Increasing passions over higher education in Seimas: Karbauskis has a new proposal for Kaunas

Kaunas Technical University

Jurgita Petrauskienė, the Minister for Education and Higher learning in Parliament, on Tuesday presented the new proposal for the optimization plan regarding state universities.

The optimization plan seems to centre on the aim to leave five state funded universities in Lithuania, instead of the current fourteen. The discussed plan had obtained 89 out of 97 Parliamentary member votes in the Education and Science Committee (ŠMK), while only 8 members abstained on the question of the plan, at this point.

Although, the unification of universities is opposed by both university representatives and members of the opposition. Eugenijus Jovaiša, ŠMK chairman “peasant” also has similar plans to the optimization plan regarding the merging of universities.

Furthermore, there appears to be a variety of other plans proposed in regarding the merging of state universities, as Ramūnas Karbauskis also introduced a new idea this Tuesday. According, to the Member of Parliament instead of two, there should remain three universities in Kaunas, it as was initial envisioned the Parliament. Supposedly, according to the parliamentarian the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU), Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) and Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) could all function separately in Kaunas, with a high likelihood that the following universities would be joined together with the Lithuanian Sports University (LSU), The Aleksandras Stulginskis University (ASU) and the Lithuanian University of Educational Science (LEU).

A new idea for Kaunas

“Although, there were some passions when the merger of VDU and LEU was being considered. The Government foresaw this. Thus, as the process is underway everyone is entitled to an opinion on the matter. However, I sincerely hope that protest, additional tensions and etc. can be avoided, as we are currently making very good process. Since a month ago, I could hardly imagine a joint agreement between ASU and VDU. Their intention to merge together was unimaginable. Now it’s obvious to everyone”- R. Karbauskis stated during a press conference before the Parliamentary meeting.

According, to the politician the intent to merge among the higher education institutions is increasing which leads him to hope that this trend will also receive assistance from the state’s political power.

“There are no conflicts between the Government and the Ministry, in this regard. Everyone is fully aware that the academic community is only interested in improving the current situation” – the parliamentarian explained further.

According to, R. Karbauskis recommendations and not concrete mandatory decrees are being currently presented.

“This is a process that will lead us to two classically orientated universities and two technologically oriented universities and etc. Perhaps there will be little difference between them. Perhaps there will be two technological universities in Kaunas, this of course refers to the LSMU and KTU universities, and one classically orientated. While, Vilnius will retain VGTU and VU. From a practical point of view this will be the most natural way without any mandatory provisions. Certainty, no one wants to twist someone’s hands on the matter, as no one will force the universities to do what they would not wish to do.” – the parliamentarian assured.

Five universities – the position of the Parliament

According to, the Governments proposed plan Vilnius University (VU) would remain in Vilnius, which would be granted the status of a classical university, as well as the Vilnius Gediminas Technological University. However, Mykolas Romeris (MRU) and the Lithuanian University of Educational Science (LEU) universities, would become part of VU which would also include Šiaulių University (ŠU).

At the same time, there is a proposal to create a broad reaching university in many fields in Kaunas that would encompass Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), Aleksandro Stulginskio University (ASU) and the Lithuanian Sports University (LSU). Thus, the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU) would be left as a singular university in Kaunas.

Klaipėdos University – is the fifth and final university proposed to be ‘save’ and left separate. However, the universities representatives are highly encouraged to make a review of offered study programs and specialize the university in regards to programs that centre and specialize in port and studies of similar nature, as well as research which takes into consideration the universities location.

Furthermore, there is a promise made in regards to the creation of a Lithuanian Academy of Arts which would encompass together the Lithuanian Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Music and Theatre.

“The purpose of this plan is to create the conditions necessary for higher learning and research excellence. Thus, as an effective higher education system has deep ties to the countries society the state itself, needs of the bossiness sector, as well as the degree of competitiveness in regards to other international research and higher education institutions” – stated in the Parliaments resolution draft.

There are calls for more clear decisions

“This is just one of the foreseen higher education reforms which cannot be successfully implemented without ensuring that the financing and quality of the reforms would be successfully linked together. I, think that this Parliament has the perfect opportunity to ensure the future of higher education by ensuring that the decision-making process that had failed on this question in the past functions properly, unlike in past Parliaments.” – J. Petrauskienė a Member of Parliament stated.

According to, the parliamentarian the anxiousness of the academic community and future students’ needs to be crushed by making clear decisions.

“The current draft resolution in the Parliament is based on the decision of the Government, which affirms the work groups plan on the matter. Thus, nothing is distorted since the proposal is made and now discussions are underway on how to realize it on a practical level. I do not think even for a second that this is the time to worry about this matter, or that the plan is different from the one that was provided to the public.” – the Minister argued.

In regards, to the notice of the liberal Eugenijus Gentvilis pertaining to the idea that in order to reform everything that is in need of reform, there is a need to consider the changes together, the Minister noted that additional documents will reach the members of Parliament before July.

“If the ruling for this proposal will be upheld, June, 2018 is the deadline. Thus, until than every proposal pertaining to the merging of the higher education institutions must be submitted.” – answered J. Petrauskienė in regarding to the specific date on which the plan will be implemented.

According to, the Minister almost 200 million euros will be set aside for the transformation process, 150 million of which would come from EU funds.

Another plan is being prepared in Kaunas

However, the proposed plans are getting strong resistance from the academic community. For example the VDU community is not only trying to join together with both LEU and ASU universities, but also talks are underway in regards a possible integration with the Lithuanian Sports University (LSU). KTU in this regards is left overboard from the negotiations.

Furthermore, before the end of March this year the merger between VDU and LEU, was approved and even welcomed by the Committee on Education and Science (ŠMK) itself. Therefore, the draft resolution for this project will be submitted to the Parliament for consideration.

Currently, the ŠMK is headed by the current member of the Peasant party and former dean of the Faculty of History in LEU, E. Jovaiša. Thus, the idea about the merge between VDU and LEU was maintained and supported by the head of the committee, despite the fact that it was opposed by J. Petrauskienė.

New proposals are also made by the Conservatives which propose to retain only three universities

The Governments proposals can also be side lined by the conservatives, as Gabrielius Landsbergis and Mantas Adomėnas have both registered a need to consider the resolution in regards to the higher education institution reforms in the Parliament. The resolution state that up until 2024 there is a need to combine all universities in the national framework of only three universities which also included academies that are subordinate to them.

The conservatives offer to hand the ‘rains’ of the reforms over to VDU, VU and VGTU, which would be given the title and status of the Joint National University in Kaunas.

Moreover, the conservatives have also offered a resolution to the Parliament which states that by the first of September, 2019 LEU would be connected to VU, thereby ensuring that teachers could be prepared not only in the strongest national university of the state, but also with educational programs at the highest level available in the country.

A possibility for universities to remain open even without students

The fact that the atmosphere is tense is illustrated by the research and higher education act amendments registered by E. Jovaiša the chairman of the ŠMK.

One of the registered amendments pertains to the facts that funds regarding university administration and property would not be included into the tuition price and would not be classified according to research, development and evaluation results, as was approved previously for the procedural changes that need to occur from July.

“How would this look in practice? For example a completely down run and/or afflicted university (let’s say, LEU) will be able to function without students, it could not engage in academic activity and till receive funds for heating (empty auditoriums) maintenance and administration (for its administration activities). University Y, on the other hand that has a lot of students, laboratories, carries out a wide variety of international level scientific activities and etc. will receive fewer funds regarding to its administration. Thus, it will have to save and think about getting funds necessary for its activities from elsewhere” – stated Nerija Putinaitė, the former Vice-Minister of Education and Science in the social network “Facebook”.

Nonetheless, the members of Parliament have decided to the afore mentioned matter in a committee for which 50 MP’s voted in favour, while 20 – sustained, and 22 MP’s abstained from voting.

The governance is sought to be returned to the Senate

Other amendments regarding the aim to return of governance aspect to the university Senates, will presented on Tuesday before the Parliament by E. Jovaiša.

The project also foresees that the senate and rectors of the university will be responsible for the management of the university, while the council of the university will be responsible for the establishment of the strategic directions of the university and their implementation, as well as the role of the supervisory institution for the university. According to, the present law the management organ of the higher education schools is the council which appoints and dismisses the rector. While under the new project, the council will no longer be responsible for the appointment of the rector, nor will it be responsible for the universities financial estimates or preparation of financial reports.

Additionally, the way the Council is organized will be changed. While currently Council members are not members of the higher education community representative, and selected by the Senates established procedures through a public contest. Thus, E. Jovaiša processes that the externally selected Council members are to be nominated by the representatives of the Lithuanian Science Council, as well as the Lithuanian Science Academy and the Council on Culture.

Furthermore, the committee member also proposes to change the way the rectors of universities are dismissed of their duties. Since the procedure, in place currently raises the need that at least three-fifths of the Council members vote for the dismissal of a candidate, while the new amendments would require that the rector would be let go if the Senate majority does not approve the annual activity report twice in a year.

They call it the democratic model

“On the beliefs of the Peasants (party), we believe that this is the most democratic model of governance” – stated E. Jovaiša while introducing the changes.

According, to the parliamentarian, the Council must consist of experts that dictate how to develop higher education in the future.

“We will be accused of returning to the past, but I want to make it clear that our neighbours the Estonians have this model. Furthermore, this model also exist in Italy and Greece. Calling this the return to the past and/or the soviet ear is complete and utter nonsense. If anyone has forgotten, back than there was a decisions and a rector just appeared. No decision was made by the community in this regard.” – stated the politician.

Furthermore, while E. Jovaišos proposal has received strong support early on from Juozas Augutis the rector of Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), as well as the rector prof. Algirdas of the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences (LEU) that both management models are quite plausible. Nonetheless, Petras Baršauskas the rector of Kaunas University of technology (KTU) and Artūras Žukaukas the current rector of Vilnius University during an interview to BNS, stated to be categorically against such plans.

However, the MP’s voted for the afore mentioned amendment to be considered by the ŠMK, with 54 MP’s voting for it, and only 21 members voting against it while 15 MP’s abstained from the vote.

About Ruta Pukene 7 Articles
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