Increased representation of students with lower educational background in Lithuania, but worrying trends in students‘ financial situation

Lithuania, 11 December 2020

Interview with Vaida ¦aukeckienė and ´emyna Pauliukaitė from STRATA in Lithuania on EUROSTUDENT VII national results

How would you describe the social dimension of Lithuanian students based on Eurostudent VII?

Lithuania is close to the average regarding the representation of students without higher education background: as in many other countries, this group is under-represented. However, from round to round we notice the increase of the share of these students in Lithuanian HE institutions. It should be noted that in Lithuania, students without higher education background more often choose colleges and part-time studies. This choice is likely to be influenced by the fact that colleges are closer to home, which eliminates the need to move to another city and decreases the cost of study. Part-time studies are more flexible in terms of combining studies and work, which is particularly relevant for this group: working students without HE background more often state they could not afford to study without income from a paid job. Therefore, it seems that the accessibility of HEIs in different regions and the flexibility of study forms might serve in ensuring the representation of more diverse social groups in HE. When it comes to the social dimension, the financial aspects are also important. It is an alarming result that in Lithuania the contribution of state support to students in their income structure is not significant compared to other EUROSTUDENT VII countries.
interview with lithuania

What has changed compared to Eurostudent VI or previous years? What are the most surprising or important results?

We have noticed an increase of working students (among both Bachelor and Master student groups). However, the worrying aspect of this is the increase of those working for financial reasons, especially those who could not afford to study without a paid job. Moreover, the support in balancing study and work is considered insufficient by almost 40 % of students.

What makes you happy about the results? What makes you worried?

Positive change could be an improvement in the evaluation of study program quality as well as a more optimistic assessment of students' preparation for the labour market. However, one should take into consideration that the field of this survey was conducted in the pre-pandemic situation (Spring 2019), therefore the current assessment of opportunities for students in the labour market is likely to have changed. One more positive aspect is that it’s the third round in a row that we are noticing an improving representation of students from a lower educational background in the Lithuanian student body. The results that make us worry are the previously mentioned increase in gainful employment. Also, the more difficult situation of certain groups of students (e.g. from a lower educational background, students with impairments) concerning their motivation to study, sense of belonging to the higher education community, and inclusion in mobility programs.

What was the biggest challenge in conducting the survey and how did you tackle it?

The biggest challenges, as for many countries taking part in this survey, were low response rates and high dropout rates, partially due to a long and quite complex questionnaire. To reduce the risk of dropout and increase engagement, we have implemented several measures. First, to receive enough responses we wanted to invite the maximum number of students, therefore we have organized a census type (full population) survey, using the available student contact information. To promote the survey, we have cooperated with the national student union who helped us in the promotion of this survey emphasizing its importance through a university-level student union network. We have also increased the number of reminders (3 in total). And finally, a possibility to win an incentive for those who have completed the questionnaire was introduced via the invitation to the survey.

How are the survey results used in your country? Are there any concrete actions already planned?

Although a comprehensive national report was handed over to the Ministry just recently, EUROSTUDENT VII results were already presented and discussed in several events on student social support policy beforehand, e.g. in a conference on the challenges of impaired students; in a round table discussion on inclusion and obstacles for international mobility; the results were also used by the national students’ union in preparation of their strategic documents. Moreover, our institution which is responsible for the implementation of the VII round of this survey is obliged to develop recommendations for the improvement of student social support, which are scheduled to be prepared and presented as soon as comparable results of this round are available.