Doc. Dr. Giedrius Viliūnas. Lithuania is still a student exporter country

There are no hundred percent sure statistics how many Lithuanian students study abroad. Nonetheless Assoc. Prof. Giedrius Viliūnas, Vice-Rector of Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania confirms the fact: Lithuania is still a student exporter country. But he is much more worried about the other side of the problem. By his opinion, country as Lithuania should think more about the fact why the figures of the coming students are so small.

Reliable statistics include only students who are leaving the country under international exchange programmes. „Based on it we can see that the number of students who are leaving Lithuania to acquire HE credits at foreign higher educational institutions (HEIs) is at least 2.5 times greater than the number of the students coming to our country. We do not know exactly how many of our students leave the country on their own initiative and at their own expense (the so called free movers) but we presume that they make up 5 percent of the total number. The proportion of foreign students pursuing a degree at Lithuanian HEIs is 2.5 percent”, - counts Assoc. Prof. Giedrius Viliūnas.

The thought that Lithuanian students go abroad to gain academic knowledge and acquire social and cultural experience in other countries is not frightening to him. „On the contrary, I would agree with the conclusion drawn from the statistical comparisons and the objectives of the decade proposed by the European Commission stating that the international mobility of our students is too low. In the modern world, where not only politics and industry but also daily life, leisure and identity has acquired international dimension de facto, the international study experience is simply a necessity”, - says Vice-Rector of Mykolas Romeris University.

However, there are several aspects about student mobility in Lithuanian HE that he is dissatisfied with: „One of them is the fact that the flows of outgoing and incoming students engaged in credit mobility are not well-balanced. I think that Lithuania can achieve a rather good potential by ensuring that these flows are well balanced by utilizing its geographical and political advantages. The second aspect is the fact that the flow of incoming students is generally very low. Even the country’s major HEIs count their Erasmus exchange students in hundreds when in fact there should be thousands of them. The third aspect is closely related to the above-mentioned ones: there is a very small number of incoming students pursuing a degree. The fourth and the most worrying aspect is large and totally uncontrolled flow of outgoing students. There are data available about its exponential growth over the recent years”.

By Assoc. Prof. Giedrius Viliūnas opinion, Lithuania should think how to deal with the challenge related to students – free movers. „Credit exchange and free degree mobility differs in that a student pursuing a degree spends much time in a foreign country, engages in its social networks and has no academic or financial obligations to its home country, thus it is much more likely that such a student will not return. In the light of human freedoms and rights and in personal of family perspective, there are no reasons to look negatively at such a prospect. However, for the society of origin it constitutes a loss. Over the recent decades Lithuania has experienced one of the highest emigration rates with scientists and highly qualified specialists accounting for a perceptible share of those leaving the country. According to the statistical data, educated young people are able to secure employment in Lithuania thus emigration results not from economic reasons. In my opinion, a very significant challenge to Lithuanian Higher Education and the Higher Education policy is ensuring that degree mobility of incoming and outgoing students is also well-balanced”, - says Assoc. Prof. Giedrius Viliūnas.

The questions related to Internationalisation in Higher Education will be discussed in the International Conference „European Higher Education in the World“ which will take place on the 5-6th of September in Vilnius, Lithuania. This conference - one of the main events related to education questions during the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2013. The conference will bring together over 150 higher education stakeholders from the EU and beyond, and offer them an opportunity for dialogue on the different tools available to further internationalisation processes, and on the future place of Europe in the global higher education landscape.

The Conference will be broadcasted live on the European Commission Webcast Portal.

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