The project, originally conceived due to a current skills gap in three key industries in Lithuania, has seen heavy UK university interest, with a number already having signed agreements at the end of January.
“When we talk to businesses, local or international investors, everyone says that the talent pool is the number one thing they are interested in,” Aušrinė Armonaitė, Lithuania’s minister for the economy and innovation, told The PIE News.
“We don’t have oil, we don’t have gold, or natural resources, so our economy is based on knowledge. Our chosen strategy for Lithuania, as such, is focusing on these three strategic industries we are investing in and building on,” she continued.
“It will put our universities on the global map once more”
Three industries featured include life sciences (especially biotechnology), ICT and engineering – with some disciplines in Lithuania playing host to very niche competencies – including making the lasers that cut cameras on smartphones, she said.
The project will aim to attract gifted international students to study in the country with a dual degree mechanism. They will come to Lithuania and study in a university, bolstered by a partnership program with a UK university and graduate with a ‘supercharged’ degree sporting both the UK and Lithuanian qualifications.
Students will also have paid work experiences, as well as access to post-grad work visas in Lithuania – lasting up to three years. The degree will also see students spend a semester or a year of their degree in at the UK partner institution.
The minister also added that partnering with UK universities especially would be beneficial for Lithuania, as home to some of the “best educational institutions in the world”.
“It will put our universities on the global map once more,” she affirmed.
Cormack Consultancy – whose Ukrainian Twinning scheme has seen great success in assisting institutions with UK partnerships in the wake of the Ukraine war – is helping to facilitate the project, and told of dialogues already being facilitated by the government between the two countries’ universities, and a couple of US institutions.
“[The government] is going through changes at the moment to make it as attractive as they can. They’re doing a lot of things around the periphery,” Charles Cormack of Cormack Consultancy told The PIE.
“One of the key issues that we identified in the beginning was the limited number of embassies that Lithuania has. For example, there’s only one embassy in Africa. However, they’ve more than doubled the amount of visa points where students can apply from,” he mentioned.
The aim is to facilitate a start to the programs in the next September start.
“The vision is that we have the first programs launched this fall. We understand that there are many elements to agree on the programs, including scholarships and internships, as well as the foundation of the courses,” said Armonaitė.
“It will depend on universities themselves, whether they are reaching the agreement [in time] but it’s a win-win project and hopefully everyone will benefit,” the minister added.
Cormack Consultancy confirmed that as of February 2023, nine MoUs have successfully been signed, featuring nine universities.
Keele University will be partnering with the Kaunas-based Lithuanian Health Sciences Universities on a life sciences program, and with Vytautas Magnus University, also in Kaunas, on another life sciences program.
In the US, the University of Missouri in St Louis will be supporting two courses at Vytautas Magnus in ICT and life sciences.
Vilnius Tech has signed an MoU facilitating a partnership on an ICT program at both Lincoln and Glasgow Caledonian Universities, and Vytautas Magnus has partnered with Lincoln on both ICT and life sciences programs.
The date for these programs has not been officially announced, but as the first of the partnerships to be agreed, some could be starting in September 2023.
“The vision is that we have the first programs launched this fall”
According to Cormack Consultancy, over 40 partnerships have been started as part of the project, meaning many more could be set to launch in the following academic year.
Three corporate companies, aiming to provide the paid work experience portion of the degrees – Accenture, NASDAQ and Thermofisher Scientific – have all become actively involved in the project.
“The Lithuanian government will be looking to bring in organisation expertise to manage the international recruitment drive and try to create a bigger presence in the international student market about Lithuania for these subject areas,” Cormack said.
“We are talking about two programs now or sort of two industries now, information communication technologies and life science industry. And it is more than enough for a promising start,” the minister added.