Prof. Rein Raud: “VMU Is Probably the Best-Prepared to Carry Out Mission of University in Lithuania”
On February 14th, Rein Raud, former Tallinn University Rector, will be awarded VMU Honorary Doctor’s regalia during the celebration of Vytautas Magnus University’s 90th anniversary at VMU Aula Magna (Gimnazijos Str. 7). Prof. Rein Raud, Estonian scholar, writer, VMU Council member and professor of Japanese, is very fluent in Lithuanian and agreed to share his thoughts on universities, their reforms, autonomy, and, of course, VMU.
Prof. Rein Raud recognizes the historical significance Vytautas Magnus University has had in the region, especially considering the high number of intellectuals it has educated. Its progenitor, the University of Lithuania, was founded 90 years ago and was the only higher education institution in the country for some time during the interwar period. "VMU is important historically as the main higher education centre of interwar Lithuania, as it supported the intellectual climate in Kaunas", the VMU Honorary Doctor said.
Turning to the present, Rein Raud revealed that he thinks VMU is still a special university, because it is not only unique in the national context but also faithful to traditions which are worthy of being spread around the world. "A university should not raise people, it should lend them a hand while they are growing up on their own – not only as specialists, but as people and citizens as well. Promotion of free intellectual atmosphere, plurality of opinions and democratic leadership principles is of utmost importance for that purpose. I think that out of all Lithuanian universities VMU is probably the best-prepared to carry out this mission", the Estonian professor gave high praise to the university, which will celebrate its 90th anniversary next week.
The secret of VMU’s success is rooted in its reliance on liberal arts education system – it provides a multidimensional, wide profile education rather than narrow and highly specialized studies. "This is the kind of system which helps each person develop and coordinate their individual talents wih requirements of a particular profession. A university is successful only when its alumni are as distinguished from each other by their knowledge and points of view as they were before entering the university. Otherwise, fruitful and competent dialogue necessary for the development of the country and the society is impossible", Rein Raud argued.
As the public discourse in Lithuania is constantly full of concerns about higher education reforms, we asked the professor to comment on the Lithuanian government’s plans to leave just two universities in Vilnius and Kaunas. "I think it would only increase bureaucratism. There would be no dialogue or competition among centres of thought, and young people would "vote with their feet", i.e. more and more of the good students would go looking for a place to study somewhere where they have a choice", Prof. Raud remained skeptical of the much-debated reform, forecasting that the number of young Lithuanians migrating abroad will grow even more if it is implemented.
According to the VMU Honorary Doctor, active government involvement in higher education does more harm than good in general. "The state has to trust its universities. After all, one could say that the highest intellectual competence of a country is gathered in universities. They fulfil their tasks the best when no one interferes", the Estonian scholar opined.
Congratulating Vytautas Magnus University on this special occasion, Prof. Raud wished its community the best of luck, endurance and further international development. During the festivities on February 14, Prof. Rein Raud will receive the VMU Honorary Doctor’s regalia, while Prof. Viktorija Skrupskelytė (Dept. of German and French Philology at VMU) will be awarded the regalia of VMU Honorary Professor.
More information about the celebration of the 90th anniversary of VMU is available here.