• August 8, 2016
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Jarosław Wołkonowski : Times of negative stereotypes regarding UvB are over

‘’Lithuanian side saw that even though we offer studies in Polish language, we are just the same as any other Lithuanian university. It is starting to get a sense of our mission – we educate Lithuanian citizens’’- dean of the branch of University of Białystok, Faculty of Economics and Informatics in Vilnius, habilitated doctor Jarosław Wołkonowski said during his talk with zw.lt. He is just finishing his second term in office. From September, the dean’s responsibilities will be covered by habilitated doctor Mieczysława Zdanowicz.

Małgorzata Kozicz, zw.lt: Another 50 persons received diplomas of Vilnius branch of University of Białystok a few weeks ago. You have been saying repeatedly that the primary mission of the university is to create middle class of Polish society in Lithuania. Do you feel that you contribute to the creation of this educated environment?

Habilitated doctor Jarosław Wołkonowski: There are about 200 thousand Poles in Lithuania. Among them, according to different calculations, there are about 21 thousand persons with higher education. 500 people are our faculty’s graduates. We are very happy about that. It’s not that much but on the other side, it’s only a period of 9 years including three initial years when we had to wait for the first graduates. I’m really glad that among our graduates, there is a low rate of unemployment. From 500 graduates, only 4 persons are currently registered at the Job Market. It’s the lowest rate among all universities in Lithuania. That shows that young people can find themselves at the job market, even though the times are not being easy. Young people have a pragmatic attitude towards their professions – they are starting with looking for a well-paid job with perspectives, they do not agree to random proposals, they want their job to be interesting. I’m glad they don’t hide their expectations.

There was this stereotype for some time that there are only those at the branch of UvB who didn’t manage to get to any other university. Do you think that this image has been successfully changed?

This period is over. Recruitment, which is currently going on, is the 10th.  We have our niche; we meet every year with senior students from all Polish schools, we go there and we present our offer. People who come to us are the people who want to study in Polish, who think it’s the best solution for them. They have a lot of offers but they decide to choose our university. This year, from 140 persons who at the online recruitment system chose our university, 50 of them chose UvB in a first place.

People, who studied at the Lithuanian universities but felt like something is not ok there, come to us, as well. Some of them tell more and some tell less, it’s their choice. Some of them find here their place. But there are also those who quit from studying here and go to Lithuanian universities. There are different paths and choices of youth have to be respected.

You are finishing your second term in office. You have been managing this branch since its beginning. Are you making any summary for yourself? What went ok? What didn’t?

Dean authorities file a report every year regarding previous academic year. I was a dean for 9 years- two terms in office and one year of common work with Doctor Alina Grynia. Entering the Lithuanian education market was very hard. There are a lot of universities and a rich offer. Also, western universities have become available for youth from Lithuania. That’s why it should be considered a positive fact that every year we have new candidates and about 100 new graduates. All of our diplomas were nostrified by Lithuanian authorities and there is no problem with granting their recognition. We prepare our graduates for Lithuanian market. We have subject created so that people graduating from our university didn’t have problems with Lithuanian terminology and realities of the job market.

It was a good idea to arrange good relations with the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science. In spite of some misunderstandings at the beginning, our students enjoy the same privileges as students from other Lithuanian universities, such as social grants from Lithuanian Government, baskets for studies, Lithuanian and Polish students cards. It’s a great success especially when you take into consideration first steps of the Polish University that was created in 90s. There were a lot of dramatic situations happening back them. Even nowadays, some have problems with granting recognition of their diplomas.

We have also good relations with other institutions. Lithuanian side saw that even though we offer studies in Polish language, we are just the same Lithuanian university as the other universities. They are starting to understand our mission – we educate Lithuanian citizens.

By the way, I would like to thank Polish authorities that for 9 years, they have been supporting our faculty. We are the only faculty of any Polish university that operates abroad. I think that the experiment has succeeded. Lithuanian authorities accepted such a solution. We gained the then prime minister Gediminas Kirkilas’s approval. In 2006, on a behalf of the then minister of foreign affair, Vice-minister Witold Waszczykowski signed documents establishing Faculty of Economics and Informatics in Vilnius.

So what went wrong during these years? 

Despite efforts and many attempts to find a seat, buy a seat, build, buy a parcel, we are the only educational institution without its own place that students and lecturers might identify with. However, we are trying to solve this issue. We turned to Lithuanian authorities with a proper request and the authorities replied positively. Discussions are not easy, but there is a good will of the prime minister and the ministry of Education. I hope that this issue might be solved even before the start of the new academic years. It would be a great step forward.

We thought that a bigger number of our scientists will get promoted. During these 9 years, 2 persons wrote and defended their doctoral thesis in economics. It’s possible that two more will have their defense this year. We lack in a local personnel. From 30 persons working for the branch, there are 19 lecturers among which there are 10 persons with an academic degree. We use personnel from Poland. We have two professors from the Warsaw University of Technology and one doctor from Białystok. They have a contract here and are slowly becoming the Vilnians. But it’s definitely too little. We lack in informatics and economics doctors. This problem is getting more and more difficult. Some of the lecturers are getting tired of it. It’s hard to build our own personnel. Accreditation commissions, which we positively pass, are unanimously telling us to build our own academic personnel with doctors, professors – from Vilnius, local Poles or Lithuanians. We are going in this direction, but I have to admit, it’s hard.

Are you planning to at the university? What are your plans for the future? Scientific activity or may be a book or politics?

From the 1st of September, there will be new dean authorities at our faculty. A lawyer specializing in international law, Mieczysława Zdanowicz will become a new dean. There will be two pro-deans as there are more majors and students. I’m becoming one the pro-deans and I will manage the economy major.

There also comes this time when you have to write a professor book that is required by different commissions. The topic of this work has been established: historical politics of Lithuania since 1990. Historical politics includes a field in which we operate – streets’ names, textbooks, what we pass to next generation, holidays we observe, particular values system. Historical politics is a root of society that remembers good things about the region’s and country’s history. But it also remembers negative aspects; harm caused to other nations and can face them.


Translated by Aleksandra Nowakowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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