Mission and History

History of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University in Bratislava up to 2009

1. Establishment and the First Years of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University in Bratislava (1921-1938)

On 27 June 1919, Czechoslovak State University in Bratislava was established along with the Faculty of Law by adopting Act No. 375/1919 Coll. and this was presented by the legislator in the following way: 

"With the approval of the National Czechoslovak Assembly, it is ordered that: Section 1

The Czechoslovak State University shall be established in Bratislava consisting of four faculties: Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Faculty of Arts replacing the former Hungarian University....".

On 11 November 1919, the Faculty became the Faculty of Law at Comenius University by passing the Decree of Government No. 595/1919 Coll.

On 20 May 1921, the teaching staff was appointed which subsequently swore an oath into the hands of the Minister of Education on 4 June 1921.

On 11 August 1921, the Decree of Government No. 276/1921 Coll. stipulated that the first academic year at the Faculty of Law would commence in the winter semester of 1921/1922.

The inception of the Faculty of Law, representing a scientific and pedagogical institution as well as the community of undergraduates and professors, dates to 24 October 1921, when the first lectures were delivered at the Faculty of Law in Kapitulská Street in Bratislava in the academic year 1921/1922.

Establishing the Faculty of Law at Comenius University in Bratislava was a very significant social event since there was no institution providing legal education in Slovakia at that time, even though the Faculty of Law at Hungarian Elizabethan University had been previously established in 1914 but this faculty ceased to fulfil its mission shortly after the formation of the Czechoslovakia. The first years of the existence of the faculty were not easy.

There were not enough legal experts in Slovakia who were needed both in legal practice as well as in the academic sphere. Despite these unfavourable circumstances, we have to highlight several personalities who were actively engaged in the formation of the Slovak legal community in a new state: Augustín Ráth, Vladimír Fajnor, Emil Stodola, Adolf Záturecký, Ivan Dérer, Janko Jesenský, Milan Hodža, Juraj Slávik, Ján Rumann.

The establishing generation was also comprised of the Czech lawyers and Czech professors. The Faculty of Law in Bratislava would not have been able to fulfill its mission if it had not been for these personalities; moreover, they made up a majority of the teaching staff at the faculty in the first twenty years of its existence. The history of faculty is inevitably connected with its first six professors: Augustín Ráth, Karel Laštovka, Otakar Sommer, Jan Vážný, Bohuš Tomsa a Emil Svoboda. On 4 June 1921, on the day of swearing an oath into the hands of Šusta, the Minister of Education, at the founding session in Prague, this teaching staff elected the first dean – Professor Ráth, and the vice dean – Professor Laštovka. Whereas Professor Ráth was elected the rector of Comenius University on 22 June 1922, Professor Laštovka became the dean. Richard Horn, the seventh appointed professor, joined the teaching staff on 30 September 1922.

The study was divided into two sections: 1st section represented the history and law section (Roman Law, Canon Law, History of Public and Private Law in Central Europe, History of Law in the Czechoslovakia, Philosophy), 2nd section represented the positive law section (Czechoslovak Private Law, Czechoslovak Commercial Law and Law of Bills of Exchange, Czechoslovak Civil Procedure, Czechoslovak Criminal Substantive Law and Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law, Czechoslovak Administrative Law, National Economics and National and Economic Politics, Financial Science, Philosophy, History of Legal Philosophy and Statistics). There were also optional lectures delivered within the second section focused on: Introduction to Legal and State Sciences, Czechoslovak Mining Law, International Law, Forensic Medicine, State Accountancy, Legislation of Agriculture and Historical Development of Agricultural Conditions in the Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovak Financial Law and Comparative Jurisprudence.

The Faculty of Law had 199 students in the academic year 1921/1922. The number of students was gradually increasing in the following years until the academic year 1931/1932 when it culminated with the number of 1,186 students studying at the faculty. The number of awarded Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees was the highest in the academic year 1935/1936 when it reached the number of 139 after successfully completing the rigorous examination. The number of professors rose accordingly. While there were 6 professors teaching at the faculty in the academic year 1921/1922, there were 15 of them in the academic year 1936/1937.

Another very important event was the relocation of the Faculty of Law to a newly constructed building in Šafárikovo Square in 1936; the opening ceremony was held on 11 March 1937.

2. System of the Estates, Authoritarian System and the Academic Resistance (1938 – 1945)

Development of the faculty during the period of the Wartime Slovak Republic was influenced by Slovakization, strong deczechization, authoritative position of the State and by the effort to preserve university's autonomy, traditions established by its first professors and by academic resistance against the arbitrariness of the political regime. Development of some compulsory courses was adversely affected by the fact that the Czech professors were leaving the Faculty (1938-1939). Legal status of the university was significantly changed after the adoption of Constitutional Act of the Slovak Republic No. 185/1939 Coll. and Act No. 168/1940 Coll. on Slovak University in Bratislava. Comenius University was renamed Slovak University.

The entire study structure practically remained unchanged and the same as prior to the year 1938. The novelty lay in the fact that the study was divided into three sections and it was extended into nine semesters. Marginal and interdisciplinary courses were introduced which, along with other changes (e.g. increase in the number of lectures in case of compulsory as well as elective courses), strengthened the complexity of study. There were 12 professors in the period of 1939-1945 and nine associate professors who had been awarded this degree.

3. Short Period of Post-War Restoration (1945 – 1948)

The Slovak National Council perceived the restored republic as a state comprised of two nations – the Czechs and the Slovaks - in which it strived for federalization. At the beginning of academic year in 1945, the legal rules on study transposed from the Slovak State were applied at Slovak University as well as the Czechoslovak reformed principles dating to the first Czechoslovak Republic. The study programme remained practically unchanged; it was only supplemented with some courses, such as Legal Sociology, Business Economics, Political Theory, Legal System of the USSR and others.

According to the Decree of the Slovak National Council No. 44/1945 Coll., and the Decree of the Slovak National Council No. 99/1945 Coll., the teachers at the Faculty were subject to the State and national reliability review. Altogether, 7 professors and 5 associate professors were qualified as reliable. Five professors qualified as unreliable.

4. Ideologisation of the Faculty (1948 – 1966)

Upon the adoption of the Constitution of 9 May 1948, a new type of faculty with legal status of a state organization was created having no university autonomy (e.g. universities lost the following vital powers: to elect the academic officials, to present professor or associate professor nominations, to present legally relevant proposals for publishing syllabuses and study programmes and others).

The departments started to represent new and elementary units of pedagogical and scholarly work organization and thus replaced the seminars (or institutes). Students were divided into study groups; social sciences were taught and Marxism-Leninism examination was a compulsory one. The division of the study of law into three sections and the state exams were abandoned; the number of check exams and partial exams increased, the aggregate exams were introduced and the teaching emphasized primarily the education of ideology. The study programme was constantly modified in the given period depending on resolutions rendered by the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party.

By 1966, 13 departments were gradually formed at the faculty: Department of Theory of State and Theory of Law, Department of History of State and History of Law, Department of State Law, Department of Civil Law, Family Law and Civil Procedure, Department of Economic Law, Department of Criminal Law, Department of Administrative Law and Financial Law, Department of Labour Law and Agricultural Cooperative Law, Department of International Law, Department of Languages, Department of Political Economy of CU Rector's Office, Marxism – Leninism Division.

Permanent care about the qualification development of the faculty teachers had a positive outcome. In 1965, the faculty was granted the right to award scientific degree of candidate of  legal sciences in all scientific branches and together with the Institute of State and Law of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, it was granted the right of doctoral and dissertation theses defense. The scientific and research activities started to develop at the faculty in 1958. The research was focused on State and departmental tasks. The scientific and research activities resulted, inter alia, into extensive publication activities, organization of and participation in a number of conferences, congresses and seminars. Several teachers also joined foreign scientific societies and legal institutions. Close relationships with other faculties of law (e.g. Faculty of Law of Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, Faculty of Law of T.G. Ševčenko in Kyjev, Faculty of Law of Jagiellonian University in Cracow) were also maintained.

5. Faculty under Socialist Democratization and Period of Its Consolidation (1966 – 1980)

Legal status of the faculty underwent two stages during this period – the first stage starting in 1969 when Act No. 19/1966 Coll. came into force, and the second stage starting once the amendment No. 163/1969 Coll. to Act on Higher Education came into force.

Act No. 19/1966 Coll. on Higher Education represented the climax of university development trends. It connected the state administration and management of universities with the autonomy of universities in a complementary and compatible way. This meant that the state administration was carried out by the minister, i.e. the minister managed universities by determining general rules based on which universities adopted their own specific statutes, plans, rules and programmes.

Universities were given a status of institutions which were fully funded from the state budget; moreover, they acquired the status of legal entities with the capacity to enter into employment law relationships and it was emphasized, in enshrining the fundamental attributes, that universities belong to the scientific and research base and that they create necessary prerequisites for a progressive economic, scientific and cultural development. The Faculty of Law was also involved in the codification of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic federation system.

After the plenary session of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party held in April 1969, the state management of the universities was restored as well as strengthened and this resulted into the adoption of Act No. 173/1969 Coll. which amended and supplemented Act No. 19/1966 Coll. on Higher Education. The amendment strengthened the area of central management of universities. It represented the statutory instrument for the consolidation of universities and thus for the consolidation of Faculty of Law, too, and its incorporation into the political system of ideology of "Real Socialism and Socialist Internationalism".

Study at the Faculty of Law lasted for five years until the academic year 1973/1974; and it lasted for four years from the academic year 1974/1975 (the changes introduced in the duration of the secondary study were reflected). However, the complete reorganization of study was terminated in 1977 even though the first graduates of the four-year study programme graduated in the academic year 1977/1978. The four-year study plan introduced the core courses and made a significant differentiation between these courses and the remaining ones. The number of lessons of the core courses was twice as high as in case of minor courses. The preparation of master thesis and its subsequent defence was abandoned (the final thesis graded by the course credit was introduced instead). The final state exam was taken in four courses and in Marxism-Leninism. According to the study rules, the main feature of the university study was the independence and continuity and the university was supposed to ensure these conditions by delivering lectures, organizing seminars, trainings, consultations, professional practice, and excursions and by other forms.

6. Culmination of the State and Party Reforms at the Faculty (1980 – 1989)

Act No. 39/1980 Coll. on Higher Education completed the process which was started after the adoption of the amendment to Act on Higher Education in 1969 and was further asserted in party's documents and directives in the 70s. The universities were incorporated into political and ideological system of "building a developed Socialist society" under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Czechoslovakia.

The Act also provided some new forms of study organization. Besides the daily study and external study, a full –time study in accordance with an individual study plan as well as an interdisciplinary study which could take place at several faculties or at more universities, were introduced. A student was regarded as being the student of that university where the student studied the main branch of study.

There were nine departments at the faculty (Department of History of State and History of Law, Department of Theory of State and Theory of Law, Department of State Law, Department of Administrative and Financial Law, Department of Economic Law and Sectoral Economies, Department of Labour Law and Agricultural Cooperatives Law, Department of Civil Law, Department of Criminal Law and Department of International Law and Politics) and university-wide departments (Military Department, Department of Languages, Department of Sport, Department of Military Training, Department of Marxism – Leninism).

7. 1989, Autonomous Faculty (1989 – 2002)

Act No. 172/1990 Coll. on Higher Education, effective as of 1 July 1990, introduced revolutionary measures from the legal perspective; moreover, it also introduced a revolutionary process of lawmaking. The Act defined universities as the supreme educational, scientific and cultural institutions. It stipulated that universities would be autonomous. The university autonomy arose out of the academic rights and freedoms; it was a manifestation and guarantee of freedom of scientific research and of publishing its outcomes, right to teach and right to learn, right to elect the academic autonomous bodies, right to different philosophical views and religious freedoms and right to spread them; moreover it was a manifestation of the inviolability of academic ground.

From 1990 – 1991, the bodies of the Faculty of Law adopted the basic regulation governing its autonomous status, activities of the faculty, its composition, rights and obligations of the academic community members. The Faculty of Law demonstrated to have satisfied the conditions imposed on it by the Accreditation Committee formed by the government of the SR.

The majority of teachers and students believed that the four-year study was wrong and therefore, it was almost unanimously held, that it would be extended to 10 semesters. Non-daily study was cancelled and a radical reform of the study plan was prepared. Study of law was divided into three sections and study in individual sections was completed by passing the state exams. The first A section was of a theoretical and historical nature, section B was of a state law nature and section C was of a judicial nature. During the studies within section C, a student was obliged to undertake judicial and attorney practice. Some of the regular study disciplines, such as Canon Law and Commercial Law, were reintroduced into the study programme; furthermore, new courses, such as Legal Informatics, Legal Systems around the World, Basics of Finances, Right to Intangible Assets, etc., were also introduced.

The situation regarding the number, qualification and age structure of teachers was developing in a complicated way. Several employees left the faculty in order to assume significant political, state and professional functions; other teachers started to practise as attorneys, in-house counsels or as sole traders. Despite this situation, the faculty managed to achieve all of its tasks assigned to it within the educational and scientific sphere under the new conditions of its existence.

There were 15 departments at the faculty (Department of History of State and History of Law, Department of Commercial, Financial and Economic Law, Department of International Law and Politics, Department of Civil Law, Department of Labour Law and Social Security Law, Department of Administrative Law, Department of State Law, Department of Criminal Law, Criminalistics and Criminology, Department of Theory of State and Theory of Law, Department of Comparative Jurisprudence, Department of Roman Law, Department of Legal Informatics, Department of Economic Sciences, Department of Legal Communication, Department of Sports) and the Institute of International Relations in the academic year 1996/1997. In order to ensure that scientific research could be conducted at the faculty, there were two new departments formed – Library of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University (1991) and Editorial Department of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University (1992). Based on the decision of the European Union rendered in 1991, the Faculty was awarded the Charter of Specialized Documentation Centre and in 1993 the Faculty was awarded the complete Charter and thus joined the worldwide network of almost 300 centres of this nature.

The number of students was constantly getting higher and higher from 1989. While in the academic year 1988/1989, there were approximately 700 students studying at the faculty, in the academic year 1995/1996, there were already 2.304 students enrolled at the faculty and 3.286 students were enrolled in the academic year 1995/1996. 

The credit system of study was later intended to be implemented at Comenius University but it was rejected when being voted about by the students at the Faculty of Law. However, even the Faculty of Law had to respond to these new incentives and from the academic year 2001/2002, it was ready to accept the credit system presented by students coming from different faculties and universities or by students going to universities where such credit system had already been implemented.

8. Faculty of Law in the Third Millennium (2002 – 2009)

The National Council of the Slovak Republic adopted Act No. 131/2002 Coll. on Higher Education which divided universities into three groups: public universities, state universities and private universities. The Faculty of Law became the public university and its legal status changed significantly. Pursuant to Section 2(1) of Act No. 131/2002 Coll. on Higher Education and on Amendments and Supplements to Certain Acts, the university was awarded the status of a legal entity as opposed to the previous legal regulation and this resulted into the fact that the faculty was no longer regarded as a legal subject. This change in the faculty's legal status had a significant effect on the faculty's activities since many decisions rendered at the faculty required a prior consent obtained from the Rector of Comenius University. Moreover, its authorization granted to the faculty's dean was also required. Section 23 of the above-mentioned Act stipulates the faculty's autonomous competence. Since 2002, new conditions have also been reflected in the faculty's basic documents – Statute of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University, Study Rules of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University, and Disciplinary Rules of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University, Scholarship Rules of the Faculty of Law at Comenius University, etc.

The credit system of study has been used at the faculty since the academic year 2003/2004 in all forms of study in the newly accredited study programmes. Since 2005, the range of elective courses and selective compulsory courses which are taught in a foreign language is constantly getting higher. These initiatives result into the preparation of a modified study programme in a foreign language. The aim of the preparation of such programme is, for the purposes of enhancing student mobility, to attract foreign students to the Faculty of Law.

The evaluation of teachers and pedagogical process by students in form of a questionnaire survey is held at the faculty annually. In terms of the pedagogical process concerning the daily study, the decrease of the number of students in seminar groups (maximum of 20 – 25 students) had a positive effect.

In terms of student and teacher mobility and concerning the Europeanisation and internalization of the study at the faculty, there are ever more courses taught in foreign languages and in addition to this, bilateral and multilateral agreements were concluded by the faculty and it was involved and still is getting involved in a number of programmes, such as LLP/Erasmus, Cambridge Diploma in English and European Union Law, European Master Programme in Human Rights and Democratization, Moot Court Competition, Austria – Slovakia Programme, lectures delivered by foreign guests, etc.

As for the scientific and research area regarding the Ph.D. studies, habilitation procedure and professor appointments, the goal of the faculty was to achieve that each branch of study at the faculty would be guaranteed by at least one full professor. Perhaps, the first step taken to achieve this goal was the increase in the number of students in the Ph.D. studies, which was five times as high in 2009 as it was at the beginning of the third millennium. As for other activities concerning the science and research, the Faculty of Law took part in grant projects (KEGA, VEGA, APVV, Jean Monet Modul, Jean Monet Research and Study, IT, Alexander Dubček, E.MA, European Commission, Comenius University, ESF, MFA of SR etc.).

There were (by February 2015) 11 departments at the Faculty: Department of Legal History, Department of Theory of Law and Social Sciences, Department of Constitutional Law, Department of Administrative Law and Environmental Law, Department of Commercial Law, Financial Law and Economic Law, Department of Civil Law, Department of Labour Law and Social Security Law, Department of Criminal Law, Criminology and Criminalistics, Department of International Law and European Law, Department of Legal Communication, Department of Physical Education and Sport, Department of Economic Sciences and IT Law and Communication Technology Law and Institute of International Relations and Comparative Jurisprudence.

Library resources which represent almost 100 thousand items, books and reprographic services, longer working hours and reconstructed library premises formed a great basis for learning and contributed to scientific activities at the faculty. Despite the competition faced nationally and abroad as well as a very bad financial situation, we can state that the Faculty of Law fulfilled its tasks. We are happy to say that national and foreign contacts and results of work gained in individual areas of its activities contributed to the fact that the Faculty of Law can be regarded as a modern and stable educational institution.