Due to the Government’s broken promises of additional funding for the gradual increase of academic and non-academic staff salaries from 1 January, Vilnius University (VU) announces suspension of its activities.
Although the Government promised to look for financial resources for higher education after the last week’s protests, on 2 December the edited collective agreement of education and research staff was signed, which foresees the 10 percent salary increase for lectures and researchers, however, starting only on 1 September 2020, not from January 2020. This means that the annual income for lecturers and researchers would increase by up to 3 percent. The questions of non-academic staff salaries and low student incentive grants are not addressed.
As the VU Rector Arturas Zukauskas states, even though the salaries of academic staff have increased in recent years, they are far from competitive, non-academic staff is neglected, and the state’s attitude towards education remains the same. According to the Rector, allocations for higher education are still perceived as expenses, despite the fact that they pay off tenfold.
“Allow me to explain - there is a return on invested capital. Education once was declared a top priority on the Government’s programme, despite that, today the Government is systematically undermining it. We do not deny its contribution to the growing salaries of academic staff over the last two and a half years and are grateful for that. Nonetheless, education remains a patient attached to life support machine. Our academic community is exhausted and resentful, therefore, we have no other choice but suspend our work”, states A. Zukauskas, adding that VU activities are initially suspended for two days - 5 and 6 December.
VU announces that the only exceptions are international, national conferences and external events, where participants will also be informed about the reasons for suspension.
VU celebrates its 440 anniversary this year and is one of the oldest and most prominent institutions in Central and Eastern Europe as well as a longstanding educational and cultural focal point. This sort of suspension, initiated by universities themselves, is a rare historical event. One such event dates back to the 13th century, when in 1231 the Pope Gregory IX, seeking to protect the University of Paris in France from the arbitrariness of local authorities, gave the university the right to suspend all lectures.