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Vytautas Magnus University Deepens Partnership in Visit to NTNU

On 24 October, Vytautus Magnus University’s Rector Prof. Juozas Augutis, Vice Rector for Communication Prof. Vilma Bijeikiené, and Head of International Cooperation Mr. Vaidas Dačiola paid a visit to National Taiwan Normal University. They met with NTNU President Cheng-Chih Wu, Executive Vice President Frank Yung-Hsiang Ying, and Vice President for International Affairs Yi-De Liu. VMU and NTNU had recently signed an MOU and a student exchange agreement in May; both universities hope that the first groups of exchange students will arrive at their respective campuses in the upcoming spring semester. The partner institutions also look forward to more collaboration especially in the social sciences and humanities.

Located in Kaunas, Lithuania, Vytautas Magnus University has had a relatively tumultuous past. Founded during the post-WWI Polish-Lithuanian War in 1922, the university was forced to close intermittently by occupying forces throughout its history. Next year, VMU will celebrate its 35th anniversary since its reestablishment in 1989. President Wu congratulated the visitors on this milestone as well as expressed appreciation for Lithuania’s active support of Taiwan due to shared political experiences and values. In response to VMU’s desire to offer more Chinese language instruction to meet its students’ third language requirement as well as growing interest in Asian languages and cultures, President Wu detailed NTNU’s abundant resources through the Mandarin Training Center, Huayu Best Program, and its leading research in Chinese proficiency testing. Meanwhile, due to VMU’s alliance with 11 universities, NTNU students studying at VMU can spend one week at an additional European university as part of their exchange experience. Significant scholarships exist through Erasmus+ and NTNU’s Office of International Affairs to subsidize the cost of living and studying at VMU on a semester or short-term program basis.

To ensure effective cooperation, Executive Vice President Ying calls for greater involvement by VMU faculty members particularly in departments related to East Asian or Asian Studies. A likely advocate is Dr. Linas Didvalis, Head of the Center for Asian Studies at VMU, who is already deeply involved in establishing educational and business relations between Lithuania and East Asia. Prof. Ying also cited the possible use of Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) online system for VMU students who are unable to come to NTNU. Prof. Bijeikiené suggested that NTNU students can participate in VMU’s annual week-long Culture Week with online presentations and sharing to connect with Lithuanian students.

Other potential fields for collaboration include sports and the performing arts. In 2021, the largest university sports center in Lithuania began its operations at VMU. Student athletes of individual sports (swimming, badminton, table tennis, fencing, shooting, etc.) can represent VMU in sports competitions, organized by Lithuanian Student’s Sports Association. Meanwhile, NTNU athletes (such as in archery, badminton, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, track and field, and volleyball) regularly compete in the Olympics, World University Games, Asian Games, and other international sports competitions. VMU’s highly ranked Music Academy also remains popular for students from Asia looking for more advanced instructions.

During their visit, the VMU delegation stressed higher education’s need for strong liberal arts programs, which are often overshadowed by goals set for technology advancement. VMU plans to host a liberal arts forum in August 2024 which will bring together experts to examine liberal arts in higher education globally. Relevant topics include the effects of technology as well as how participants can work together to enhance the field. VMU encouraged NTNU to be part of this event, and plans to provide more details as they develop.