Old pals diploma act

July 7, 1995

A decision by Lithuania's left-wing government to reinstate the diplomas issued by Communist Party colleges during the Soviet era could prove embarrassing to future academic contacts, according to opposition leader Vytautau Landsbergis, writes Vera Rich.

The decision, he told a reporter from The Baltic Independent, "has nothing in common with the European point of view towards science and education". It will be difficult, he said, for Lithuanian scholars to explain to European universities that the ruling represents the attitude of one political party only and not the entire Lithuanian nation.

The diplomas of the Communist Party "Higher Schools" were given mainly to Party experts in industry and agriculture. Since they ranked as equivalent to university degrees, they entitled the holders to lucrative posts, that were in many cases little more than sinecures. One of the first actions of the Conference of Lithuanian Rectors after independence was to annul the academic status of these degrees.

An estimated 300 to 400 citizens hold the disputed "Communist" diplomas, and the government's decision is interpreted by their political opponents as an attempt to provide posts for old comrades who have so far been unable to find a comfortable niche.

Whether employers will honour these qualifications is unclear. Neither the universities nor private-sector employers will willingly take them on. They could, perhaps be found nominal posts in some government department, but finance officers may object to paying graduate-level salaries and, according to Mr Landsbergis, local authorities, like the universities, will fight the reinstatement.

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