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University reform a focus for Lithuania’s Covid recovery plan


Push for more competitive research system is one of seven focus areas in draft plan

Lithuania has submitted a draft plan for its share of the EU’s €750 billion Covid-19 recovery fund, Next Generation EU, which includes a major focus on reforms to higher education.

The European Commission, which is reviewing EU countries’ pitches to the fund, said on 15 May that Lithuania had requested €2.2bn in grants. The fund is shared out based on the impact of Covid-19 on national economies.

Lithuania’s draft plan sets aside €453 million for reforms and investment into the country’s higher education system, of which €200m would come from Next Generation EU.

Its proposals include tweaks to universities’ missions, enhanced monitoring of the research system and efforts to raise international competitiveness.

The plan explains that a major challenge in Lithuania is that its funding system encourages institutions to maximise student enrolments rather than quality, and that this causes a lack of graduates in science, technology, engineering and medicine. 

Other problems it identifies include a low level of international student mobility; fragmented monitoring of the research system; unattractive working conditions for researchers; and “no culture of business-science cooperation”.

Under the plan, university mergers would be incentivised by “strengthening universities involved in consolidation and continuing to invest in their real integration”.

The plan also proposes changes to Lithuania’s health system, with a focus on digitisation. This includes boosting genomic-sequencing capacity at university hospitals to allow the gathering of a representative sample of Lithuanian genomes, which in turn should improve public health—such as by enabling more personalised medicine—and help genetics research.

The Commission has received 17 such plans from EU countries, which will be assessed over the next two months based on EU and country-specific criteria. The plans must also be signed off by other EU governments.