The history of the International Relations and Study Centre (IRSC) dates back to 1990 when the International Programme Coordination Unit was established (in 2000 it was re-organised into the International Relations Centre). The first foreign students came from Lebanon for consecutive studies in the same year. In 1996, the Foreign Students' Study Centre was established to coordinate their studies. In 2002, both units were re-organised into the International Relations and Study Centre, which was managed by Prof. A. Valančiūtė until 2007. In 2007, Prof. Žilvinas Padaiga was appointed Dean of the IRSC. Because the activities performed by the Centres before the merger were different, they will be described separately.
International Programme Coordination Unit (1990-2000), International Relations Centre (2000-2002)
The International Programme Coordination Unit was established in 1990. In 2000, it was re-organised into the International Relations Centre. From 1991 to 2002, the unit was managed by Prof. Limas Kupčinskas. The main direction of the activity was information work that helped the students, professors and scientific workers of Kaunas Medical University make contacts with foreign higher medical schools and hospitals and join international cooperation programmes. During the first years of Lithuanian independence, there were many opportunities for international activities for the universities. From 1990 to 2000, more than 200 students, selected by means of competition, performed summer practice in Danish, Swedish, and German hospitals. Bilateral cooperation agreements were prepared and implemented with the faculties of Universities and Hospitals of Lund, Gothenburg, Linköping (Sweden), Magdeburg (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Nantes (France), and other countries.
In 1993, we joined the cooperation programme of the Hospitals of the European Union HOPE, under which methodical support was provided to the participants of European programmes such as TEMPUS, COPERNICUS, PECO, and FP5.
In 1995, we began implementation of a three-year TEMPUS project in continuing education together with the Universities of Ghent (Belgium), Lyon (France), and Pamplona (Spain).
From 1996 to 1998, the TEMPUS project "Public Health Management Master Program" was administered by the International Relations Centre.
In 1997, we started implementing the European Union's EuroTransMed programme for remote medical studies.
From 1998 to 2002, the Centre coordinated the European Union's SOCRATES/ERASMUS programme and cooperated with more than 40 foreign institutions of higher education under bilateral agreements. During this period, 89 KMU students studied (from 3 to 10 months) in the universities of foreign partners. In addition, 33 KMU lecturers lectured in the institutions of foreign partners.
From 1999 to 2002, two European Union LEONARDO DA VINCI professional development programmes were developed and implemented. More than 20 young doctors and specialist trainee doctors acquired practical skills in various foreign hospitals.
Foreign Students' Study Centre (1996-2002)
In 1990, the management of Kaunas Medical University and the Lebanese Consul signed a student enrollment contract under which 21 Lebanese were able to come to study in Kaunas.
In 1992, Vice-Dean Angelija Valančiūtė was appointed as the liaison to the foreign students, and in 1996 she was appointed Dean of the newly established Foreign Students' Study Centre
The Foreign Students' Study Centre made every effort to increase the number of countries from which students were arriving. Lithuanian Consul Gvidas Kerušauskas helped the first students from the United Arab Emirates coming to Lithuania, while the Lithuanian Honorary Consul in Sydney Viktoras Šliteris helped Australian students. Close contacts were made with the Lithuanian embassies in Israel and Turkey, and in 1995 the first Israeli students arrived. Later, in order to attract more students from other countries, we started participating in international higher education exhibitions in Pakistan, China, India, and Turkey. Every year we visited Lebanon and Israel to organise an entrance examination.
In 1995, the first foreign graduate, a dentist from Lebanon, received the KMU diploma. In 1996, the first 15 doctors and 9 pharmaceutical chemists graduated from KMU.
International Relations and Study Centre (2002 to present)
In 2002, both centres were re-organised into the International Relations and Study Centre, which was managed by Prof. A. Valančiūtė until 2007. In 2007, Prof. Žilvinas Padaiga was appointed Dean of the IRSC. The activity areas and volumes of IRSC were constantly expanding: the number of international programmes and inter-institutional contracts was increasing as well as the number of both incoming and outgoing full-time students, lecturers, and administrative officers.
In 2003-2007, the Centre continued to coordinate the European Union's SOCRATES/ERASMUS programme. During this period, 271 KMU students studied (from 3 to 10 months) in the universities of foreign partners. In addition, 18 KMU lecturers lectured in the institutions of foreign partners.
In 2007, after the European Union's SOCRATES/ERASMUS programme was completed, the new Lifelong Learning Program (LLP) was launched, the sub-program of which (Erasmus) was administered by IRSC. With the expansion of the programme, students not only had the opportunity to study at EU institutions but could also go for practical experience. In addition, non-academic KMU personnel were able to upgrade their qualifications abroad. IRSC was also responsible for the administration of the visits of those coming to KMU - on average 30 students per year came to study and 10 guest lecturers were lecturing in the University.
From 2003 to 2007, three European Union LEONARDO DA VINCI professional development programmes were developed and implemented. More than 30 young doctors and specialist trainee doctors acquired practical skills in various foreign hospitals.
Coordination of the programme has expanded to a greater number of countries. Since 2008, the Australian-European Public Health Education project has been implemented, under which the KMU Faculty of Public Health has been actively participating.
Since 2005, IRSC has been organising and conducting a joint optional course between KMU and Karolinska University "Health Development in Europe and in the European Union", during which the students from Karolinska University (since 2008, students from the University of Florence, also) have been coming to Kaunas to attend lectures by KMU professors. The number of students, who chose this optional course, has increased in the five years, and the course itself has expanded. Since 2008, this course has already been conducted in four countries - Sweden, Lithuania, Belgium, and Italy. KMU students have been able to participate in this course together with Swedish and Italian students since 2009.
IRSC personnel participate in the organisation of internship courses for doctors from third-world countries. Doctors and medical nurses from Kazakhstan have been coming for internships of various durations to the KMU clinics of cardiology, cardiosurgery, laboratory medicine, gynecology, neonatology, endocrinology, anesthesiology and neurosurgery since 2007. During the last three years, a total of 17 refresher courses for doctors and medical nurses have been organised, during which 199 specialists improved their qualifications in KMU.
June 2009 was the fifteenth year of the graduation of KMU students. KMU diplomas have already been awarded to 480 foreign graduates: 324 students acquired the specialty of doctor, 96 - dentist, 54 - pharmaceutical chemist, and 7 - master of public health.
Foreign students now come from almost all the continents of the world: Europe, Asia, Australia, America, a total of 36 countries. A total of 339 foreign undergraduates began the academic year 2009/2010 in KMU.
International programs and projects developed and administrated by IRSC:
1. KMU student summer practice programme in Denmark (1990-2006);
2. TEMPUS-PHARE programme "The Reform of Continuing Medical Education in Lithuania" (1995-1998);
3. TEMPUS-PHARE programme "The Reform of Gastroenterologists Training in Lithuania" (1997-2001);
4. TEMPUS-PHARE programme "The Reform of Medical Studies in Lithuania in Accordance with the EU Directives" (1998-2000);
5. The European Union's Programme of Satellite Television-Remote Teaching "EUROTRANSMED" (1998-2002);
6. EU SOCRATES/ERASMUS program (1998-2007);
7. "Internet-Based Medical Education" program (1998);
8. EU LEONARDO DA VINCI programme project "Practice of KMU Specialist Trainee Doctors in Hospitals of the European Union" (2000-2001);
9. EU LEONARDO DA VINCI programme project "Professional Skill Development for Young Gastroenterologists in Hospitals of the European Union" (2000-2002);
10. EU scientific development programme: FRAMEWORK 5 (FP5): "Evidence Based Technology Interventions for Health System Development (EVITECH) 2000";
11. EU LEONARDO DA VINCI programme project "Influence of the Leonardo da Vinci Program on Free Movement in Europe: Example of Lithuanian Specialist Trainee Doctors" (2003-2005);
12. EU LEONARDO DA VINCI programme project "Professional Skill Development for Young Cardiovascular Disease Doctors in Accordance with the EU Standards" (2004-2006);
13. EU LEONARDO DA VINCI programme project "Acquisition of Experimental and Clinical Oncological Experience - Internships of Young Lithuanian Oncologists in EU Member States" (2006-2007).
14. Project of the European Union and Australian universities "Australian-European Public Health Education Project" (2008-2011).
15. EU LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAM /ERASMUS programme (2007-2013).