On the 1st of April, as Vilnius University marked its 441st birthday, Professor Rimvydas Petrauskas took his oath of office and officially assumed the position of rector, in charge of the largest institution of higher education and research in Lithuania. It was possible to watch VU’s new rector take his oath during a live broadcast.
Today, Prof Petrauskas promised to ensure the prosperity of the university, to properly represent it, and to propagate its name both in Lithuania and around the world. In the context of the difficult situation our country is facing, he also stressed that the university should take more responsibility and actively engage in the processes taking place around us.
“I am taking the oath of the rector of Vilnius University and beginning my work for the world, the country, and the university in difficult times. We are in the presence of an unexpected and difficult challenge that we were not prepared for. The university must set an example as an integral and solidary community, thus contributing to overcoming the problem facing our society,” said the rector.
He said that he considers the main priorities at the university to be the orientation of studies towards the development of an all-round and creative person, the development of academic interdisciplinarity and internationalism, and strengthening of the university’s role in society, the state, and the world.
“Looking at the university’s place on the global map of universities, we will promote broad-scale international networking and international academic initiatives aimed at raising the university’s recognition and reputation, as well as the level of science and studies,” said the rector of his aspirations.
Speaking about the university’s place in society and the state, he emphasised that a strong university with authority in society is the foundation of statehood, changing society, creating history and having power in the state.
The rector sees the nature of the university as a project of deep personal studies, during which the development of subject-specific professional knowledge and critical thinking is combined. “Passing on all knowledge is impossible – one can only pass on the habit of seeking knowledge and cultivate the ‘basic instinct’ of raising the question and exploring, discovering and passing it on.”
Prof Petrauskas holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate degree in history from Vilnius University. He studied and did internships at universities in Basel, Berlin, Greifswald and Kraków, the German Historical Institute in Warsaw, and the Herder Institute in Marburg (Germany). He has published monographs and articles from the field of research of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is a member of several international academic organisations, and is on the editorial boards of ten scientific journals. His research direction is the political and social history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th-16th centuries.
Prof Rimvydas Petrauskas is a professor and dean (2012-2020) of the VU Faculty of History, a full member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, president of the Lithuanian National Committee of Historians, a member of the International Historical Commission to Research the History of the Teutonic Order (Internationale Historische Kommission zur Erforschung des Deutschen Ordens), former chairman of the board of the Research Council of Lithuania, chairman of the State Lithuanian Studies and Dissemination Programme, and a member of
the Council of Higher Education. He has been awarded the Lithuanian Science Prize (2019), the Knight’s Crosses of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas (2018) and the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2019).
The rector of Vilnius University is the head and sole governing body of the university who, together with the Council and the Senate, is responsible for ensuring the university’s autonomy and community self-government, as well as for overseeing the quality of the university’s activities and implementation of the university’s mission. The rector’s chief undertaking is to concentrate on and lead the search for consensus and unanimous solutions in response to the changing situation.
The rector was elected in January for a five-year term by the Vilnius University Council through an open competition.