Prof. Šikšnys: scientific breakthrough occurs in places where talented scientists are concentrated and infrastructure necessary for their work is created

Based in the Saulėtekis Valley, the largest and most modern research base in Lithuania is going to expand - in three years it will accommodate the modern faculties of Chemistry and Geosciences as well as Mathematics and Informatics of Vilnius University (VU). In this way, the Saulėtekis Valley will be home to the largest centre of life, physical and technological sciences in Lithuania and the Baltic States.

In response to the doubts expressed in the public sphere regarding the expediency of investments in this infrastructure, VU researchers talk about the breakthrough of artificial intelligence, nanotechnologies, multidimensional data transformation, and digital medicine in Lithuania.

2020 11 26 DNR molekule380x250Nanomaterials – for the industries of the future

Nanotechnology is a new level of chemical engineering that enables to achieve amazing results in the sectors of energy, manufacturing, health, and consumer goods. Nanomaterials are used for medical and technical purposes - in tumour therapy, solar panels, lithium-ion batteries that can power electric cars.

Scientific work on the development and application of such nanomaterials and new multifunctional compounds in various technologies is carried out at the VU Faculty of Chemistry and Geosciences. The scientists of the faculty have created new methods and also developed methods for the synthesis of known oxide, nanostructured inorganic and hybrid organic-inorganic materials with specific physical properties (electrical, magnetic, optical, mechanical, catalytic, biocompatibility).

Professor of the VU Faculty of Chemistry and Geosciences Aivaras Kareiva, together with colleagues from Japan, recently studied a material that is fully adaptable to the human body and can be used to create artificial bone tissue. In the near future this discovery could be used by physicians to treat bone injuries, stimulate the regrowth of the jaw, or applied in implantology.

"We have researched in detail calcium hydroxyapatite, a synthetic bone material with a molecular composition very similar to that found in human bone tissue. Its powder and coatings are suitable for use in implantology, because the created artificial bone tissue fully matches natural human bone by its molecular structure. We have also synthesized new ceramic pigments that can be used to preserve cultural heritage objects,” says Prof. Kareiva.

Artificial intelligence to drive medical progress

Digitization, artificial intelligence, and the analysis of large biological data, which helps to develop new methods and technologies for diagnosing, monitoring, and treating diseases, are more and more widely used in in the fields of medicine and healthcare.

Professor Gintautas Dzemyda of the VU Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics calls the Institute of Data Science and Digital Technologies, where he works, the flagship of informatics and artificial intelligence in Lithuania. In October, the institute became a home of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, which was established in cooperation with one of the world’s largest companies for artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions Neurotechnology.

“The institute is currently developing artificial intelligence solutions for the analysis of medical images, including computed tomography, maritime navigation, and cyber security. Recently, with the help of artificial intelligence, together with the researchers of Santara clinics, we have been conducting research to select the most effective treatment strategy for pancreatic cancer diagnosis and decision-making, as well as evaluation of abdominal aortic changes,” points out Prof.  Dzemyda, adding that, apart from artificial intelligence, other areas of great importance are blockchain technologies, cognitive computing, and cyber-social systems, which are interrelated. So, no one should doubt the necessity of investments in these areas.

According to Prof. Dzemyda, there is a shortage of about 12,000 informatics and information technology specialists Lithuania. The demand is going to grow as society is moving towards a digital space which encompasses the whole world.

Science needs more investment

The researcher of nanomaterials is convinced that a high level of research in chemistry can only be achieved in close collaboration with physicists, materials scientists, biotechnologists and physicians, and that this level of research requires modern equipment and modern, accessible infrastructure for the commercialization of science.

Informatics specialists are lacking personal computer equipment with good graphical and computational capacities, as well as specialized general-purpose hardware equipment for more efficient work with artificial neural networks.

Both VU researchers agree that scientific work is complicated by the current situation when the researchers of some fields and the infrastructure they use are in different places. As a result they waste a lot of time traveling from one place where lectures are given to another (for example, the Saulėtekis Valley), where there are laboratories for their research.

“Currently, our equipment is geographically located on Naugarduko, Čiurlionio and Saulėtekio streets, and this is very inconvenient. Teachers and students have to rush from one end of the city to the other, as the lectures take place in Naugarduko street and part of the scientific work can be performed only in the Physical Sciences and Technologies Research Centre in the Saulėtekis Valley, where there are no training laboratories and auditoriums,” notes Prof. Kareiva with regret.

Prof. Kareiva says that one of the biggest barriers in conducting first-class research in Lithuania is low budget funding for science. It amounts to only 1% of GDP per year. “In other words, you can say that it does not exist at all. There is only competitive funding for projects, where the success rate of the submitted applications is unacceptably low.”

According to Prof. Dzemyda, it is necessary to invest in high-level basic research. Even though research results are difficult to predict and measure, it often happens that they lead to applied research that can be commercialized. This is not only high-tech products, but also businesses which are developed using science knowledge. Such businesses are both more sustainable and more competitive.

“Every scientist dreams and strives to commercialize their scientific achievements. It is the implementation of scientific results that makes the work done meaningful and is an incentive for further research. The synergy of science and business is the engine of progress of any country,” suggests Prof. Kareiva.

World-class scientific discoveries are possible only in modern laboratories

Lithuania is already visible in the global scientific community. Speaking about the field of artificial intelligence, our country seeks to become a regional leader and increase its competitiveness among European Union countries and successfully integrate into the global artificial intelligence ecosystem. Our country is also known in the field of nanobiotechnology, biosensors, and research in the field of physical chemistry makes our country famous all over the world.
“The nanocoating technologies developed at our faculty have been implemented in Mexico, Spain and Germany,” says Prof. Kareiva.

This year Lithuania has been especially recognised in the world of science. This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9. Alongside the winners of the Nobel Prize, this technology was discovered and developed by professor of the VU Life Sciences Centre Virginijus Šikšnys. The VU Life Sciences Centre opened four years ago. Such honour and success in the world of science should not be viewed as accidental.

“A breakthrough in science usually takes place in areas where brilliant researchers are concentrated and infrastructure needed for their work is created. In my opinion, the VU Life Sciences Centre is a great example of this. In modern science, the most interesting discoveries are born at the cross-roads of sciences, therefore concentrating informatics, chemists, physicists and life sciences researchers in one space, the Saulėtekis Valley, will help create a cluster of scientists and infrastructure similar to the research and development centres of leading European universities,” says Prof. Šikšnys.

Nobel Prize-winning technologies and other advanced inventions are born only in the most modern laboratories, in the minds of the most brilliant scientists.

Erasmus+ traineeship: The supervisors at VU MIF are very good

Erasmus+ traineeship is a traineeship (work placement) abroad in an enterprise or any other relevant organization in the Erasmus+ programme country.

Piciu Florin-Alexandru, a student from Romania (University of Pitęsti) done Erasmus+ traineeship at Vilnius university Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics Cyber Security Lab. He share with us experience about Erasmus+ traineeship.

2020 11 19 Erasmus praktika380x250Traineeship experience and supervisors at VU MIF

The thing I liked most about this internship was the professionalism: it was well organized, the coordinators were very well trained and understanding. The supervisors at VU MIF are very good, the try to keep the subject they teach as actual as they can.

The atmosphere at labs is very pleasant, you can always ask whatever you want regarding the subject and you’ll get help and explanations.

Erasmus+ traineeship at VU MIF – why?

I was an Erasmus student at VU MIF for the whole academic year 2019-2020, I enjoyed the courses at VU MIF, I liked the experience at this university and after that I found the opportunity to take part of this internship. I didn’t have any experience with Cyber Security and I considered that this is a great chance to get in this new field, already knowing that the teaching staff of the faculty is very well trained.

Living in Lithuania – wonderful experience

Living in Lithuania is a wonderful experience. I’m not talking just only about Vilnius because during this year I traveled also to another cities: Kaunas, Trakai, Klaipeda, Palanga, Nida and of course Vilnius. Even if not all the cities have the infrastructure of Vilnius, they are still very clean and nice organized.

People are very polite. About prices I can say that, in Lithuania the prices are not so high. Living in Vilnius is very nice, the city is very big, you have a lot of places to visit. I’ll always recommend to people to visit Lithuania at least once.

Would you recommend Erasmus+ traineeship in Lithuanian to your friends?

Of course, I’ll recommend Erasmus+ traineeship in Lithuania. The main reason is that the internship subjects that are available here are not so common but Cyber Security is a current field. Choosing a traineeship here you’ll have a mix of learning new things, live in another country, socialize, meet people and travel in at least 2 months.

#OpenVU: new habits must be formed seeking cultural variety in the university

2020 11 17 VU baznycia380x250According to the analysis of diversity and equal opportunities, in 2018, Vilnius University (VU) had 113 employees from 30 countries (which accounted for 2.3% of all VU employees), and more than 1 000 students who chose to study at VU were citizens of 70 countries. However, according to the interlocutors, VU community members should be given even more opportunities to gain experiences of otherness and diversity, therefore, there could be more both foreign employees and students in the VU.

When asked what caused such a current situation at VU, Vice-Rector for Studies Assoc. Prof. Valdas Jaskūnas says that it is necessary to take into account the society and historical environment we come from. For many years we lived in a relatively closed society with little ethnic diversity, in a society that was not open in terms of attitudes and ideas.

“Social and cultural openness came to Lithuania with independence, we experienced many influences that did not exist before, and our cultural horizon began to expand intensively. However, for a long period during the years of independence, perhaps the most urgent issue on our cultural agenda was our identity, the preservation and reconstruction of our identity. I would even say that the dominance of (identity) preservation of Lithuanian identity was very strong. We were able to construct our Lithuanian identity in the Soviet era to a very limited extent, so naturally this impulse was very strong after regaining freedom,” notes Assoc. Prof. Valdas Jaskūnas.

According to the associate professor, VU did not aspire to be the centre of attraction for other cultures, teachers or students from other countries for a long time. This explains why there is not so much diversity in our university. “For a long time, it was in these processes that we saw more threats than opportunities. But over the last 10 years, attitudes have changed. There has been a realization that opening up to different experiences is much more beneficial and it is not a threat, as it was perceived before,” explains Assoc. Prof. Valdas Jaskūnas.

The new generation, born in the years of independence, inevitably brought change. They do not always recognize the concept of previous identity, they look at the world differently, perceive it differently; they grew up surrounded by greater diversity and it is simply natural for them. This generation, which has been coming to VU for more than a decade, must employ more effort to find out how it was before. What the older generation experienced as a transformation, for those born in the years of independence, is the environment in which they grew up.

Diversity is inseparable from the challenge

Accordant to the Vice-rector, diversity is a challenge for every generation. It is a human feeling. Any novelty brings confusion and if we do not turn that confusion into an opportunity, the reactions can be various. “Change creates a feeling of insecurity,” says the interlocutor, adding that the loss of security and comfort naturally leads to resistance.

“Science is often perceived as universal field, which is not culturally determined. However, a closer look at the development of each scientific discipline would see how the scientific approach is affected in terms of culture. That cultural determination is self-evident, so it may seem that science is identical in different cultural contexts, in different geographical locations, in different European and Asian academies, but this is not the case. In the experimental sciences, content is less sensitive to cultural forms of cognition, but representatives of the social and human sciences of different academies, although they are from the same discipline, need to put much more effort into communicating. Cultural differences and academic practices are quite significant. Imagine studying geography in Lithuania, Peru and Taiwan. It would be three different geographies. And we all call it geography,” shares his insights the Vice-Rector for Studies.

The associate professor notes that sciences require a reflective approach to ourselves, we need to raise and answer the question as to why we cognize the way we cognize, why we choose certain cognitive instruments and make the assumptions we make. This reflection on one’s cognitive system is very important and inevitable in such a global world.

The vice-rector illustrated the thoughts with his memories of a really interesting situation. A scientist from Japan came to Vilnius to give lectures. During their conversation, they found out that they were both born in the same year, and the dates of birth differ by only a few days.

“Imagine meeting a person who lived at the same time as you, only in a different place, so you have very different experiences.
When we began to share the memories of what was our life when we were seven or fifteen, we realised that our childhoods were completely different: one of us grew up in Japan, the other in Soviet Lithuania. And here we met as scientists seeking to solve the same scientific problems. Naturally, our approach to problems is very different, but it is an integral part of this challenge and it would be naive to ignore this difference. It is a completely natural difference.

These experiences are not only very enriching, but are also important for scientific cognition. If we are or we want to be a global university, we need to be able to accumulate these experiences, because without them, our cognition can quickly become deceptive and biased. That is why we need foreign students and teachers. They do not have the power to change our past, but they will definitely enrich the future,” says the associate professor.

According to the interlocutor, it is very important at the university to encourage students to gain experiences of otherness and diversity for these to become the essence of their functioning and thinking. One way to achieve this goal is to create a diversity ecosystem where there are no more fears or where the student has the opportunity to overcome his/her fears with the help of the university. Students must work in mixed groups together with foreign students, perform tasks and projects together, not be afraid to make mistakes, because in the work environment there may be no conditions for making mistakes and learning from mistakes.

Mixed student groups, according to Assoc. Prof. Valdas Jaskūnas, are like social and cultural laboratories, where lack of understanding, different imaginations, different experiences, different uncertainty or lack of certainty play an important role. Skills are needed to transform this uncertainty into a definition. Therefore, the university encourages to form as many mixed groups of students as possible so that students have more international study experience. “We need to turn the experience of otherness into an educational system, strive to make it a part of teaching and learning process,” says the Vice-Rector for Studies.

It is necessary to form new habits

Equal Opportunities Coordinator Dr. Rūta Ruolytė-Verschoore says that in order to change the situation and attract more foreign students and lecturers to VU, new habits must be formed, i.e. bilingualism in communication, possibility for foreigners to receive help and self-expression services.

“One of the objectives of the Diversity and Equal Opportunities Strategy is to foster cultural diversity at the university and to strive for the equal inclusion of students and employees from abroad in the university community,” reminds Dr. Rūta Ruolytė-Verschoore and adds that in order to more actively involve foreigners in the community, it is not necessary to create new systems, but just to adapt the existing structure and infrastructure. As an example, she referred to the initiative of the Community Development Department to adapt the VU intranet to English speakers (since the autumn of this year, the VU intranet is available in English as well).

The interlocutor also draws attention to the events organized by VU: are they organised in two languages, what are the languages information about them is announced in, which languages are used to send messages after the event? It is not difficult to notice that many activities at VU are communicated only in Lithuanian. The situation is similar with services provided to foreign employees or students.

“A very similar approach once prevailed with regard to the adaptation of the environment for people with disabilities: why adapt it if we do not have 'those disabled people'? However, after creating opportunities to study, there were also those who wanted to use them. When it comes to involving foreigners, we need to change our attitudes, to form new habits. We have to constantly think about how we can encourage citizens of other countries to become members of our community, because otherwise many incoming foreigners will remain in foreign communities,” says the equal opportunities coordinator.

According to Dr. Rūta Ruolytė-Verschoore, in order to achieve changes, it is planned to publish information about events and other VU activities in Lithuanian and English in the future, and, if possible, to ensure interpretation services at the events. Non-academic units will also be encouraged to disseminate information in both languages. Before 2022, it is planned to further develop the mentoring system for foreign students from partial and all studies, to increase the availability of help and self-expression services.

The changes are already being implemented by the International Relations Division, which is improving one-stop-shop recruitment and counselling for researchers and lecturers from abroad. Foreigners coming from third countries need the most attention and help. They are assisted in handling strict migration procedures, dealing with real estate leases, and accessing public medical services. These services are constantly being developed, and sometimes help is organized for family members of incoming teachers to find work in order to establish themselves in Lithuania.

“Probably many of us have studied or worked in foreign universities under various exchange programs and we remember how good it is to discover, to be part of another university’s life, community. Therefore, we must offer such an alternative to those who work and study with us,” says the equal opportunities coordinator concluding the interview.

#OpenVU is a series of articles about the university that seeks to be open not only to scientific ideas and a variety of disciplines, but also to the diversity of its community members. The persons interviewed in the articles will share future plans, initiatives to help create a study and work environment that fosters individual, social and cultural diversity, and ensures equal opportunities for members of the university community.

You can find out about the Diversity and Equal Opportunities Strategy here.

Student from Romania about Erasmus+ traineeship: It’s a new experience

2020 10 22 library
Erasmus+ traineeship is a traineeship (work placement) abroad in an enterprise or any other relevant organization in the Erasmus+ programme country.

Robert Tudor, a student from Romania (University of Pitęsti) done Erasmus+ traineeship at Vilnius university Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics Cyber Security Lab. He told about the traineeship, the city of Vilnius and his favorite lithuanian dishes.

What have you enjoyed most about Erasmus+ traineeship?

Getting to stay in Lithuania with my friends during summer, both for the traineeship and going places. Even if the traineeship took most of our time, we still managed to travel a little and hang out with other Erasmus+ students.

What is your opinion about supervisors at VU MIF?

The traineeship during summer was the last part of my Erasmus+ experience. I was in Lithuania for a whole year of studies.

From personal experience, most teachers at VU MIF were great. For an Erasmus+ student/trainee, teachers usually change the language of the course to english.

Talking about the traineeship alone, we loved our mentors. Mrs. Agne Brillingaite and Mr. Linas Bukauskas were very good teachers.

Why did you apply for the Erasmus+ traineeship at VU MIF?

We had the chance to learn something new since we were not very familiar with cyber security before the traineeship.

What is it like to live in Vilnius/Lithuania? Would you recommend it? What is the city/country like?

Me and my friends stayed at the dorms in Olandu st. I would say the cost of living in Vilnius is fine, but of course it depends on your income. Compared to Bucharest, Vilnius is pretty big, but it has around one third of the population. If you are looking for a calm city (during the day), Vilnius is perfect.

Lithuania is a small country, we managed to visit some of the cities, even the seaside. If you are planning to go to Lithuania during summer, the weather is actually nice. If you are planning to go during winter.

What is the food like? What are your favorite dishes?

Coming from Romania, lithuanian food was pretty much the same thing I usually liked to eat: bread, meat, potatoes and sour cream.

The weirdest dish was saltibrasciai (pink soup/beetroot soup). I didn’t expect to like it when I found out how it was made, but I did.

My personal favorites were kibin and potato pancakes.

Would you recommend Erasmus+ traineeship in Lithuanian to your friends? Why?

I would recommend it to anyone. As I said before, it’s a new experience, you get to learn new things and see Lithuania.

The Lithuanian National HPC Competence Center is being established at Vilnius University

Vilnius University (VU) is involved into Europe international HPC (or supercomputing) Competence Center projects EuroCC and CASTIELVU researchers dr. Povilas Treigys (Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics) and dr. Mindaugas Mačernis (Faculty of Physics) are participating in these projects by running Lithuanian national HPC competence center. EuroCC works closely with the CASTIEL project, which together will ensure the consistent dissemination of high-end supercomputing experiences across Europe.

2020 10 13 HCP kompetencijos centras380x250EuroCC is an extremely wide supercomputing competence network across Europe

A total of 32 countries with available supercomputing resources and their national competence centers are participating in EuroCC project. Projects aim to facilitate the use of best practice HPC practices in high-performance computing centers in order to use excascale type supercomputers in near future. Supercomputers consist of thousands of processors that analyze billions of data in real time and supercomputer performs various calculations thousands of times faster than a normal computer. However, it is not triaval task to use them and high level HPC compentences are needed.

The EuroCC and CASTIEL projects will help address existing HPC skills issues and promote collaboration and sharing of experiences between different countries, both within the country and across Europe. The project will create a pan-European HPC competency map that reflects the resources available and the level of knowledge in all EuroCC national competence centers. This will encourage cooperation, exchange of good practices, sharing of knowledge between different organizations and countries. In Lithuanian case, the HPC competence could acquire Lithuanian citizens, institutions and companies in order to use supercomputing infrastructures which are located inside and outside Lithuania.

“Through these EuroCC and CASTIEL projects, the HPC Competence Centers will bridge the gap between competencies and provide opportunities for academia, medium and small businesses to acquire broader supercomputer competencies. In many cases, only very large industries have enough knowledge on how to be superior in the market by using supercomputers,” says dr. M. Mačernis.

Digital competences are an integral part of everyday life

Each of the 32 national centers of excellence that will be part of the EuroCC network operate as national HPC digital centers of excellence in individual countries. This will allow researchers, public administrations, as well as various industries to take advantage of the opportunities offered by supercomputers. On the other hand, CATIEL as umbrella EuroCC project coordinates activities between national centers.

"Digital competencies - one of the most important things not only for the development and implementation of new technologies - they help to orientate in the modern world and perform many important tasks from the purchase of goods and payment of bills to professional work," says dr. P. Treigys.

According to the researcher, digital literacy and competences still overtake a significant part of society, which is why digital skills are not used as widely in everyday life as is often required by the changing living environment and especially new technologies. The project will aim to make supercomputers available to as many stakeholders as possible.

“The projects will collaborate with all interested, potential and existing supercomputer users. In addition, there are opportunities in other activities - possible joint European master's studies or access to one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, ” says dr. M. Mačernis.

The possibilities provided by supercomputers are also taken at VU

VU two faculties Physics, Mathematics and Informatics in the field of productive computing will soon be able to offer the scientific community petaflop computing power resources for solving problems.

"In order to optimally use the possibilities provided by supercomputers, it is not enough to have only technical resources. It is necessary to cultivate and improve one’s competencies, for example by sharing good practices. This is exactly the opportunity to participate in the EuroCC and CASTIEL projects. In addition, Lithuania became a member of EuroHPC, which opened the possibility for VU to become the Lithuanian national HPC competence center and to be a partner in these projects, ” says dr. P. Treigys.

The EuroCC and CASTIEL projects are running from 2020 September 1 until 2022 31 August, the total budgets of the projects are 59 million EUR.

EuroCC project has received funding from the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 951732. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and Germany, Bulgaria, Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Republic of North Macedonia, Iceland, Montenegro.

2020 10 13 EuroHCP 2020 10 13 Euro



The President of France Emmanuel Macron Encourages Strengthening Cooperation Between European Universities During his Visit at VU

2020 09 30 Macronas642x410Today, President of France Emmanuel Macron visited Vilnius University (VU), where he was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of VU at a solemn ceremony. During the visit, the French leader also took part in a discussion in which he discussed in detail the current issues of the European economy, relations with the world’s major powers and shared insights on the future of global Europe.

The goal is European integration

In an exclusive discussion with VU students, moderated by Assoc Prof Margarita Šešelgytė, Director at VU Institute of International Relations and Political Science, President of France discussed Europe, its identity and future, the situation in Belarus and emphasized the importance of European cooperation. While responding to students’ questions, Mr Macron stressed the importance of unification at the international and national levels, especially at such important moments as the coronavirus crisis.

“Young people are going through a very difficult period right now, we are asking for their help in protecting others, especially the elderly. I do not want us to forget in the future what we are asking of young people today. Some places, cafes, where young people often gather, are being closed, studies are continued remotely, which also causes some inconveniences, creates a completely different study atmosphere. Young people also have difficulty entering the stagnant labour market due to the pandemic. Of course, these solutions are necessary and important to protect the majority, but because of that we must feel the responsibility for everyone around us and we cannot leave future generations in unstable Europe, debts or with the problems of global warming,” in a discussion with VU students Emmanuel Macron said.

The French leader, in his support of united Europe and European university networks, emphasized the need for integration processes and investment in knowledge and education to achieve good results in the social and economic fields and to help solve problematic issues in all European states.

Emmanuel Macron’s initiatives in the field of education and higher education have been praised not only by leaders of European universities but also by the European Commission (EC), which has provided funding for such a project. The French President was the title of Doctor Honoris Causa at VU for the idea of creating joint European university networks and expanding the Erasmus + exchange initiative, as well as for the constant promotion of innovations in the field of education.

“New opportunities for cooperation and integration between European higher education institutions have been made possible by your visionary initiative as President of France. For the first time since long, the idea of university received new development at the political level.
It is a solid basis and honour for Vilnius University to award you the title of Doctor Honoris Causa for the contribution to the integration of European universities and the development of the idea of a modern university, while expressing your commitment to the idea of European universities’ cooperation and alliances,” VU Rector Prof Rimvydas Petrauskas said.

The European universities initiative is a breakthrough in the field of higher education

The initiative of the French President to create networks of European universities was first raised in September 2017, in Emmanuel Macron’s famous Sorbonne speech. This speech formed the basis for the vision in the field of education and culture formulated at the European Union summit in Gothenburg. These proposals are now included in various European Union initiatives and programmes.

Emmanuel Macron proposes to set up networks of European universities, which should become centres of educational innovation and top competences and achieve a higher level of student exchanges by 2024, with half of European university students having to spend at least half a year in another European state. The French leader is also aiming for European students to be able to speak at least two foreign languages by 2024.

After the EC’s first call for the creation and funding of European university networks was announced in 2018, 17 networks were selected already in 2019. Among them was VU, which together with 6 other European universities (Bergen, Granada, Graz, Leipzig, Lyon, Padua) joined the university alliance Arqus.

“The seven universities together are building the strong foundations of a new type of cooperation that will impact not only the students, but also staff development, the quality of the research and the integration with socio-economic fabric of our regions. We are committed to achieving a systemic impact that will help us to reach our long-term vision and also to bring on board the rest of the national higher education systems to improve the quality of our education, research and innovation provision”, says Dorothy Kelly, Arqus Coordinator.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant number of achievements has been reached on the Arqus path towards the construction of a truly European University Alliance. Good examples are the Arqus Open Mobility Agreement, that allows students to freely move between the seven institutions, the development of common institutional policies, joint degrees, or the successful application for Horizon 2020 funding to strengthen their joint research and innovation capacity.

The principal ambition of the Arqus Alliance is to act jointly as a laboratory for institutional learning from which to move forward in the design, testing and implementation of an innovative model for deep inter-university cooperation. The Alliance aims to consolidate a joint governance structure to facilitate the development of consensual joint policies and action plans, to consolidate participative structures to facilitate cross-cutting integration at all levels of the partner institutions, and to share its experience with other groupings in order to communicate the added value to be found in its model of integration.

Erasmus+ traineeship: Madalina tells about practice at VU MIF Cyber Security Lab

2020 09 24 Cyber Security LabMadalina, Robert, doc. dr. Agne Brilingaite

Erasmus+ traineeship is a traineeship (work placement) abroad in an enterprise or any other relevant organization in the Erasmus+ programme country.

Madalina Mariana, a student from Romania (University of Pitęsti) done Erasmus+ traineeship at Vilnius university Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics Cyber Security Lab. She told about the traineeship, Vilnius university and the city of Vilnius.

Traineeship experience and supervisors at VU MIF

Madalina said that Erasmus+ experience was full of challenges. “First three weeks or so felt like being thrown in the sea without knowing how to swim. The people would tell you what to do and you would struggle to make it work, but this is all it is in the beginning. This is generally true when you try to learn something new. And that is the best part of it. Even with the struggle and the self-doubt, you know that at the end of it, something amazing awaits you.

The team work was great. The teachers’ guidance was great. But the things I enjoyed the most were the things I learned about and the world I discovered through them,”– Madalina shares her experience.

Madalina M. says that teachers at VU MIF also not just guided through each step of the project, but they were really interested in sharing with students more and more of their knowledge and wisdom. “Teachers tried to know who we are and what we are capable of, so they can get the best of our abilities”.

Impressions about Lithuania, Vilnius and national cuisine

“I think the perception of the city depends on the place you are coming from. For me, the city used to release an amazing amount of energy with each new place I would discover. But at the same time, it made me feel at ease. And I think this is coming from its people, beyond the cold that seems specific for them. It’s been a once in a life time experience to live in Vilnius, so I can’t wait to go back even just as a tourist,”– said Madalina M.

Madalina’s favourite dishes – pink cold beetroot soup (“Šaltibarščiai”) and sweet mushroom biscuits “Grybukai”. “Being in Vilnius meant facing the international cuisine as much as the national one. There are a bunch of restaurants and food festivals that made the experience truly educational.

From the traditional dishes, I really enjoyed the Šaltibarsčiai soup and those Grybukai biscuits, but, honestly, from time to time, the thing I miss the most is Hesburger,” – said student.

Erasmus+ traineeship in Vilnius university – every students should try it

„I would definitely recommend it and, in fact, I did it. After I returned home, my Erasmus+ coordinator asked me to talk with potential Erasmus students about my experience in Vilnius. I think this kind of experience is something any student should try at least once in their life, even for a short period”.

More information about Erasmus+ traineeship can be found here

Applications for the spring semester exchange are open

Hello! Hello! Ciao! Ola! Zdravo!

Would you like ...

  • … improve and / or learn a new foreign language?
  • ... broaden your horizons, get to know a new culture and develop tolerance?
  • ... make new friends and develop independence?
  • ... gain invaluable academic and life self?

If you answered YES to at least two questions, we invite you to apply and participate in exchange program!

Registration takes place from 1 to 24 September.

Address of the list of universities for the spring semester:

We are also waiting for you at the informational meeting on September 17th at 3 p.m. via MS Teams for students of the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics.

Registration form

More information about ERASMUS+:

On the website of the International Relations Department of Vilnius University

On the VU MIF page

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