Vilnius censures private colleges

March 15, 1996

Private universities and colleges in Lithuania are violating the law, a parliamentary committee in Vilnius has ruled.

There are at least seven such institutions in the country, ranging from the Klaipeda Christian college, which operates under a licence for advanced English language courses, to a management and law institute and an academy of parapsychology.

The right to establish a higher education institution belongs to the state but a special decree passed in 1993 allows non-state universities and colleges to obtain licences from the government, providing that they can satisfy a board of experts. But, so far, no private institution has been issued with such a licence.

The stumbling block appears to be the large number of professors and holders of doctorates that the board requires institutions to employ. Two bodies have repeatedly had their applications for licences refused on these grounds - the management and law institute in Kaunas, and the Polish university in Vilnius.

The latter institution, which has existed since 1991, serves the Polish minority in Lithuania, and claims the right to exist under international agreements on the rights of "national minorities".

Post-independence Lithuania, which emphasises the importance of building a sense of Lithuanian identity, is chary of the idea of higher education being given in Polish. It is one thing to offer, as the state system does, teacher training for future teachers in ethnic minority schools, and another to use Polish as a language of instruction at the university level.

Ministry officials claim that if the Polish university is allowed to expand, its graduates will simply go off to Poland to work.

But Romualdas Brazys, the rector of the Polish university, maintains that no university could meet the licensing requirements since they are "self-contradictory".

He says that the requirement on staff numbers is "illogical" for a small body beginning its work, and says that the rules on language are not even properly formulated.

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