President Dalia Grybauskaitė

Finland’s higher education reform can be a model example for Lithuania

2016-10-19

Wednesday, October 19, Helsinki – President Dalia Grybauskaitė, who is currently on an official visit in Finland, visited Aalto University where she met with the university’s President Tuula Teeri, Lithuanians studying there, and viewed design and startup laboratories. Aalto University was established in 2010 by merging three uncompetitive institutions into one. After the merger, the university emerged as a leader on a global scale.

Aalto University ranks 115th among the world’s best universities; Lithuania’s top university is listed in 500th position. The merger resulted in a significantly higher quality of education: funding increased nearly twofold, the number of doctoral student rose by 39 percent, and the university is globally positioned as 14th in architecture and design. Aalto University is now considering the possibility to merge with the University of Helsinki.

Finland started to reform the system of higher education in 2009. The reform covers university funding, merging, inclusion of business, and investments in science. In Finland, universities are funded on the basis of agreements with the government. Budget allocations for higher education stand at 2.2 of GDP, compared to Lithuania’s 1.3 percent. Merging has reduced the number of universities in Finland, with a population of 5.5 million, from 21 to 15. Lithuania meanwhile has as many as 45 higher education institutions.

Business is actively engaged in the management of universities in Finland: at least 40 percent of university councils are comprised of external representation. Large investments are injected into research and innovation: budgetary allocations equal 1.1 of GDP, while business-provided funding stands at 2.1 percent, compared to Lithuania’s 0.7 and 0.3 percent of GDP respectively. 

According to the President, Finnish experience in reforming higher education might be useful to Lithuania as it prepares to restructure its system of education.

“If we want to be competitive in terms of qualification, not diploma numbers, Lithuania needs to reform its higher education. By investing only in buildings and floor area – not in quality – we devaluate education itself. Science and innovation are the determining factors for Lithuania’s growth and success. All efforts and funding must be targeted at the quality of education, not numbers,” the President said.

The President underlined that the reform of higher education will be a key priority for the new Government of Lithuania. The process of merging universities is currently in progress in most EU member states, but it is still in the stage of discussion in Lithuania. There are 45 higher educational establishments in Lithuania, which offer 1.8 thousand study programmes, compared to 450 such programmes in Finland. The quality of higher education has gone down due to the enrolment of school graduates with poor achievement scores. It is only this year that minimum enrolment requirements have been finally introduced after the adoption of relevant legal amendments initiated by the President.

Aalto University plans to host a discussion of Lithuanian and Finnish scientists to share Finland’s experience in reforming higher education.

Press Service of the President

Last updated 2016.10.19 12:46

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