Klaipeda University, Lithuania: Training/Recruitment/Exit policy
Klaipeda University has a policy of both recruiting older lecturers and trying to retain those who are currently employed when they reach retirement age. Training in information technologies and new teaching methods is also provided.
The university was established in 1991 and is the only university in western Lithuania. On the academic side, the university has seven faculties and four institutes; in addition, there is an administration department, library, arboretum, publishing unit and computer centre. The university offers a large number of different study programmes, with 62 programmes at Bachelor’s level, 43 at Master’s level and three at Doctorate level. There is a particular focus on maritime sciences at the university: the faculty of marine engineering has 10 different study programmes and two of the four institutes are concerned with marine issues. Even in the social sciences faculty, there is a programme on marine economics. There is also an emphasis on regional issues, focused on the Regional Policy and Planning Institute.
The workforce at Klaipeda University comprises 1,360 workers (61% men and 39% women). 707 of these employees work as educators, 33 as scientific officers and 620 are in administration and other positions not related to lecturing. The average age of all employees is 52. The staff turnover rate is 5%-10%. The university faces a serious shortage of young qualified lecturers, especially in theoretical subjects. The HR manager believes that the main reason for this is that many young specialists go abroad in search of higher wages and better career prospects.
Good practice today
The age initiative of the university management, of both recruiting and retaining older lecturers, is a result of the substantial labour shortages faced by the university. Three major factors have a bearing on the situation. The main problem is that the job of a university lecturer is poorly paid; this forces young and educated people to turn to other professions that pay better. Another major factor is external migration to Western Europe, whereby existing faculty members, as well as potential faculty members, leave the country. The third major factor, as observed by the HR manager, is internal migration, whereby the best lecturers move either to the capital Vilnius or to Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. These centres host the largest universities in the country.
In order to combat this internal and external 'brain drain', Klaipeda University has taken active measures to attract older faculty members and this has resulted in a lecturer complement in which about 30% are of pensionable age. The university has a policy of actively hiring lecturers who are either close to retirement age or who are already retired. The majority of such hires consists of people who were lecturers in the past and who have either moved into business or to some other non-lecturing job. Such lecturers typically have a solid practical background, as well as theoretical knowledge from their past lecturing experience. Other lecturers, usually former professors, tend to specialise in theoretical topics. Usually they have been working at another university, either abroad or in Vilnius or Kaunas. After retirement, they come back to Klaipeda and the university seeks them out and invites them to read some lectures, usually only on the theoretical parts of the courses, with no practical seminars and also with a part-time load.
The HR department works hard to identify such potential lecturers, mainly through contacts in other universities, but also through the media and in other ways. Once a potential lecturer is identified, he or she is approached personally either by telephone or e-mail with the aim of arranging a meeting. According to the HR manager, experience has shown that a personal approach works better for interesting potential lecturers rather than advertisements in the media, Internet or other indirect ways of attracting employees.
The other active age management practice employed by Klaipeda University is to retain lecturers of pensionable age in their positions for as long as they are able to cope with the work load and other responsibilities of the job. The experience of the university is that, in the majority of cases, lecturers of retirement age do stay on with the university. The university values their experience and knowledge. Most of them have PhDs and have been lecturing for half their lives, so when retirement age comes the university offers them different options to remain. For example, the lecture schedule can be changed and the lecture load may be reduced. Remuneration is, of course, decreased, but usually people agree to this because they are also receiving their pension, which means that their income is higher than it would be by just retiring. On the other hand, if an employee is capable of continuing with the normal pace of work, the university is happy to keep a pension-age lecturer on a full load. According to HR manager, lecturers at Klaipeda University retire at about 68 years of age.
Moreover, older lecturers are not discriminated against in eligibility for training. Regular training is provided for all lecturers, depending on their sphere of work. Furthermore, older lecturers particularly are encouraged to participate in training in new technologies and computer skills, since they are sometimes reluctant to learn these things on their own. The courses are optional and are organised as seminars, typically in groups of mixed age. The only requirement for participation is advance registration.
Nevertheless, older lecturers are less flexible when it comes to adopting information technologies and new teaching strategies. After working in the field for many years, they have their own views on how to deliver lectures and are reluctant to accept new methods. As a result, they sometimes appear as old-fashioned and are less esteemed by students. The university has attempted to address this problem. For example, over the last two years, there has been a requirement that lecturers should provide at least a part of their lectures using multimedia. This is a rather informal request and no strict quota of lectures using multimedia technologies is imposed. But every lecturer is approached personally by the Dean and asked to make some improvements in their lectures (if needed); one of the typical requests is for more frequent use of multimedia and handouts. According to the HR manager, there has actually been some change, with three or four of the older lecturers having bought their own laptops and using them in their lectures.
Although the university hopes it can encourage graduates to remain and work in the university and substitute them for older lecturers, the labour shortage faced by Klaipeda is unlikely to go away in the short term.
Contact: Jūratė Stančienė, HR Manager