A man with a vision

A man with a vision

The ceremony of granting the SGH diploma of doctor honoris causa to professor Frans Willekens.

Professor Frans Willekens is a man with a vision, an outstanding scientist and a thinker, who has contributed to a fundamental change in demography as a scientific discipline through the development of methods of analysis and a reorientation of the research perspective - it was underlined in laudations in honour of the new SGH doctor honoris causa.

- By awarding the title of doctor honoris causa to Professor Frans Willekens, the rector, the senate and the university community express their deep appreciation for his scientific achievements and a lasting contribution to the development and strengthening of demography in Europe - said prof. Irena E. Kotowska from the SGH Institute of Statistics and Demography in her laudation. Professor Kotowska emphasised that granting the title is a fulfilment of the decision made jointly with the late Rector of SGH Warsaw School of Economics prof. Janina Jóźwiak, the director of the Institute of Statistics and Demography in the years 1999–2016, to honour the merits of Professor Willekens for the development of demography, integration of the European researchers' environment and support of the Institute's efforts undertaken to  develop population surveys in Poland.

The Senate of SGH Warsaw School of Economics adopted a resolution to confer prof. Willekensowi the title of doctor honoris causa on March 28 this year. The Doctorate awarding ceremony took place on May 23. The rector of SGH Warsaw School of Economics, prof. Marek Rocki and the university senate took part in it and the ceremony was graced by the performance of the SGH Choir.

Frans Willekens is a retired professor at the University of Gronningen, where he created the Population Research Centre - a population research unit offering an international demography education programme at master and doctoral levels. Prof. Willekens established contacts with Polish demographers in the 1980s. Professor Jerzy Z. Holzer actively participated in the creation of the European Association for Population Studies (EAPS) in 1983, while the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) in The Hague offered scholarships for young demographers for scientific stays. Direct ISiD contacts with prof. Willekens were strengthened thanks to his stays as a lecturer under the ‘International Training Workshop on the Use of Population Projections for Socio-Economic Planning’ organised several times by ISiD - a United Nations Fund for Population Activities programme addressed to participants from developing countries. Professor Willekens was not only interested in research conducted at IsiD providing advice in scientific dilemmas but he also kindly supported the presence of Polish demographers in the international environment.

- An economist, sociologist and agricultural engineer by education, Professor Frans Willekens belongs to a close group of scientists who have significantly shaped demographics and population surveys over the last 50 years - says prof. Marek Kupiszewski, head of the Central European Forum for Migration and Population Research at the Institute of Geography and Spatial Organisation of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a reviewer of the scientific achievements of the candidate for the title of doctor honoris causa. - He is an outstanding researcher dealing with internal and international migration, especially migration measurement.

Main interest areas of Professor Willekens relate to demographic modelling and forecasting, including multi-state models of population dynamics and analysis of event history, simulation models, research dealing with international migration, as well as the re-conceptualisation of demography as a science of population processes. He was one of the proponents of using the life-course perspective in the study of population processes in order to understand demographic processes.

- We owe a fundamental change in the education of demographers in Europe to Professor Willekens - emphasised prof. Kotowska. - For many years (2003–2016) he managed the work of the Committee on Education as part of the European Association of Population Studies, which dealt with the standards of educating specialists in demography at the master and doctoral levels in Europe. He initiated the creation of the European Doctoral School of Demography in 2005 and he heads its scientific council. As prof. Kotowska stressed, professor trains young researchers in the aforementioned field outside Europe as well: he conducts international courses under the auspices of UNFPA, IIASA and JOM. He is the promoter of 39 doctoral dissertations, and his students are at the forefront of European researchers.

- I accept this honour with the greatest gratitude and humility - said prof. Willekens. - I am grateful to his magnificence, rector Rocki, the Senate of SGH Warsaw School of Economics and the reviewers. I would also like to express special thanks to Professor Irena Kotowska and colleagues from the Institute of Statistics and Demography for the initiative, enthusiasm and hard work on implementing the indicated idea. I am particularly happy because this event is related to the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Institute of Statistics and Demography. [...] We live in exciting times for demography - stated the new SGH doctor honoris causa in his lecture. – The interest in the research perspective defined as population thinking is greater than ever before. It breaks down barriers within social sciences and life sciences and barriers between them. The challenge is to implement the aforementioned research perspective in the evaluation of real processes. Demographers are in a good position to meet the challenge.