EuroFaculty in Tartu, Riga and Vilnius – progress and challenges

Last summer there was a shift in the administration of the EuroFaculty. I got the honor of replacing Professor Arild Saether, who after two very tough years as Director of the EuroFaculty decided to return to his native Norway. Along with the EF Director, also the Executive Officer and Accounting Officer were changed.

Taking into account that EuroFaculty administers a complex network of co-operation among ten sovereign states, such a total change of the executive leadership seemed hazardous. However, the EuroFaculty in the Baltic countries carries on its work in an environment of pioneer spirit, with a positive attitude towards transition and co-operation. The change has therefore been quite smooth.

As the EuroFaculty has now been functioning for some six years, we can talk about clear and visible results achieved to date. The EF is now on the edge of skipping the bachelor programs in all three centers – Riga, Tartu and Vilnius – in order to concentrate on master programs and on the sustainability of the already obtained results.

From the standpoint of this new objective, the on-going efforts may sometimes seem to be less effective than before. It is not unusual, for instance, that a teacher at BA level teaches 200–300 students in a class, whereas the groups on advanced studies at master level usually consist of 5–15 students. Simple calculations can therefore lead to a mistaken impression of a dramatic fall in the productivity of EuroFaculty lecturers. This is not the case, as advanced courses are the only guarantee for sustainability of the EuroFaculty effort.

It is very difficult for elder local lecturers to adapt to the teaching practice for advanced studies. This situation is aggravated by the fact that, due to low local salaries, University teachers at all three centres are forced to take 20–24 hours of lectures per week against e.g. the Danish average of about 6 hours a week. The research efforts of local lecturers are consequently weak.

“EuroFaculty PhD”

Major progress could thus be achieved if it were possible to connect local PhD students to the EuroFaculty environment by grants. This would allow the students to quit other jobs and concentrate exclusively on research. A 6-month stay in one of the donor countries could support such an arrangement. The local PhD could thus work in a research environment lead by the EuroFaculty instead of being too busy with teaching.

Initiatives on Law studies

The EuroFaculty recently arranged a competition of proposals for Law reforms in Latvia related to the Bologna declaration. On 5 April 2002, the EuroFaculty and the Faculty of Law at the University of Latvia arranged a joint conference on law reforms. The results of the competition and the outcome of the conference are now used in the on-going intensive effort on Law study reform covering all Law studies in the country.

At the University of Vilnius, the EuroFaculty will organise this autumn a video-based international classroom teaching in Law, with participants from Denmark and the EuroFaculty in Lithuania. The ambition is to expand this system to all three Baltic countries.

The EuroFaculty will also hold a Congress of Centres for European Studies on 31 May –1 June 2002, with a special focus on EU accession. The Congress shall discuss the role of European Studies in the European integration process.

Needs for the future

One of the most pressing needs is to create a strong study of Public Administration, especially Public Finance, to improve the national tax systems in the Baltic countries. The economic basis for this enormous task, as for the introduction of EuroFaculty PhD grants, is at present very weak. A possible way out would be to attract new contributors.

The Netherlands

In connection with its new status as Observer in the Council of the Baltic Sea States, The Netherlands has declared its interest in supporting the EuroFaculty. A contribution is at the moment under consideration in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Fulbright professorship

The United States supports the EuroFaculty efforts by seconding Fullbright professors. This placement of Fullbright professors in the EuroFaculty environment makes the professors’ job more efficient as the students are already familiar with English lessons. Just recently I have received a letter from the US State Department, which confirms that “the United States will triple its contribution to the EuroFaculty this year. Pending Congressional confirmation, we have set aside funds to support one visiting U.S. professor at each of the three campuses.”

Even though the challenges for the EuroFaculty are rising as basic problems are solved and the focus changed to more advanced problems, the programme has over the years matured and obtained a structure, which increases our confidence in its ability to play a significant role in the transformation process in the Baltic countries.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons