Guide to executive business education in Lithuania

  • 2003-05-29

Companies in Lithuania that are looking to improve their employees' business qualifications can choose from a number of schools and institutes that have geared their programs to the needs (and schedules) of working managers.

The following short-list of business school reviews is not a complete list of the available options -this is a lucrative sector in the education market and many public and private institutions are trying to edge their way in.

However, we feel that these are some of the best options available to employees.

A glance at the Saturday edition of Lietuvos Rytas reveals dozens of job ads for upper management jobs in finance, accounting, logistics and marketing. The schools can't keep up with demand. Some of this is due to graduates decamping for greener pastures in other countries.

Baltic Management Institute

BMI offers an executive master of business administration over 18 months of intense weekend study. Managers are attracted to this program because they get top-notch professors who fly in from big-name European schools to teach on weekends. The alumni form a tightly-knit and clubby group. One Scandinavian business exec in Vilnius did the program even though he already had an M.B.A. because he found it was an excellent way to network and also get a different spin on topics not covered the first time around. BMI is a nonprofit institution started by a group of business die-hards who want to see Lithuanian executives succeed at home and in the world. Vytas Gruodis, BMI's director general, says "we're in a different league from any other school." Cost: 10, 500 euros.

International School of Management

ISM has a modern, high-tech building in Kaunas as well as a big satellite campus in Vilnius located in a beautiful old Franciscan monastery, though it will soon be moved to a modern facility in the Old Town. Its president, Virginijus Kundrotas, who was one of the first people to get a business doctorate in newly independent Lithuania, is a confident marketing executive himself according to independent sources in the business community. He makes it his business to know what type of graduate Lithuanian businesses are looking for.

Kundrotas was formerly vice dean of business at Kaunas Technological University and moved to ISM in 1999 when it was started by its parent institution and majority owner, the Nor-wegian School of Management. Kaunas Tech was too much of a "typical, huge, conservative organization," he said.

Estonia's Concordia Universi-ty's bankruptcy has left a cloud of uncertainty around private universities, but Kundrotas says that ISM's accounting control system is top-of-the-line and subject to regular audits.

Managers with a minimum of four years work experience can earn a master of management studies degree after two years of study in a program based on the Norwegian School of Manage-ment's methodology. Courses take place all day on Fridays and Saturdays.

Students are free to choose three six-month concentrations such as marketing, human resource management, finance, and a "leadership navigation" segment is compulsory.

Most textbooks are in English and courses are taught by Lithuanian and Norwegian professors (in Lithuanian and English, respectively). Half of all course work involves applied research, usually with the student's employer. All grads receive fully-accredited diplomas in Norway and Lithuania.

In September, the school is launching a new full-time, two-year master of science in international management degree focusing on European integration and globalization. Forty students (one-third of them from outside Lithuania) will follow an intensive course of study taught in English almost entirely by non-Lithuanian professors. Kundrotas is moving aggressively to occupy space in the undergraduate, executive education and evening education market segments.

ISM maintains a superb Web site and has many innovative projects in the works.

Kaunas Technology University

KTU is a state-run university that has more than 4,000 students studying business and economics spread over two faculties and supplies many of the Ph.D.s to professors who go on to teach business at other universities (it has over 60 doctoral students at present). For the working manager, it offers an executive M.B.A. in conjunction with SBA Bocconi in Italy and Denmark's Roskilde University. But this means that it often sends its best teachers to those universities.

This is certainly an effective means of improving instructors' qualifications but does not mean students get to interact with foreign faculty. KTU staggers the start dates of its program and is very flexible with regard to course scheduling. Course work takes 18 months to complete and an additional period (up to one year, self-paced) is devoted to a thesis hat follows KTU's stringent academic requirements. All work is in Lithuanian but graduates have the option of adding six months at Stetson University in Florida to earn that school's English-language M.B.A.

KTU's president, Robertas Jucevicius, says that his team is implementing an academic methodology tailored to the needs of Lithuanian business, with an emphasis on managerial intelligence, entrepreneurship and independent learning skills.

The school has just started a satellite executive M.B.A. program in Klaipeda with 25 participants. It will also tailor its program for a team of executives at a single company. Most recently, 25 execs at Ekranas AB received diplomas while working together on a strategy for international competitiveness over a two-year period. "The best thing about the program is that managers from very different areas learned to speak a single language," said Algis Karoblis, the company's human resources manager "This saves us a huge amount of time."

Vytautas Magnus University

This state-financed university opened in 1989 to provide Kaunas with a school that is more oriented to liberal arts -under the Soviet central planning system the city was a technology hub. What this means is that the school has had ties with foreign business educators for almost 15 years and granted its first business degrees in 1993. The head of the business school, Pranas Zukauskas, can name a list of grads that sounds like a who's who in Lithuanian business. VMU maintains close ties to BMI (see above) and has its own Lithuanian-language executive M.B.A. program modeled along very similar lines; about 80 students enroll each year paying 12,000 litas (3,500 euros) for 18 months of study.

There are also 120 students in the regular M.B.A. program.

Zukauskas keeps in touch with the business community and has company directors calling him before his students even graduate.

Valdas Araminas, head of Drobe textile company in Kaunas, said that he promoted one recent VMU grad to head of finance in 12 months and is now looking for another one to fill his old job.

"The main thing for me is that their graduates aren't green, they can do real work as soon as we hire them," he said.

Vilnius University

Students at Lithuania's prestigious Vilnius University have been studying economics since 1783. The university's Web site will give you the whole story -right up to 1991. Unfortunately, that's about all you'll find there. If you want to improve your company's Web marketing campaign, we suggest looking for graduates elsewhere. Algirdas Miskinis, the friendly head of the university's graduate management program, couldn't think of any reasons why his school stands apart from any other.

We suggest that the school's alumni might want to lend him a helping hand with marketing and also give VU's stodgy bureaucrats a good shove into the 21st century at the same time. In all fairness, we know that there are some very qualified and respected professors there -otherwise it wouldn't be so hard to get in. The university grants master's degrees with concentrations in statistics, economics, finance and a number of other fields. Most graduate courses take place in the evening as almost all students have full-time jobs.