VILNIUS, June 29 (Xinhua) -- Lithuanian parliament (the Seimas) has approved on Thursday the state university optimization plan which could cut the number of universities in half, amid efforts to boost the quality of education in the country.
The government's plan stated that Lithuania's biggest cities -- Vilnius and Kaunas -- should each have one classical university, covering a wide range of study programs. According to the plan, Vilnius and Kaunas would retain their technology, health sciences and art universities.
Lithuanian Education and Science Minister Jurgita Petrauskiene said the parliament's decision had paved the way for one of the most important reforms in the country.
"The Seimas finally turned the key and started the engine of the higher education reform in today's voting," Petrauskiene was quoted as saying in an announcement.
However, the parliament refrained from naming which universities should be merged following recent resistance on the part of academic society.
Opponents to the plan, such as opposition MP and former education and science minister Gintaras Steponavicius, said "This plan clearly lacks ambition; it's not specific enough," news website vz.lt quoted him as saying.
More details of the universities' "optimization" are to become clear later. The parliament proposed the government to prepare measures and legislation for the implementation of the reform by Dec. 1.
Currently, the Baltic state has 14 state universities and a population of less than three million people. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently urged the country to reform its higher education system. Enditem