Enrolling students in physics in Lithuanian universities - success and failure

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G. Dikcius, V. Karenauskaite
Vilnius university, Lithuania
Forum 2014 Helsinki
WG1 : Inspiring the young

In Lithuania, two decades ago, student enrollment in physics shrank drastically, par- tially due to changes in national political and economic domains. Many research and high technology institutions - the main consumers of university physics graduates - downsized or disappeared. Additional wrong decission was made by higher educa- tion authorities transferring physics teacher-training programs from physical sciences to educational sciences, with consequent major reduction in financing. In addition, low teacher salaries confer little prestige on the profession. As a result, in the last two years not one student enrolled in physics teaching programs in all Lithuanian universities.

Vilnius university, the principal school of physics in Lithuania, took effective measures to restore the popularity of physics:

Introducing new programs, including nonconventional, corresponding to the mod- ern economic situation.

Increasing international student mobility - via EMSPS, TEMPUS, ERASMUS, thus improving student motivation.

Cooperating with secondary schools to bring young people to choose physics studies - as it is interesting, has good possibilities, no unemployment, and excel- lent possibilities to study abroad.

Organising activities to connect young people with the academic community: Children’s University (lectures, experiments and visits to research laboratories) on themes interesting for everyday life; mobile laboratory school visits to pro- mote science research as a profession, provide information about the latest sci- entific topics, present research methodologies, help students develop scientific ideas; partnership agreements with gymnasiums, reciprocal visits, extramural training of pupils in problem-solving; summer camps combining physics, sport and relaxation.

Since 2000, student enrollment in the Physics Faculty has tripled, and is stable; compe- tition to enter physics programs has also been restored.