If you bumped into Dr. Adas Meskenas, Vice-Rector for Strategic Partnership at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, known as VILNIUS TECH, on campus you’d probably think you ran into one of the students. But do not be mistaken – at 36, Adas, a VILNIUS TECH alumnus, is now orchestrating one of Lithuania’s top university strategies, a job he finds both challenging and rewarding. “Young age is neither a boon nor a flaw. Our team is very diverse, yet with a similar vision – be among the very best,” Meskenas told The Baltic Times Magazine.
The placings of VILNIUS TECH on global university rankings range from top-100 to top-1000. In your opinion, what is the exact position of the University? What achievements of the University are most important to you? Why?
Indeed, the range is wide, depending on what study programme and field are assessed. Some of them, like construction engineering (civil and structural), architecture and mechatronics, which make the core of our University, are objectively among the very best study programmes of the kind – globally.
According to the QS World University Ranking, which is one of the most prestigious, VILNIUS TECH was the 356th last year in the fields of engineering & technology, a really good accomplishment, considering that there are around 30 thousand universities in the world.
Speaking of the accomplishments, the synergy and the inter-disciplinary nature VILNIUS TECH has, the combination of business management and creative industries, which has become deeper and more visible over recent years, is what makes the University stand out, too.
To me, personally, the biggest compliment to the University is hearing that the quality of our studies is very high and competitive and that, as a country, Lithuania is modern, beautiful and safe. Of course, that being said from one mouth to another is the best channel of advertising for us and the country, too.
Can you, please, talk about the students you have?
Although, generally speaking, the numbers of engineering study enrolments are on the decline all over the world, we manage to live up to our reputation as a university attractive to students interested in engineering. This academic year we will welcome nearly 1500 international degree-seeking and Erasmus+ exchange students from over 80 countries worldwide; therefore, the University has a high international profile. The majority of Erasmus+ exchange students are from Europe; however, a few came here from as far as Asia and the Americas. The student-staff ratio is 9:1. Meanwhile, the length of our academic staff’s employment ranges from a couple of semesters to a handful of permanent positions. However, following the introduction of the hybrid teaching system, encompassing remote and in-class activities, which became popular during the (COVID) pandemic, the boundaries are quite blurry.
How does VILNIUS TECH adapt to labour market needs and keep up with technological advancement?
Speaking generally, we are very much focused on our key principle – applicability of our studies, hence the orientation on the interdisciplinarity, hence the endeavour to give our students not only knowledge and the worldview they need to be very competitive in the labour market, but also, we give them impetus to progress and learn throughout their entire lives.
The digitisation and the applicability of digital technologies across our programmes – from engineering to education, has been largely done at our University. Importantly, while creating study content and throughout the teaching process, we work closely with our partners, public and private companies, ministries. And that is also due to their core interest – to find future talents who are able to address the current and future challenges. Particularly in certain economic activities, like energy, for example. Also, in the sizzling IT sector, in which we are especially actively involved now – we are seeking and signing new sustainable and long-term partnerships. That also helps VILNIUS TECH foster its future, invite interesting lecturers already with genuine academic and business experience.
Do you aim to attract more students from the EU-supported Eastern Partnership countries, like Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Sakartvelo, to a lesser degree from Belarus due to the political reason?
Indeed, as much we are in an intense search for strategic business partners – in Lithuania and beyond, finding the right strategic long-term partners in the educational sphere is equally important. Likewise, in most Lithuanian universities, the majority of VILNIUS TECH’s foreign students come from Asia, especially India and China, and other countries close to India, also from Turkey, some African countries, like Nigeria, Egypt, as well as, on a lesser side, from the Eastern Partnership countries, like Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Sakartvelo. However, the recent political events in Belarus and the geopolitical tensions related to China, significantly strained or halted the ties we had with those countries.
How many students from Ukraine study at VILNIUS TECH? What kind of assistance do you provide them?
After the start of the war, we started proposing short-term studies for them – up to a half-year as a rule. The majority of the Ukrainian students receive Lithuanian government-supported grants, as well as the EC-supported Erasmus+ grants. The Ukrainian students also receive free accommodation in our dormitories, and they are also entitled to some other social benefits and free psychological help. We do not have any partnerships with Russian universities.
What objectives has the University set in its strategy up to 2030?
In fact, it is a visionary programme with clear moon shots. By the way, it was written by a new VILNIUS TECH team. With the programme we are explicitly aiming at the entire VILNIUS TECH community, conveying the message that it is up to every member – be it a professor or an alumnus – what the University will look like in future. We’ve singled out four moon shots. First of all, VILNIUS TECH deems that each of its students creates and accrues his or her unique learning experience, which adds value to the community and society. Second, we aim to foster long lasting or life-long ties with our alumni whom we see as VILNIUS TECH ambassadors. Thirdly, as our partners are an essential part of our activity, we envision our partnerships being enhanced and expanded with every partner receiving knowledge-based smart solutions. Fourth, VILNIUS TECH positioning itself as a universal centre of traction for the University community, society and businesses, has become a major hub – in academic life and beyond.