The branch of the University of Bialystok in Vilnius „Faculty of Economics- Informatics”was estabished on the basis of resoutions pf the Minsitry of Higher Education of the Repubic of Poland (25 April 2006 No. DSW-2-0412/ /JB/05), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland (9 March 2006 No. BDG-0131-3409-06), Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Order No. 633 of 19 June 2007) and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania (Permit to implement studies No. 002011 of 8 August 2007). According to the Law of Lithuania, the unit is the first branch of the foreign higher education school in Lithuania and the first faculty of the Polish higher education school situated outside the territory of the country.
Lithuania’s and Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004 opened new possibilities for higher education. The initiative to establish a branch of the University of Bialystok (hereinafter UB) in Vilnius was put forward by the Association of Polish Scholars of Lithuania in 2004-2007. First of a it was intended for Polish people in Lithuania. The level of higher education of the Polish minority in Lithuania is low. This is due to historical reasons – after the war the whole intelligentsia class had to move from Vilnius region to Poland or to the West. Those, who did not leave, were deported to the East during the first post-war years. Polish people who remained there after the war originate from simple people and pheasant class devoid of higher education. The last population census showed that the level of higher education among the Polish minority was twice as lower than the country’s average, what is illustrated in the table below.
The level of education of Lithuania national minoritiesSource: Lithuanian Department of Statistics
Based on the population census of 2001, this indicator for the Polish minority in Lithuania was as follows: 63 Poles with a higher education fell per 1,000 Poles above 10 years of age, whereas the average in Lithuania – 126 persons with a higher education per 1,000 residents. The indicator of all the Lithuanian national and ethnic minorities, apart from Romani people, is close to the country’s average. The low higher education indicator of the Polish minority has an effect to the growth of pathological phenomena (unemployment, lower welfare, alcoholism, drug addiction, crime rate) in the regions inhabited by this minority. Therefore, we think that a suggestion of additional studies at the BU branch in Vilnius “Faculty of Economics-Informatics”, essentially intended for this majority, will allow reducing this disproportion in the education level and will improve the general situation of Polish people in Lithuania, what is a mission of our faculty.
According to the population census of 2011, the higher education level of the Polish minority was 138, as compared with the country’s 212 ( 1.54 time lower) and further remained the lowest among minorities residing in Lithuania, except for the Romani minority.
Establishment of the distanced Faculty of the UB in Vilnius, or in other words, branch in Vilnius, is a great achievement of the University of Bialystok, Polish and Lithuanian diplomacy and Polish minority in Lithuania. The decision was adopted in the summer of 2007, whereas on 1 October, the first academic year commenced and 177 students were admitted. The first admission was very difficult – decisions of Lithuanian authorities were adopted in August 2007, when admission to Lithuanian higher education schools was over. During the first year, the institution encountered legal and organizational problems related with facilities and technical resources, tuition fees, student’s status and other privileges. The majority of these problems were resolved thanks to benevolence of Lithuanian authorities, and where it was lacking, the problems have remained outstanding until the present time. As an example of resolved problems, mention should be made of the order No. ISAK-249 of the Minister of Education and Science of Lithuania as of 7 February 2008 that allowed students of foreign branches to issue Lithuanian certificates (source: Official Gazette No. 20, 19 February 2008, Vilnius 2008, p. 75-79.). As a result, our students were granted the very same transport, health and social security privileges as those had by students of Lithuanian state and non-state higher education schools. However, one more problem remained outstanding – Vilnius branch is not allocated a tax of residents income (2%), as it has not been granted the status authorising according to the legal acts of Lithuania, to accept such charity like other Lithuanian higher education schools.
In the summer of 2014, the Faculty received all necessary permits to implement master’s studies in the field of Economics. During the new 2014/2015 academic year, 51 student was admitted to the 2nd – graduate cycle in the field of Economic; 64 student – to the undergraduate cycle in the field of Economics, and 34 students - in the field of Informatics.
The Faculty has a library having approximately 6 thousand books and over 30 periodic publications. The library has a remote access to electronic databases subscribed by the UB. Currently (autumn of 2014) 456 students study at the Faculty. 10% of the best students received a scholarship of 400-550 zl. / month for good academic results, and approximately 120 students receive EUR 1,000 of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Poland during an academic year. Students from needy families receive social grants from the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania in the amount of LTL 390 a month.
Two students’ research circles operate at the Faculty–research circle of F. von Hayek for economics students, and research circle of J. von Neumann for informatics students. Every year the Faculty students participate in the student exchange programme Erasmus. Each year, students’ self-governance organizes matriculation festivals for freshers, Juwenalia festivals, etc. At the time of the last Juwenalia festival in the Forum Palace in 2014, group ENEJ gave a performance. Students’ theatre and volleyball, basketball, football, martial arts, Niat Nam sports clubs operate at the faculty.
In 2007-2014, studies were finished ta the Faculty of Economics -Informatics by 391 graduates which majority found a job in Vilnius region. They work as accountants, managers, programmers, network administrators, or a self-employed. Based on data of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania, there are no unemployed among them. They are young, educated people who create the so-called middle class, which is the biggest valuable of society – the majority of them created jobs not only for themselves, but also for others.
The biggest problem of the Faculty – absence of own headquarters, what prevents it from starting new fields of studies. In the autumn of 2008, the public institution Universitas Studiorum Polona Vilnensis donated to the University of Bialystok the real estate located on Aguonų St. 22 that is designated for the needs of Vilnius branch. In 2009, the Faculty received a respective permit for construction of headquarters in this plot, but was not allowed to start the construction due to shortage of parking lots near this lot. In 2014, the Senate of the UB took a decision to sell the real estate on Aguonų St. 22 and to use the funds received for the construction of new headquarters if Vilnius branch. Notwithstanding the housing problems, the Faculty of Economics-Informatics in Vilnius started preparatory works in the autumn of 2014 in order to commenced studies in the field of Europeistics. On completion of studies in the field of Europeistics, a graduate will have a possibility to work as a journalist, government official, European project specialist or adviser.