.
Due to this fact the competence of the professional team of the medievalistic program covers a wide range of research from the early Middle Ages till the turn of the 15-16th centuries in time, and spatially embraces large areas from Inner Asia, across the Eastern European Steppe to the farthest regions of the Mediterranean and Europe. Besides these specialties the most relevant feature of the medieval research workhop of Szeged and of the medievalist doctoral training is the source-based research; the critical management and analysis of historical sources, concerning either the material or the spiritual heritage of the Middle Ages.
The Medieval Studies Program, which functioned solely in its field for years in Hungary, has retained its openness to receive young scholars, who finished their studies at other universities. During its two decades’ long activity the Medieval Studies Program have received talented students from all Hungarian universities, and its graduates, who in some cases returned to their original institutions, are already successful lecturers at their universities, while others are contributors to teaching at the Medieval Studies Program. Reviewing the list of our graduates it is clear that most of them are highly-evaluated members of the society of scholars of history. The natural community of scholars graduated in Szeged provide an important forum of scholarly discussions on history.
The Medieval Studies Program lays significant emphasis on the possible employment and scholarly management of young scholars at the beginning of their career. By the careful use of our scarce resources and by the support of applications, the program pays close attention to providing young scholars with opportunities to participate in studies and conferences abroad, to publish the results of their research, and to contribute to major research projects. The transparency of scholarly achievement has been served by a 20 year old series of conferences. It predominantly serves as a nationwide means of evaluation for scholarly achievement, which is held biennually and the contributors are present and former PhD students of the program. The text of lectures are monitored by experienced scholars before they are included in our series titled ’Középkortörténeti tanulmányok’ (Studies on Medieval History), in which series so far 10 volumes have been published, and the 11th volume, which will contain the lectures of the conference held in the spring of 2019 is under preparation.
The present of the program
As far as the Mediavistic Program is concerned, a quarter of a century of operation is manifestly long enough for changes in the staff, the regulation system, the external environment and operating conditions to generate fluctuating shockwaves that emerge as upturns and downturns in the historical sequence of periods. It is doubtless that the exceptional and unrecoverable period in the history of mediavistic education 15-20 years ago marked by the names of professors such as Gyula Kristó, Ferenc Makk, László Blazovich, Samu Szádeczky-Kardoss, Terézia Olajos, Imre H. Tóth reached its height at that time. Unfortunately, the premature death of Professor László Koszta has further increased the losses. However, the intellectual legacy of these renowned scholars lives on in the doctoral program; their projects, scientific activities, workshops have numerous followers in Szeged in our days. It is possible to state that the Mediavistic Doctoral Program has its broad foundations at the Faculty of Humanities, Szeged University at present. All these are expressed in the wealth of well-managed research avenues, areas of expertise, lists of available research topics, including, without aiming to give an exhaustive list: the classic Hungarian and universal mediavistic science in a wide variety of sectoral dimensions; archeology during the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin and in the Middle Ages; the early history of Hungary and the steppe, Byzantiology, Turkology, Middle-Latin philology, diplomatics, Hungarian church history, medieval local, urban and institutional history. Regarding the organizational structure of the doctoral program, the on-going cooperation of the four departments of the Historical Institute (Department of Medieval and Early Modern Hungarian History, Department of Medieval Universal History, Department of Archeology, Department of Historical Auxiliary Sciences) facilitates the operation of the education program and occasionally acts as an instrument to mobilize further collaborative organizational bodies, such as the Department of Altisistics, Academic and OTKA (National Scientific Research Basic Programs) research groups. The departments and research teams in the doctoral program provide a hub for the highly qualified workforce whose qualification rate reaches 100%. Several of these co-workers have obtained their scientific degrees in this doctoral program. Therefore they are strongly committed to maintaining the effective operation of the program and the cooperation. It is easy to find suitable and qualified experts to give diploma courses or work as consultants. Due to professional projects implemented by academic governance/partnership and more active participation of external competent bodies, the doctoral program will surely have the support of qualified external staff that involves the researchers of mediavistic studies, employed mostly by archives and museums in the region. Many of them regularly participate in the implementation of tasks related to the operation of the program. Their good relation with their institutions is highly essential for PhD holders and doctoral candidates regarding their professional career and perspectives.
The possibility to get involved in real-life scientific undertakings, start-ups, research projects, professional tasks exists for the students of the Mediavistic Doctoral Program. On the other hand, these scientific activities in the institute regard the doctoral program as a workshop to provide professional workforce supply and expect the most talented doctoral candidates to engage in the implementation of the professional tasks. Regarding the fact that several significant professional projects, research tasks and series of publications are linked to the departments and senior tutors responsible for the maintenance of the doctoral program, the possibilities of doctoral students of the very highest calibre comprise the completion of their doctoral studies as a product of a nationally or internationally well-renowned professional company and the publication of their related research papers. In this context, the following are to be mentioned as real-life research projects or series of publications: Anjou-kori Oklevéltár (Diplomatics from the Anjou-era), Magyar Őstörténeti Könyvtár (Hungarian Prehistory Library) Szegedi Középkortörténeti Könyvtár (Mediavistic Historical Library) and Capitulum the Dolgozatok. When, concerning the series mentioned above, some former students of the doctoral program publish their professional findings, the papers reflect the success of expert-supply in Szeged, the transparency of work in the doctoral program and enable the candidates to achieve top scientific performance. Last but not least, their professional outcomes represent the motivation inherent in the doctoral school that is the driver of publication activity through well-established media.
The training program of the doctoral school can be of interest primarily for MSc students and graduates, but its doors are occasionally open for students of other related areas of science (classical philology, Altisistics, cultural heritage, etc.). The competition (entrance exam) has three parts. The applicants are expected to give a presentation of one of their earlier scientific results (scientific work) – their theses, Scientific Student Circle research work, edited professional publication – and to describe their ideas, research plans related to their doctoral research (starting-point, problematics, issues for scientific discussion, research methodology to be followed, expected and foreseeable results, the significance of the topic) and finally, they have to demonstrate their comprehension of a short – typically Latin source text.
During the last 25 years has been passed since the starting of the systematic training of the doctoral school, the education was based on six training systems. Initially, the curriculum was credit-free. In the early 2000s, it was replaced by a workable credit system for over a decade. In the early 2010s, two essential circumstances led to the development of new training programs. On the one hand, the number of doctoral students with a basic qualification in archaeology started to increase, as a result of which the program expanded the courses of archaeological knowledge content by organising a separate educational path for those who had an archaeological qualification. In 2016, as a result of the nationwide reorganisation of the structure of doctoral training, i.e. the establishment of a 2 + 2 years training program, the Program of Medieval History renewed its curriculum in both Hungarian and English according to the requirements of the new curriculum. Accordingly, our training today is for 2 + 2 years, with the first half of the classroom training, while the second phase is initially intended for the dissertation. The broad range of courses has maintained the duality for both historians and archaeologists to find such courses which were well-suited to their pre-qualification and to assist with all of them in their research and doctoral dissertation. The training aims to provide the broadest range of professional assistance available for writing a doctoral thesis, as well as to adequately prepare the applicants for the doctoral degree. Furthermore, an emphasised effort of the program is to assist the education of the new generation of scholars by the transfer of a diverse, thorough and profound professional knowledge, besides, making an extensive national and international network available.
In the doctoral program, following the regulations of the university, faculty and the Doctoral School of History, it is still possible to earn a degree as an individual. Initially, many applied to defend their theses in this way, but nowadays, such degrees have become scarce. Those who have prepared their dissertations individually were basically from a university background, from a group of colleagues working on medieval research. In some cases, colleagues from other research institutes applied for the program. It can still be said that the opportunity for individual preparation is primarily provided to colleagues who have been working in the profession for several years and who have already proved to have a significant scientific and publishing activity, and who are unable to apply for full-time education as a result of their work in universities, museums or other research institutes. They can prove their abilities to obtain a degree with the results of their professional practice. On the recommendation of the program manager, the program board and the council of the Doctoral School of History decide on the acquisition of special preparation status. These individuals are exempted from completing the first two years of the training, and the path to the degree is opened to them by taking the complex exam immediately upon application. They must also complete the second two-year phase of their dissertation from their doctoral training. All other terms and conditions of the individually prepared students are precisely in line with the rules for obtaining a PhD (Additional rules for individually prepared students can be found under the link “Felvételi Információk [Application Information]”.)
During the 25 years of the Medieval Studies Doctoral Program, while its operating environment, framework, curriculum, funding, staffing, attractiveness and perspectives have been continually changing and regularly modifying, it has consistently insisted, to the high standards of defended dissertations. If someone looks through the list of theses deserving PhD degree, one can see that the dissertations in this program were written about important topics, and the vast majority of them enrich the field of science with widely used and expected enduring results. There are quite a few medievalists educated and graduated in our school, who nowadays are considered well-known and highly quoted researchers. Although it is unfair to heighten names subjectively, to prove and testify the previous statement one should mention a couple of names: Gábor Thoroczkay, Ferenc Piti, Boglárka Weisz, Gergely Kiss, Tamás Fedeles, Tamás Nótári, Attila Türk and Tibor Szőcs. It is related to the high-quality demand that leading researchers, academics, professors and occasionally eminent foreign scientists are involved in the work of the defence committees from the beginning, without any reservations. The program sees an appropriate confirmation of the high expectation of quality in the previous accreditation process in 2014, which states that theses defended in our program are of outstanding quality. These achievements, and the respectable and appreciated efforts of those scholars previously engaged in the program oblige educators and researchers currently working in the field of medieval studies to continue insisting on the high quality of dissertations submitted to the Medieval Studies Program.