History of the Institute

History of the Institute

The Institute of Psychology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Szeged is the successor institution of the oldest organized psychological institute in Hungary, the Institute of Pedagogical Psychology established by Prof. Dezső Hildebrand Várkonyi in 1929. The turbulent history of the past decades is presented in details in our book issued on the 80th anniversary of the foundation, bearing the title ’The History of the 80 Years of Psychology at the University of Szeged – 1929-2009’ (edited by Ágnes Szokolszky, Márta Pataki and Kamilla Polyák; Szeged University Press, 2009). The book is available at the Institute’s office.

History of the Institute in a nutshell

The predecessor of the University of Szeged is the University of Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca, Romania) founded by King Francis Joseph I. Following Hungary’s defeat in the first world war, the Romanian army entered Cluj on the 24th December 1918, hence the Hungarian university of Kolozsvár had to leave its founding city. The National Assembly of Hungary appointed Szeged in 1921 as the new seat of the university.

First in the country, in 1929, the Institute of Pedagogical Psychology was established at the University of Szeged. Dezső Hildebrand Várkonyi was appointed as head of the Institute. Várkonyi (1888-1972) was a Benedictine priest, philosopher, psychologist and pedagogue in one person. One can speak about a unique-faced school of psychology at the Szeged university since his appointment, with a strong focus on learning in childhood, developmental and educational psychology. Várkonyi spent one year in 1928-29 at Sorbonne with a state scholarship program. As a scientist with excellent knowledge of the findings of contemporary psychology, he popularized the most up-to-date psychological trends (Piaget, Janet, Freud, Jung and Adler) in Hungary, and particularly in Szeged. Várkonyi educated a line of students and followers. During his career, among others, he was the co-president of the Hungarian Psychological Association, vice-president of the Hungarian Philosophical Society and the Hungarian Pedagogical Society.

In Szeged, the Institute of Pedagogical Psychology was joined with the Institute of Pedagogy in 1934. Following the Second Vienna Award, Northern Transylvania was returned to Hungary, the Francis Joseph University was relocated in Kolozsvár/Cluj. Vast majority of the professors left Szeged; Várkonyi Hildebrand also returned to Kolozsvár. The part of the university which remained in Szeged was reorganized. As a result, the Institute of Psychology as an independent unit was established in 1941, with the leadership of Cecil Bognár (1883-1967), a Benedictine priest and educator, well-known in Hungarian scientific circles. From 1931, he was the head of the Department of Child Psychology at the Hungarian Association for Child Studies.

During the academic year 1950-51, following the forced retirement of Cecil Bognár, the Institute of Psychology was melted into the Institute of Pedagogy and Psychology. The role of psychology, as a ‘bourgeois science’ was narrowed in the 1950s; it was taught in teacher training in two hours per week, and only courses in general psychology were allowed.

The Department of Psychology once again became independent in 1970, as part of the Pedagogy and Psychology Workgroup. Its activities were limited basically to the education of psychology-related subjects in teacher training. Researches carried out at the department were, in accordance with its teacher-training profile, mostly extended to topics in educational psychology. During the first years of the 1990s, departments were reorganized into institutes at the Faculty of Arts of the then-Attila József University; as a result, pedagogy and psychology were once again restructured into a single organizational unit.

At the same time, preparations of establishing the Psychology major started in the early 1990s. The program started in the academic year 1996-97, initially as a correspondence training of the Lajos Kossuth University of Debrecen. Grounds for an independent Psychology major were created in three years; the 1st of September 1999 marked the beginning of a new and independent training of psychologists in Szeged. In July 2007, a newly established, autonomous Institute of Psychology was founded at the Faculty of Arts, University of Szeged. In 2012, three departments were formed within the framework of the new Institute: the Department of Cognitive and Neuropsychology, the Department for Developmental and Social Psychology and the Department of Personality, Health and Clinical Psychology.