WENR, September/October 2003: Lithuania



The 1992 Law on Research and Higher Education promoted autonomy, academic freedom and integration of research and higher education in Lithuania. The Law on Higher Education, passed in 2000, built on those principles and established a binary system in higher education. The Law on Higher Education determines the system of higher education, the principles for acquisition of academic and professional qualifications, qualification and research degrees, the scope of the autonomy of higher education establishments and control of their activities by the state. The law also defines the rights and responsibilities of the teaching staff, research workers and students, the legal grounds for the establishment, reorganization and liquidation of higher education institutions in the Republic of Lithuania, the basic requirements for higher education establishments and study programs, the principles of evaluation and registration of study programs as well as the principles of financing higher education establishments.

• Establishment of the binary system of higher education provides for two types of higher education institutions: universities and colleges (mokykla). On Sept. 1, 2000, seven new colleges opened (four state-run and three private).

• Requirements were developed for the university and non-university study programs, their registration, evaluation and accreditation.

• Agencies were established for coordinating the activities of higher education institutions and their regulation by the state. These include the Higher Education Council of Lithuania, the Science Council of Lithuania [2], the Rectors Conference and the Lithuanian Center for Quality Assessment in Higher Education [3].

1. Easily Readable and Comparable Degrees

• Lithuania has signed and ratified (1999) the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications.

• Universities are now issuing Diploma Supplements to all students (in English upon request). A working group with representatives from higher education institutions, the Ministry of Education and ENIC/NARIC began in 2002 to prepare for the full implementation of the supplement, which was first introduced later that year.

• The Lithuanian Center for Quality Assessment in Higher Education [4] body in Lithuania.

2. Degree Structure

• As a result of initiatives by institutions of higher education and changes to the law since independence, a three-tier system of higher education, similar to that proposed under the Bologna Declaration, has been introduced.

• Undergraduate university studies last 3½ to 4½ years. Non-university studies last three to four years. Upon completing a bachelor program, a specialized professional or academic master program can be undertaken. Master courses last 1½ to two years. Integrated courses incorporating first- and second-level studies lead to a master’s degree and last up to five years. Integrated master studies are offered in such disciplines as medicine, pharmacy and agriculture.

• Short master’s degrees build on bachelor programs requiring an average of four years (240 credits), thus bringing the overall length of study to more than five years, or 300 credits.

• Lithuanian authorities see no further need to change the degree structure.

3. Credit Transfer

• A system of credits was introduced in Lithuania as part of the post-Soviet education reforms. According to the Law on Higher Education, an average academic year of full-time studies corresponds to 40 credits. The credit system is applied to bachelor and master cycles. Students may choose courses at other faculties or study programs within their own institution or even at other institutions. The credits earned are recognized in accordance with the regulations adopted by each institution.

• Doctoral study programs must be quantified in credits according to a June 2002 ministerial decree.

• The Law on Higher Education does not mention the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), although it does foresee and allow for internal and external credit accumulation. The only legal framework allowing for use of ECTS credits is two papers the ministry signed concerning Bologna and the SOCRATES program.

• After Lithuania joined the SOCRATES/ERASMUS program, periods of study by participants were credited in accordance with ECTS on a voluntary basis.

• The national credit system is based on student workload; one credit corresponds to 40 hours of student work, or to one workweek. The academic year consists of two semesters, and a student has to earn 40 credits. One Lithuanian credit is comparable to 1.5 ECTS credits. A minimum of 240 ECTS credits is required for a bachelor’s degree, and 120 for a master’s degree.

• The use of the national credit system is an essential element for the accreditation and registration of study programs.

• A 10-point grading scale has been introduced. A grade of 1 to 4 is considered a fail in comparison to the ECTS system; a 10 an A and a 5 an E.


KTU Grading Scale

ECTS Grading Scale
Knowledge Percentage
Very Good









* Kaunas University of Technology [5] Grading Scale


4. Mobility

• Higher education qualifications acquired abroad are assessed and recognized by the Lithuanian Center for Quality Assessment in Higher Education. The center has also been commissioned to execute the functions of the Lithuanian National Academic Recognition and Mobility Center (ENIC/NARIC).

• Issues concerning recognition and credit for periods of study spent abroad are dealt with by the institution where the applicant completes his or her study program.

• On joining the SOCRATES program, periods of study have been credited in accordance with ECTS.

• According to the 2001 Strategy of Development of Higher Education, at least 1.5 percent of all Lithuanian students should participate in various mobility programs this year. The number of incoming students should also account for 1.5 percent. To meet these goals, institutions of higher education have been allocated funds to develop courses in foreign languages to accommodate foreign students.

• The 2000 Law on Higher Education includes a provision allowing courses taught in foreign languages when the content of studies is related to another language, when a foreign professor or expert is invited to deliver a course in a foreign language and when courses are delivered by Lithuanian higher education institutions in the framework of academic mobility agreements.

• There is legislation in place to protect the use of Lithuanian as the language of instruction, which could be seen as a hindrance to mobility and the creation of joint-degree programs.

5. Quality Assurance

• In 1995, the Center for Quality Assessment in Higher Education was established. The center’s tasks are to organize the assessment of research and pedagogical activities, assess qualifications related to higher education and provide information on the recognition of these qualifications.

• The center conducts the assessment of undergraduate and second-level studies. The Register of Study Programs includes new programs only after they have been recommended by the center.

• In 1999, the Center for Quality Assessment in Higher Education introduced the external assessment of study programs. These outside experts determine whether a program fulfills the general requirements of other higher education programs and whether the academic degrees and professional qualifications acquired can be recognized internationally.

• A quality assurance culture is growing in institutions of higher education. Self-analysis of programs and all activities has become common at all levels of institutional management.

• There is currently no accreditation body, although recommendations have been made for either the creation of such an organization or to give these powers to the ministry.

6. Promotion of European Dimensions in Higher Education

• To implement the provisions of the Lisbon Convention, the three Baltic States signed a trilateral agreement on the recognition of qualifications concerning higher education. The agreement created favorable conditions for the exchange of students and teachers and for the recognition of secondary, higher education and research degrees.

• The 1991 Lithuanian law on research and higher education allowed for two types of foreign initiatives: international institutions and joint establishments.

• Compared to its two Baltic neighbors, Lithuania has been fairly conservative in promoting transnational institutions and programs, although this has been changing since 1999. In a 2002 report, Lithuania admitted that its joint degrees “are not real joint degrees,” i.e., on completion of a jointly developed program, graduates still receive only one degree — from their home institution, and not from all participating institutions.

• There are joint arrangements between Baltic and Nordic countries in, for example, technical and agricultural disciplines, but these often lead to the award of the home-institution degree only.

• Bilateral partnerships, as opposed to multilateral joint-degree networks, are either the only type of cooperation or the dominant one.

Nick Clark
August 2003


Survey on Master Degrees and Joint Degrees in Europe, Christian Tauch and Andrejs Rauhvargers, September 2002

The State of Implementation of ECTS in Europe, European University Association, October 2002

Diploma Supplement – State of Implementation, European Commission, June 2003

Lisbon Convention Status Reports, Council of Europe, Aug. 29, 2003

The Information Network on Education in Europe – Eurydice [6], European Union

Higher Education in Lithuania 2002, Department of Science and Higher Education of the Ministry of Education, 2002

LITHUANIA: National Report on the Bologna Process, Ministry of Education, 2003

ECTS Grading Scale, Kaunas University of Technology [5]