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Speech by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė at the Annual Conference of the Arqus European University Alliance

Date

2021 10 05

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Dear members of the academic community,

It is a great pleasure to open this important debate taking place in my beloved alma mater. When I graduated from Vilnius University, one could only dream of such international formations as Arqus Alliance. It took considerable effort to recover from the exclusion that the entire education system and culture of Lithuania had experienced during the Soviet occupation. I am really glad that today in Vilnius we are not lamenting the lost opportunities of the past, but raising fundamental questions: what is the mission of the university in the 21st century? How can universities contribute to a multicultural, multilingual, and inclusive Europe?

We are living in the face of complex global crises, yet they have highlighted the high importance of science, quality education, and academic community. We have been convinced that today there is a greater division in the world not between different nations and cultures, but between the people who trust science and appreciate critical thinking, and those who easily succumb to conspiracy theories and manipulations.

We are living in the times of extremely fast information flows, and today quality scientific arguments and development of critical thinking are vital. Today, the most difficult thing is not to get information, but to distinguish between what is reliable and sustainable, and what is not.

During the pandemic, we have also seen the critical role played by life sciences, new research, and discoveries. It is only thanks to the cooperation and efforts of the scientific community that we do have the main weapon against the Covid virus today: vaccines. Quite a few people have even been intimidated by the fact that vaccines had been developed so quickly. However, it is obvious that global challenges will continue to require rapid and scientific competencies-based solutions.

All of these are important challenges to the mission of universities in today’s world.

Today, we must all fight for common sense and critical thinking, because human lives depend on that. We must also work together for the best results and new breakthroughs.

I wish you valuable and productive discussions and bold solutions.