• Klaipeda University
  • 27 December 2023

Prof. dr. Artūras Razbadauskas: "The Trust and Support of the KU Community Encourages Me to Move Forward..."

Prof. dr. Artūras Razbadauskas, Rector of Klaipėda University (KU), who was re-elected for a second term at the beginning of December, calls the ending year successful both for him personally and for the University and its community.

In our interview with the KU Rector, we talk not only about what has been achieved, but also about new ideas and challenges.

How would you sum up this year?

I am happy about it because it has been a successful year for KU. If we look at the areas in which the University operates, we shall see a lot of positive things. Studies: the number of students admitted this year was higher than in previous years. Research: the six new Horizon Europe projects that got competitive funding in the fields of natural sciences and technology will further enhance the visibility and recognition of KU researchers in the international arena. The biggest achievement at national level was the approval by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport of the Centre of Excellence for Coastal Sustainable Development, which will consolidate researchers and infrastructure in the three fields of technology, medicine and health, and life sciences, expanding existing competences in areas relevant for coastal development. The third is the social mission covering the results of the work of our academic staff: exhibitions, prizes, awards, and scholarships for PhD students. I am glad that the processes of developing Klaipėda University Hospital are moving in the right direction.

You have had two elections in a year; how do you feel about the results?

As a city politician, I participated in the Klaipėda Municipal Council elections with the Homeland Union (Lithuanian Christian Democrats). The elections were quite successful for us, still the political influences were distributed in such a way that we are currently working in the opposition. In a democratic society, this position is also important.

The results of the rector's election are both gratifying and binding. The trust and support of the KU Council and the entire University community have been high. I see it as an endorsement of what has been done in the first five years of my term of office and an obligation to continue the work that has been started.

For quite a long time, you did not reveal whether you were going to run for the position of Rector of KU. Did you have any doubts?

It is only human to deliberate. I am a medical doctor, and I am well aware that if I choose one path, I lose opportunities in the other, and therefore there was some hesitation. I was motivated by the support of the community, their trust  and encouragement. Even students came to give me a pep talk... Of course, if there had been candidates to whom I could have handed over the post with a calm heart, without fear that the development of the University can stop and that the Klaipėda University Hospital project is no longer cultivated, I might have made a different decision. But when I found out that a person who had left a big stain on the University's reputation, who had run away from the University, who had left unfinished work, who had no managerial skills, had expressed his wish to run for the position, I had no longer any doubts about running for election.

You have taken on the responsibility of being the leader of the KU community for another 5 years. What will be the priorities for KU?

One of the most important tasks is to strengthen internationalisation. We understand that it is difficult for a non-capital university to compete in Lithuania. We need to secure our place by being different, by attracting and integrating the experience and strengths of European universities into our academic and research environment. Through this position, we will strive to strengthen our position in the rankings.

Related to this priority is the issue of attracting students, but here, I am convinced, we need to work closely with the city and business. There is no other way. In every field of life, young people are needed. Let us look at the Blue Breakthrough Strategy, that is, the strategy of Klaipėda's economic development, which put down the ambition of increasing the city's population in black and white. How can we achieve this? Only through young people going to school, starting families, and having children here. Thus we need to work together to ensure that young people choose Klaipėda for their life and future.

Equally important is the well-being of the KU community, both financially and socially. Salaries for all successful and efficient performers will be increased through the variable part.  I want members of the community to feel that the University is a good employer, and there are various plans to consider. Perhaps a kindergarten could be established on the KU campus? I understand that such things are not common in Lithuania, however, European research institutions can be proud of such care for their employees, so why not transfer this experience to Lithuania? Especially since we have the potential to do so. Just a few days ago, we signed a Letter of Intent with Limarko Shipping Company AB, which,  on the occasion of its anniversary,  is donating an investment project for the development of the KU academic campus to the University. Maybe the investment market experts will find such an opportunity?

Construction is eagerly awaited on the KU campus. We hear that more than one new building is due to go up here.

We need to make significant progress in infrastructure development, and we have done some serious homework: a new dormitory is about to go up as well as a new sports complex, to be built on the principle of public-private partnership – a project that has been given the green light by the present  Government. Plans include a new laboratory block, a simulation centre for the Faculty of Health Sciences, and a media centre.

New buildings are good, but it's the people who bring life to them. We often hear that Klaipėda lacks students and their youthful energy. Where are they? How can we attract them to our beautiful Klaipėda?

Student numbers are down everywhere, a consequence of the demographic black hole. Global practice shows that research universities are successful in the education market, and at this stage KU may even be more of a research university; however, this does not mean that we do not want to increase the number of students. We are working hard in this direction. We have been quite successful in increasing the number of international students for some time, but due to changes in government regulation, the flow of such students has decreased. It has to be admitted that all Lithuanian higher education institutions are not helped by the prevailing overestimation of study abroad. It seems to be our national trait to look only abroad for miracles and to underestimate what we have, which would be a more economically and logically rational choice.

Statistical enrollment figures for KU have been showing an upward trend for the second year running; they are fragile, but growing. Our ambition is to strengthen it. This year we have seen an upsurge in the studies in biology and biotechnology, in pedagogical studies, and in leisure sports. The latter has been significantly enriched by partnerships with FC Barcelona and the Lithuanian Basketball Federation.

How much has the EU-CONEXUS alliance strengthened in recent years, and what is the untapped potential for studies here?

The opportunities opened up by EU-CONEXUS are a rational option for anyone dreaming of studying abroad. You choose to study at KU and have the opportunity to study at eight other European universities. If you choose joint study programmes or specialisations, you will receive a diploma signed by the rectors of all the universities in the alliance. The EU-CONEXUS joint study offer will soon be complemented by two new joint Master's programmes: the Digitalisation of Culture, combining the humanities and IT, and Sustainable Coastal Urban Development Studies. EU-CONEXUS is not only about studies, but also about joint research projects, cultural and sporting events, and exchange programmes.

One year has passed since the establishment of KU Hospital. Is everything going according to plan in raising this "baby"?

It would be difficult to compare this process with the birth of a human baby. It is not a story that starts from scratch. A new institution is being created out of three former organisations, transforming them into a single entity. This is a complex process, as different communities have to find consensus and solutions. As a representative of the founders of the hospital, I am very pleased with the successful choice of the leader.  Dr Audrius Šimaitis has returned to Klaipėda from an important professional position in the United Kingdom with extensive and different managerial experience. We can see how different his communication is, how his openness in discussing issues and building a team has brought community initiatives to life. I can see that the problem of attracting young residents has moved in a positive direction. People are coming to Klaipėda University Hospital who believe in the idea. I can only rejoice in that. Of course, we have a lot of important work and challenges ahead of us. In July next year, the transitional phase of the reform will be over, the new structure of the organisation will be formed, and there will be no more branches, which currently still have certain autonomy rights.

Can we say that the threshold of mistrust in reform has been crossed?

The flow of negative information is now reduced, although we are well aware that the competition with other university hospitals in Lithuania is and will be fierce. The new entity claims its share in a single funding amount, so it is natural that the old ones do not really clap the hands.

Have the University Gymnasium in Klaipėda and the university classes in other gymnasiums lived up to KU's expectations?

The number of young people coming to study from these schools has been increasing. In accordance with statistics, the Vytautas Magnus Gymnasium has prepared the greatest number of students for us. We can see that the rankings of the schools that are actively collaborating with KU are also rising. This is the result of joint efforts. We are already discussing university classes with the Klaipėda District Municipality. There are ideas about KU classes in Tauragė. I see this as one of the ways to increase the number of KU students.

Do you think that in the near future it will be possible to realise the dream of having information boards "Klaipėda: University City" at the entrance roads to Klaipėda?

When entering Rostock, KU's partner in the EU-CONEXUS alliance, visitors are greeted by a sign saying that Rostock is a city of Hanseatic League and the university. I keep saying that having a university in Klaipėda adds great value to the city. I am glad that, during the Mayor's visit to KU, I heard a position in support of the University and its activities. I hope that such boards will appear.

What would you wish to the KU community?

Ambitious goals as well as patience and determination to achieve them, harmony within the environment and within ourselves, and enthusiasm to grow the University. KU is the fruit of all our efforts. Let us keep moving forward. We are on the right track. Happy Holidays to all!


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