Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
Fewer applicants, fewer admissions and therefore scarcer study programmes this year, but the number of Lithuania’s high schools – colleges and universities- remains at a record-high number, 47.
Although some of them are languishing and their graduates queue up at local labour exchanges after finishing them, the situation, however, does not deter many wannabe lawyers, engineers and beauty specialists from pursuing a high school diploma.
This summer, Lithuanian colleges and universities have received 29,766 applications, compared to 33,198 last year.
Out of the number, nearly 25,000 young persons have been invited by the country’s Association of High Schools for General Admission Organizing (LAMA BPO) to pursue the dream, but the association says admission numbers are on decline. Last year, they stood at three percent higher.
Out of the admitted, 14,146 new students have secured study stipends in state-supported study programmes. The number was three percent higher last year, at 14,516.
The largest drop in the new student admissions this year is observed in studies that are not supported by state- from 12,443 students in 2015 down 14 percent to 10,685 students this year.
Among the degree programmes that received the biggest attention this year was IT programming at Kaunas University of Technology, which invited 403 students for the specialty. The runner-up on the list is medicine at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences with 308 freshmen set to start a new life. Then goes law at Vilnius University which admitted 246 students and economy at the same Alma Mater with 214 freshmen waiting September 1.
Among the country’s colleges No1 according the popularity is Kaunas Technical College which specialty of auto technical exploitation on top, notching up 186 new students. A little behind in the popularity was specialty of general nursing at Vilnius College which saw 171 new students.
But characteristically to the year’s admission, out of 837 degree programmes offered, a whopping 82 have not garnered very little or zero attention from high education seekers. As a result, they were cancelled and their future remains dim.
«The fact that a tenth of the programmes have been ignored shows that their supply in Lithuania is too big. The schools should be more flexible,» Pranas Žiliukas, the LAMA BPO president, told Lithuanian media.
In his words, the same degree programme can sometimes attract more attention in one university but lack popularity in another.
Although Lithuania has been plagued by one of the largest emigration in the European Union and therefore the shrink of population, but the percentage of young people seeking high school admissions stays the same and is proportional to the population.
«To say that a lot of the young people nowadays opt for studies abroad than in Lithuania would not be quite right,» the president said.
Interestingly, the popularity of social sciences is waning, he notes, and the attractiveness of IT and natural sciences is rising.
Education experts attribute the trend to the fact that IT adepts are on high demand throughout the industries and that a large army of social science graduates struggle to find a suitable job after the graduation.
When it comes to particular universities, Mykolas Romeris University, for example, sees falling popularity in its educational sciences and the school therefore was forced to shut down some of the unpopular programmes.
«For example, we fail to fill up slots for sociology studies for several subsequent years. This year has not been an exception to the rule. We will have to take it off from the curriculum,» Saulius Bugailiškis, the LAMA BPO secretary in charge and a head of a department at the University, says.
In his words, the University intends to scrap all the programmes that fail to attract 15 students at least.
«Law lets us run them with at least eight students in a single group, but it does not pay off,» the educator says.
Addressing the shortage of students, Mykolas Romeris University cut eight degree programmes, as many as Klaipeda University. Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences University and Siauliai University shut down six study programmes each.
Among the discarded specialties are sustainable farming, innovative farming management and village expansion management at Aleksandras Stulginskis University, environment engineering, sport dances (?), puppet and theatrical decoration directing (?) at Klaipėda University.
That some of the programmes fail to get the students’ attention is a «signal» that the University has to get rid of them for good.
«Their unattractiveness stems from several reasons. First, some of the programmes are rather related. For example, specialty of choreography has pushed out the programme of sport dances at our university. Second, the state policies when certain study programmes are put above the others plays a role, too,» Kęstutis Dučinskas, vice-rector of Klaipėda University, told local media.
Meanwhile, thousands of high school graduates unable to find a job they want lined up at labour exchange for unemployment benefits. But the harsh reality is that the skills they have obtained can be little, if at all, used by the employers.
By the end of July, around 3,000 high school graduates have lodged in their papers to claim the allowance.
Labour exchange specialists say that graduates with the degrees in social work, public administration, and economy face most difficulties in finding job.
Albeit Lithuanian education policy-makers spur youth to seek know-how and skills at vocational training schools, but even droves of new cooks, car mechanics, plasterers, hairdressers, barbers and book keepers struggled with employment after the school finishing.
According to statistics, only around 75 percent of all high school graduates and 68 percent of vocational school graduates succeed in finding job within the field of the studies.
«However, not all of the graduates hurry to open the doors of local labour exchanges. Some of them are lucky to find a job they want while studying, others, meanwhile, want to rest and set out on a trip after leaving their Alma Mater. Part of them wants to go on with the studies. The motifs are very different,» Milda Jankauskienė, a representative of the Lithuanian Labour Exchange, pointed out.
Graduates of law, social work, public administration and economy are its most frequent visitors.
Most of the jobless graduates are in the largest cities, where the high schools are. But when it comes to being hired their shortcoming is zero work experience.
«Indeed, inexperience is essential in the case. It’s natural that young people do not have it or have it insufficiently. Therefore their job prospects are not always good and those who land a job in their field are not usually offered the same conditions as more experienced specialists,» Tomas Toleikis, head of CVbankas, an online job database pointed out to lrytas.lt
However, the attitude towards young specialists is better in the fields where the shortage of workers is especially tangible.
«Like in the IT sector,» says Toleikis. «In it, the potential employers start luring the brightest students with them yet at school. This could be also said of employers in the fields of financing and technologies,» he says.
CVbankas.lt has registered about 10,000 of this year’s graduates. When it comes to the fresh workforce’s desired pay, those with no work experience agree to start from a mere 400 euro after the deduction of taxes during the tryout period and want roughly 550 euro after it.
Those with some practical skills agree to start off with a salary of 500 euro during the tryout period and want to receive 670-700 after it is over.
But Robertas Dargis, the president of Lithuania’s Industrialists Confederation, insists that success in the labour market is not about the diploma.
«In a 2014 survey, 70 students pointed out that a high school diploma will guarantee them a workplace and a good wage. But only 20 percent of the surveyed employers pointed out that they care about the diplomas when hiring,» Dargis underlined.
In his words, many employers are willing to try out young job seekers, but if the potential worker lacks diligence no diploma will help secure the job.
Approached by BNN, Mindaugas Skritulskas, director of Klaipeda Territorial Labour Exchange in the port of Klaipėda, pointed out that young people, besides shortage of required skills, tend to lack proper attitude and responsibility.
«We can speak of a generational thing here. Those born in the 1980s and later do not see a permanent job and subordination at work as values any more. Young people nowadays tend to experiment and juggle many different occupations until they settle in their lives,» Skritulskas said.
Asked if local Klaipeda University responds to local employers’ needs promptly, he replied that there is often a gap in the city between what the school offers and what the employers need.
«Characteristically to all Lithuanian high schools, some of the programmes have been intact for years and the schools struggle to attract educated and inspiring young teachers. This is a big problem for all Lithuania and solution has not been here yet,» he emphasised.