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Klaipėda University on the Threshold of Significant Changes

Prof. dr. Leta Dromantienė, KU Vice-Rector for Studes

Klaipėda University starts the new academic year with nearly 1,000 new students. The numbers are encouraging as, despite the higher education reforms, higher admission requirements, and demographic problems in Lithuania, KU admitted just about 200 fewer first year students, compared to 2016. Student admission was not the only challenge faced by the University: it plans significant changes for the new academic year and expects a significant breakthrough.

A thousand new students at Klaipėda University

The results of student admission to Klaipėda University have been better than expected: study agreements have already been signed by 932 prospective students, including 353 to be taking bachelor‘s, 342, master‘s, and 237, pre-master‘s, accelerated, or professional study programmes. Starting with October 1, 16 doctoral students are to start their studies. Over 80 foreign citizens expressed a wish to study at Klaipėda University, some of them are still waiting for their visas. Special interest of applicants was enjoyed by the unique Seaport Engineering, Engineering of Liquefied Natural Gas Terminals, Hydrology and Oceanography, Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy, Nursing, Kinesitherapy, and Childhood Pedagogy undergraduate study programmes. The KU undergraduate study programmes  of Psychology, Logistics, and Economics retained their traditional popularity.

The University welcomes a large number of master‘s students: during the first stage of admission, all the state-funded places were filled. Altogether, about 350 applicants were admitted to the second cycle studies. The most popular study programmes included those of the History of the Baltic States (offering a specialism of Military History), Ecology and Environmental Studies, Geoinformatics, Seaport Management, Fleet Maintenance Management, Regional Governance, Nursing, Social Work, Health Care Management, and Public Health Education.

Significant Changes: Opening a New Laboratory Complex

Klaipėda University is changing its direction of development and focusing on scientific research and research-based studies. Therefore, this year it is launching a Marine Research Institute in a contemporary building of research laboratories. A huge lab complex of around 5,900 m2 will provide at least 80 modern working places for scientists of five laboratories: those of Maritime Transport Technologies, Reliability of Marine Structures, Marine Ecosystems, Marine Chemistry, and Fleet and Expeditionary Research.

This year, the Marine Research Institute will employ about 50 researchers and the same number of technicians and other specialists. The Institute is being set up on the basis of the KU Open Access Centre for Marine Research and the Marine Science and Technology Centre and is to become the core of the Marine Valley. The main objective of the Institute is to conduct marine scientific research at an international level, to provide scientific research and innovation development-based services to business, and to participate in the formation of the University and national maritime R&D activities and in the study process.

As stated by prof. dr. Darius Daunys, Director of the Marine Science and Technology Centre, the new KU Marine Research Institute will enable the University researchers to carry out joint projects more fluently. “It is very good that we are consolidating and developing from several different centres into a solid Marine Research Institute. In general, the opening of such a modern laboratory building will bring Klaipėda University and Lithuania closer to the standards of scientific institutes of Western maritime states,” said prof. Daunys.

In the opinion of Viktorija Vaitkevičienė, Director of the Open Access Centre for Marine Research,  in the future, thanks to this institute, KU is to become a strong “player” in the Baltic Sea Region which will both carry out fundamental and applied marine scientific research and develop and implement innovations. “In the new institute we are not going to limit ourselves to solely marine research in the narrow sense; in it, interdisciplinary research will be conducted through linking various competencies, ranging from natural sciences and mathematics to engineering and information technologies. This will facilitate our co-operation with business and the conducting of research in compliance with the public and market needs. In addition, the emergence of contemporary scientific infrastructure will provide the students in the second and third study cycles with more opportunities for scientific activity”, – said Dr. Vaitkevičienė.

Academician prof. dr. habil. Sergejus Oleninas comments on the development of marine research at KU: “The opening of this marine research laboratory complex is a dream come true, because we began marine research in premises with bare walls and some “written off” equipment. I only hope that we shall attract young people willing to become scientists and to explore the sea and the environment. Because it is not just a profession, it is a way of life, when one travels around the world, gets to know foreign scientists, and learns about the depths of the water. The profession of scientist provides an opportunity to get to know both the global world and ourselves.”

Optimisation of studies and the infrastructure

In order to optimise the management of the University, its infrastructure is to be restructured: we intend to give up the old buildings scattered all over the city of Klaipėda and to concentrate the KU divisions in the historical buildings in H. Manto and S. Nėries Streets. In the first stage, the buildings in Sportininkų and Malūnininkų Streets are to be sold, and the money to be used for the construction of another new, contemporary dormitory.

In the second stage of the infrastructure restructuring, the buildings in Minijos and Bijūnų Streets and Taikos Avenue are to be sold. The received funds will be used for the construction of a new building in the KU campus to accommodate the Faculty of Marine Technologies and Natural Sciences and the laboratories for studies. The restructuring will significantly reduce the maintenance costs and decidedly improve the working and study conditions for students, academic staff, and researchers. The KU academic community will be concentrated in the University campus; therefore, preparatory works are necessary that will be concentrated upon in the nearest future.

The negotiations with the Government on the transfer of the Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture Laboratory located in Smiltynė to Klaipėda University will be continued. We seek to concentrate all the divisions conducting maritime research and R&D activities in the city of Klaipėda, in one major research and study centre of Klaipėda University.

By participating in the process the higher education reforms, Klaipėda University will optimise and restructure its study programs, integrate the study divisions, and expand international studies in order to attract more motivated and gifted students from abroad. In addition, in order to meet the needs of business and the municipalities of Western Lithuania, we believe it is important to discuss the restructuring of the study system with the municipalities of Western Lithuania, representatives of education, culture, health care systems, and the businesses of the port of Klaipėda, as well as with the city colleges.