University admission fever overshadowed by student exodus

  • 2011-08-03
  • By Linas Jegelevicius

KLAIPEDA - How can Lithuania avoid economic turmoil in the future? The only way to stave it off is to prepare more skilled engineers, who, some pundits point out, being capable of an innovative approach to production, business and technologies, are able to reverse a crisis.
However, reviewing the university admission results released last week, it seems that future crises are likely irreversible in Lithuania, as most high school graduates, up to now, have opted to study Social Sciences.

“It does not surprise me, as study fields such as law and economics, the most popular studies in the country, fall into this category. There is an understanding that they guarantee well-paid jobs after graduation,” Lina Lengveniene, spokeswoman for Lithuania’s University Association for Arranging General Admission (LUAFAGA), said to The Baltic Times.
In total, 37,896 valid university entrance applications have been submitted this year, 2,619 more than last year. Of the entrance total, 26,577 applicants are this year’s secondary school graduates, compared to 27,462 applicants last year.
In the list of the most popular study fields, with Social Sciences on top (51.2 percent of all applicants), bio-medicine studies go second (16.4 percent) and technical studies take third spot (12.1 percent).

Among the offered studies in colleges, in the list of the most sought-after specialties, Hygienic and Decorative Cosmetology, offered by Vilnius College, is first; Tourism and Hotel Management, offered by Kaunas College, follows, and Auto Technical Maintenance, offered by Vilnius Technology and Design College, wraps up the list of the top three college specialties.
When reviewing the results of the first stage of the admission, Pranas Ziliukas, president of LUAFAGA, says he is surprised at the significant increase of university entrance applications by previous years’ secondary school graduates. Ziliukas explains this by the fact that many young people, who have been admitted to foreign universities, decide to come back to Lithuania and seek higher education in the Motherland.

According to LUAFAGA, Vilnius University, the oldest in the country, with 2,820 state-financed slots, remains the most sought-after higher education establishment in Lithuania. It is followed by Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU), which was awarded 1,574 slots accordingly, and Kaunas Technology University, 1,380. Among colleges, according to the criteria, Vilnius College is on top, followed by Kaunas College and Klaipeda State College.

In the fierce fight for the study slots, which are the state’s guaranteed financing to the universities, Vilnius University’s prevalence has not come as a surprise – the institution has been the leader for many years.
Klaipeda University’s 7th place, according to the entrance application number, is seen as underperformance by some. Beata Kajutyte, head of the University’s Student Admission Department, said to the daily Klaipeda that most secondary school graduates have chosen Social Sciences. “It is not surprising, as the trend prevails in the country,” she said. The most popular studies in Klaipeda University include Public Administration, Recreation and Tourism, Psychology, Economics, Physiotherapy and Construction Engineering.

What study programs can be considered as the most unpopular in the country? The WLBC list includes Trade Management, Construction Business Management, Business Management, while, meanwhile, very few expressed a wish to study Philosophy and Civic Studies, Decorative Planting, Pre-school Pedagogy and Children’s Event Planning, Artistic Nurture and Faith, Russian Philology and some others.

Despite strenuous efforts to have young people study in Lithuania, seemingly nothing works, as the number of those willing to study abroad is rising every year. This is no exception: according to the UK Universities & Colleges Admission Service, 3,290 Lithuanians have submitted entrance applications to UK universities this year, a 28.7 percent increase from last year. The applicant number makes Lithuania 8th in the list of foreign students seeking a UK education. China leads the list.
One-quarter of high school graduates leave Lithuania for foreign countries – either for work or studies. The exact data in that regard was not available when writing this story, however, the obtainable information showed that 23 percent of last year’s graduates in Klaipeda went abroad.

Emilis Bruzas, a Klaipeda-based Azuolynas Gymnasium graduate, having been admitted to the Bio-Chemistry specialty in Cambridge University, is convinced he will garner more knowledge when studying abroad. “I have chosen studies abroad for one reason: no Lithuanian university can offer me the studies I like,” the lad said on Web site
With the university auditoriums to be filled with freshmen soon, many Lithuanian businesses lament the poor supply of highly-skilled young specialists, and particularly dexterous blue-collar workers in the national labor market.

“For a long time, one cannot find a skilled welding technologist or engineering mechanic in the country. We would like to establish a project bureau, however, where can we get skilled design engineers?” Gintautas Kvietkauskas, JSC Arginta director, wonders. The company has been named the most successful enterprise in Lithuania in 2010.
Linas Kadys, head of Human Resources Expansion Department at the Ministry of Economy, notes that Lithuania does not have a centralized forecasting and monitoring system that would allow following the careers of university and vocational school graduates.

“Only last year the government obliged several ministries to prepare the so-called map of graduate competence and qualifications – a study that aims to find out how many specialists we have and how many of them we should have in the future. It has turned out, however, that, like other Western countries, we are not even capable of drawing the map, as from those available studies of this kind - 17 in total - it is impossible to generalize and draw any conclusions. Besides, this kind of data has not been gathered for 40 years. We have to start from scratch,” Kadys said in a recent discussion.