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2022.09.22 08:00

‘We drive taxis after work.’ Low-paid lecturers in Lithuania say they cannot survive on idealism

While the requirements for lecturers are strict, their pay in Lithuania is low. According to trade unions, professors’ net salaries in the country are around 1,200 euros, with even lower amounts paid to assistant professors.

Most of the Vilnius Academy of Arts lecturers are involved in their own creative activities and businesses outside education.

According to Marius Šaliamoras, dean of the academy, the institution is trying to attract interesting and professional lecturers.

“Often, salary is not the main motivation for teaching here. The Academy of Arts allows its lecturers to use the university’s galleries and infrastructure,” he told LRT TV.

However, it is difficult to compete with private higher education institutions, where lecturers are better-paid, according to Šaliamoras.

“Often, these people come to teach out of enthusiasm and driven only by idealism. But that idealism is not infinite,” he said.

Other higher education institutions in Lithuania face similar challenges.

“There are not many people who want to start PhD studies because a teaching career is not that attractive,” said Saulius Spurga, chancellor of Mykolas Romeris University.

According to the Association of Higher Education Trade Unions, in Lithuanian universities and colleges, the salary of professors is around 1,200 euros, 900 euros of associate professors, and slightly more than 600 euros of assistant professors.

The association points out that on top of teaching, professors are also required to publish articles in scientific journals. Moreover, some lecturers have to take on extra work because of their low pay.

“Lecturers have a wide variety of jobs. Some of them drive taxis, others lay tiles after work, others teach in five higher education institutions to collect, bit by bit, a higher salary,” said Sigitas Vaitkevičius, chairman of the Association of Higher Education Trade Unions.

However, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport points out that in the second quarter of this year, the average salary of a lecturer in Lithuania was almost 2,300 euros. The average national salary was around a quarter lower.

The trade unions’ demand that the professors’ salaries should increase by a third is also unrealistic, according to the ministry.

“A 30 percent increase in one year is hardly possible. It would be a much higher increase than what has been agreed with the unions themselves and what is foreseen in the government’s programme,” said Deputy Education Minister Gintautas Jakštas.

The agreement on Lithuanian education policy foresees that the average salary of lecturers will reach 150 percent of the national average by 2024. The agreement with the trade unions is for salaries to rise by at least 10 percent each year. On average, lecturers’ salaries increased by 12.5 percent this year.