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Ceturtdiena 22.03.2018 | Name days: Tamāra, Dziedra

Lithuania set to cut university number from 14 to 4

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Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Lithuania has taken on the biggest ever revamp of its high education – two international-level universities and two technological universities are expected to remain in the country after a planned reform of the current high education system.

Now, there are 14 state-supported universities in the country.

Vilnius University (VU), the oldest high education school in the country, and a new university to be founded in Kaunas, the second-largest Lithuanian city, are seen as international-level universities in the plan of the Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis-appointed working group.

Meanwhile, if the overhaul receives greenlight, Mykolas Romeris University and the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences would be merged into VU, whereas Siauliai University would also become part of VU.

The other international-level university is planned in Kaunas, where the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), Aleksandras Stulginskis University and Lithuanian Sports University (LSU) will be merged and function as a broad-scope high school.

The working group suggests operating two technological universities in the country -one in the capital, Vilnius, and the other on coast, in Klaipeda.

The group sees the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LMSU) as a separate specialized higher education entity, meanwhile the Vilnius Academy of Arts and the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre would be merged into a single academy of arts.

Lithuania has long considered changes to its high education system, but only now the Farmers and Greens-led ruling Coalition has taken the endeavour forward.

With nearly 40 universities, high schools and colleges offering high education in the country, Lithuania boasts the highest rate in the regard in the entire European Union.

According to a 2016 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 10,000 students in Lithuania share 2.9 educational institutions on average, while this indicator in Finland and Ireland is 1.2 and 1.1 respectively.

On his later April visit to Vilnius, Thomas Weko, a representative of the OECD and an education analyst at the organisation, called on Lithuania to reform its higher education system «as soon as possible»in order not to become an «outsider» in terms of higher education among the other countries.

«Due to the current number of universities in the country, Lithuania finds itself marginalized; the consolidation of universities must be implemented as soon as possible,»Weko emphasised after meeting the Government‘s officials. «Consolidation of universities is necessary in order to effectively manage finances of educational institutions and consolidate the scientific potential».

In the meeting, Tomi Halonen, advisor in the Education, Science and Culture Ministry of Finland, accentuated that Finland since 2009 has been actively implementing reform of its high education system and readies for the second leg of the reform.

«Consolidation of universities is necessary in order to effectively manage education money and consolidate scientific potential,»he noted.

Milda Dargužaitė, the Lithuanian Government‘s chancellor, assured the guests that revamping high education system is one of the Government‘s priorities.

Talking about the working group‘s proposed plan to the press, Dalius Misiūnas, CEO of the state-owned energy holding company Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) and a member of the working group, stressed that the group’s proposals were yet to be assessed by politicians.

«What you see here is our recommendation. That does not mean that everything will be done that way. Our recommendations are now going to the government and will then likely go to the Seimas; they can still be altered,»he said.

Stifling apprehensions from the high education community that the planned changes may lead to loss of jobs to hundreds of teachers, PM Skvernelis claimed that the higher education overhaul does not envisage closing any universities.

«We could forcefully tell the administrations how many universities should remain, but that would not be the right step. It does not matter for us who unites with whom, but changes will be inevitable,»Skvernelis told reporters after a meeting of the political groups of the ruling coalition parties in the Seimas.

According to the prime minister, universities will have no choice but to consolidate after the funding rules are changed.

«We are changing the funding of higher schools. We conclude contracts with higher schools, we encourage research, we improve the qualifications of lecturers, we encourage and optimize the management of higher schools and their assets, and we set the bar for prospective students. All these changes will force higher schools to consolidate if they want to meet these requirements,»he said.

Echoing, Education and Science Minister Jurgita Petrauskienė said on Tuesday, April 2, that «none of the universities is being closed down, yet consolidation in inevitable».

In her words, the reorganization of the network is aimed at concentrating the fragmented potential to ensure more efficient management and concentration of resources.

«Especially in the field of scientific research, where we have many small, fragmented groups today,» she told reporters.

Meanwhile, Juozas Augutis, professor and head of Lithuanian University Rectors Conference, called all on being «smart» while carrying out the reform.

«Every misstep in the striving will mean that more of our youth will depart to study somewhere else,» he said, hailing the Government‘s determination to improve the quality of high education in the country.

He, however, spoke against consolidation of universities, which seems to be the gist of the entire overhaul.

«We have young people who want to select studies of a narrow specialization and achieve high heights in them…I don‘t understand the striving to merge all the different educational system and annihilate what was created…I believe universities ought to be encouraged to seek their exclusiveness instead of attempting to merge them into a single huge university,»he accentuated.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, chairman of Lithuania‘s Homeland Union and Lithuanian Christian Democrats, called the overhaul «ambitious», yet «not entirely clear».

«On the whole, the direction is right, however, not all the questions have been answered,» he said adding that he will advise the Conservatives faction in Parliament to support the proposals.

Ref: 020/

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  1. Marija says:

    Technological uni on the seaside? Are they sure they want to re-establish more art-oriented University of Klaipėda into a technological one? Or I do not know something about this high-school? :D

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