History of VMU

Vytautas Magnus University (VMU), established in 1922 (re-established in 1989), is one of the most liberal and modern universities in Lithuania. Its well-deserved reputation is built on pursuing liberal studies policy, seeking and establishing successful international relations with other universities all over the world. It is an open university where traditions and innovations meet and complement each other.

The inception of Vytautas Magnus University coincided with the birth of Lithuanian statehood. Having declared the country‘s political independence on February 16th in 1918, the key figures of Lithuanian enlightenment considered it a high priority task to establish a University of Lithuania. Four years later, the University of Lithuania was opened and remained the only Lithuanian school of higher education during the interwar period. Since its very first years, it remained a vitally important hotbed for cultural, scientific and modern national ideas. When the 500th anniversary of the death of Grand Duke Vytautas Magnus was commemorated in 1930, the University of Lithuania was renamed to honour his name and the occasion.

The university was unique during the interwar period due to its free spirit, eventful and exciting social life, a nurtured sense of community. Most of the famous contemporary intellectuals, highest ranking Lithuanian officials and government figures studied here. Vytautas Magnus University was also the place where the most famous scientific and cultural movements of the period were founded. Since its first years, the university has been following a liberal studying policy and paying exceptional attention to liberal arts and social sciences, acknowledging their role in uniting the nation, fostering its historical memory. To this day, the values of VMU remain the same – modernity, partnership, liberal and communal thoughts.

The Soviet government closed down the university in 1950, but some of its faculties served as a foundation for other schools of higher education: Aleksandras Stulginskis University, Kaunas University of Technology and Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. Thanks to emigrants, the academic tradition of VMU not only survived, but also kept developing for long years until restoration of independence. In 1989, the university was re-established in a collective effort of Lithuanian and emigrant scientists. At the time, it was the first autonomous school of higher education in the country.

The Statute of University legitimated the principle of academic freedom and the unity of science and studies. It also introduced three levels of studies, awarded by Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degrees¸ which then were a novelty in the country. What also separated the university from its Lithuanian counterparts was its use of modern studying concept, based on the model established by Harvard University. The concept is unique because it gives more preference to wide-spanning, general university education as opposed to narrow and heavily specialized studies. This allows to focus more on universal, versatile education and the needs of modern society.

Timeline of Major Events in VMU History

  • 1922 – University of Lithuania is established in Kaunas.
  • 1930 – University of Lithuania is granted the name of Vytautas Magnus.
  • 1950 – Vytautas Magnus University is closed.
  • 1989 – Vytautas Magnus University is re-established under the joint efforts of Lithuanian and Diaspora scientists.
  • 2009 – Vytautas Magnus University marks the 20th anniversary since its reestablishment.
  • 2011 – Vytautas Magnus University celebrates the Czesław Miłosz Year.
  • 2012 – The university celebrates the 90th anniversary since establishment.