In the spring of 1989, thanks to the efforts of scholars in Lithuania and abroad, Vytautas Magnus University was re-opened: the first independent higher education school in what was still Soviet-occupied Lithuania. On Wednesday 24 April, 4 p.m., VMU will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its re-establishment: the festivities will be held at the VMU Great Hall (S. Daukanto g. 28).
The celebration programme will include the premiere of documentary film ‘A Free-Thinking University’ directed by VMU Assoc. Prof. Rytis Zemkauskas and a discussion entitled “Challenging the Established Practices”.
The new film will not have a conventional historical narrative. It focuses on individual perspectives and actions taken in order to shape the modern identity of the Republic of Lithuania. It is the story of a university which has most faithfully mirrored the dreams of the reborn Lithuanian state. 30 years of VMU – 30 years of Lithuania and its successes and setbacks.
In the era of Sąjūdis (initially, the Reform Movement of Lithuania) soon before and after the collapse of the USSR, Lithuanian and emigrant scientists were united by a common goal: to revive and modernize the University of Lithuania in Kaunas, which was founded in 1922, later renamed after Grand Duke Vytautas the Great, and eventually closed down by the Soviets in 1950. The united community sought to build a university which would eradicate the Soviet mentality, institutional culture, and hierarchy-based management from higher education, while simultaneously paving the way for a more accelerated development of a Western academic culture.
The work on re-establishment began on 26-28 April 1989 in Kaunas, during the international scientific conference The National Concept of a Higher Education School and the University of Kaunas. The event concluded with the declaration of the Act of Re-establishment of VMU: this was the first step taken by the Lithuanian and emigrant scientists, which subsequently led to their further cooperation in the university’s development.
Later, in December 1990, the VMU Statute was adopted, which formally established not just the university’s autonomy, academic freedom, and integrity of science and studies, but also the three levels of studies (BA, MA, PhD), which was unprecedented in Lithuania at the time. Ever since the first days of its rebirth, VMU has given special attention to the teaching of foreign languages. These traditions have been going strong to this day.
VMU Rector Prof. Juozas Augutis is certain that the history of the university is inseparable from the history of the country and its people: over the course of three decades, VMU has become a symbol of Lithuania’s intellectual and cultural life.
“I think that the conditions of academic life available at the university could be transferred to the public or political life. A university is not just a space of education: thanks to the values upheld while organising the community life here, we also attract organisations and people from the outside. I believe that something that truly has value can only be created with free will and great enthusiasm. It is not always just knowledge and logic that lead us to the truth. We should not forget to follow our values and an open-hearted understanding of experience”, the Rector said.
VMU became the first higher education school in the Baltic region to organize studies based on the principles of liberal arts: the ideas that support personal freedom of students and foster the responsibility of creating one’s own individual study schedule, working on creative projects, and promoting critical thought.
On the eve of the 30th re-establishment anniversary, Vytautas Magnus University has a recently expanded community: in 2019, it has been joined by the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences (LUES) and Aleksandras Stulginskis University (ASU), which became the VMU academies of Education and Agriculture, respectively.
The celebration of Vytautas Magnus University’s 30th re-establishment anniversary will take place on Wednesday 24 April, 4 p.m., at VMU Great Hall (S. Daukanto g. 28, Kaunas). The event will start with the premiere of documentary film ‘A Free-Thinking University’ and the discussion “Challenging the Established Practices”.
On Friday 26 April, 2 p.m., a festive meeting of VMU Senate will be held at the Aula Magna (Gimnazijos g. 7).