MBA in Customs Process Management – to move up the career ladder with confidence | VDU Žemės ūkio akademija

MBA in Customs Process Management – to move up the career ladder with confidence

The ability to manage customs processes with confidence and professionalism is particularly important for those seeking to work in international companies with trade-related business operations. The sector is characterised by career opportunities and motivating salaries. Moreover, there is a shortage of highly skilled professionals and managers in the labour market. The MBA study programme “Customs Process Management” at the VMU Agriculture Academy, which was launched in autumn and has attracted a group eager to develop their skills and promising students, is popular due to its exceptional opportunity to acquire knowledge of professionals working in international markets and its convenient study format for working professionals. The intensive 1-year study programme is organised in English by distance learning, with lecturers who are highly regarded in Lithuania and abroad, sharing their experience and insights. Students admit that the language and intensity of the course are challenging at first, but once they have made it through the first semester, they see it as a great opportunity to advance.

Study programme for future customs business leaders

The Chair of the Programme Committee Associate Professor Erika Besusparienė points out that the MBA study programme “Customs Process Management” is designed for those who want to pursue a career in the customs business or who want to become managers in the customs business, and it is currently the first MBA study programme in the customs field in Lithuania. Graduates will be awarded a Master of Business Administration international qualification.

“In the European context, master’s degrees in customs face two challenges: in some countries, they are taught in the national language of the country, while in others, customs are only covered as a specialisation. In discussions with business representatives, taking into account developments in the EU and building on the EU Customs Knowledge Framework, we aim to ensure that the study programme we have developed both takes a comprehensive view of the customs field and combines the other necessary competences”, says Assoc. Prof. Dr. E. Besusparienė.

The Chair of the Programme Committee reveals that the main pillars of the programme’s design were customs education within the framework of the EU’s Customs Competence Framework and the EU Customs 2040 vision, which is why the study programme combines customs and taxation.

The application for the EU Customs Recognition Certificate for the study programme “Customs Process Management” was submitted in 2024. This certificate certifies that the study programme meets the requirements of the EU Customs competences at EU level. “Of course, these areas alone are not enough for a future manager, so we have also included international trade through supply chains, sustainable customs management, communication, and, in order to take account of new risks, we have also added social responsibility and ethics and environmental protection”, says Assoc. Prof. Dr. E. Besusparienė. She notes that students appreciate the programme as being in line with today’s relevant issues, with lecturers openly sharing not only the latest theoretical knowledge, but also insights from practical work, which is particularly useful for students.

Relevant knowledge and advice from Lithuanian and foreign lecturers

Jonas Aleksonis, Deputy Director of UAB Durga, says that he is constantly improving his skills and attending various courses and seminars to deepen his knowledge in the fields of sales, customer engagement, and the art of negotiation, and has wanted to obtain a master’s degree for a long time. “I graduated from VMU in 2005 with a degree in Information Technology. A master’s degree has always been an aspiration. I wanted to study something other than IT, but my existing IT education did not meet the entry requirements for social and economic studies. I did not want to do a master’s degree in IT because I was deepening my knowledge in the field of customs activities. The admission conditions for the MBA programme “Customs Process Management” were flexible, the relevance of the programme, the convenient study format, and the opportunity to learn from the practice of lecturers working in the customs field drew my attention”, says J. Aleksonis.

He notes that halfway through his studies, he wants to gain more knowledge in the field and improve his skills. “I think the knowledge I have gained will help me in my work to make better decisions and to look for other opportunities in my current activities. Political developments are fundamentally changing the direction of exports and imports, which requires new knowledge and more up-to-date information, which can be shared by practitioners who work in international markets and who have overcome similar challenges themselves”, J. Aleksonis shares insights.

Aleksonis admits that having an international teaching team and studying in English was a bit stressful at first. “As students, we were anxious about studying in English because we needed to quickly refresh our forgotten knowledge of the language. The lecturers kindly came to our rescue in the beginning by patiently repeating the material and presenting it in writing a few times. I think all of us and our colleagues overcame the challenge quickly and successfully and are now fluent in English”, says a student about the challenges of studying in a foreign language.

Recalling the expectations he had before his studies, J. Aleksonis estimates that he has exceeded them by 100%. “The lecturers are highly qualified and experienced practitioners who share not only theoretical knowledge but also real experience. The study programme is relevant and practical, meeting the needs of today’s customs field. In my opinion, these studies are an excellent choice not only for customs brokers, but also for carriers, freight forwarders, logistics specialists in international trade companies, as well as for customs officers looking for further career opportunities. The programme is designed with the needs of practitioners in mind, so that the knowledge gained can be immediately applied at work. It is also important that the format of distance learning in the evenings is appropriate, as it allows students to balance their studies with their work”, he shares insights.

It helps to deepen professional knowledge and opens up new opportunities

Gitana Dumbraitė, a customs broker at UAB Aurinka, says that the choice of this programme was motivated by the desire to improve her English and to get up-to-date information about customs processes.

“I work alone, which makes it more difficult to keep up to date and to get the latest information. This programme has helped me to broaden my knowledge, and the fact that it’s in English is a big part of that. At first it was difficult to understand the English-speaking lecturers, it took a lot of effort, but now I see that it is much easier to analyse documents, laws and regulations in English, which not only makes my work easier, but also opens up new professional opportunities”, shares G. Dumbraitė.

Halfway through her year-long studies, she notes that she has gained additional information about EU customs and Lithuanian customs processes, which makes her feel even stronger and more confident in her professional field.

Lecture recordings to consolidate knowledge

Karolis Zelenkauskas, a student of the programme, says that he had planned to study for a Master’s degree before finishing his Bachelor’s degree, but the thought of studying on an extended basis for another 3 years was discouraging. “At the end of my bachelor’s studies, the Dean of the Faculty of Bioeconomy Development, Prof. Dr. Bernardas Vaznonis, introduced the Master’s degree programmes, including a year-long MBA programme on “Customs Process Management”. I liked the higher intensity and shorter duration of the studies, as well as the fact that the lectures are held remotely in the evenings – it is possible to balance the lectures with work”, says K. Zelenkauskas, who graduated from his bachelor’s degree at the VMU Agriculture Academy last year.

The only hesitation K. Zelenkauskas had when he was interested in the new study programme was the organisation of studies in English. “I thought that studying in a foreign language would make it more difficult to understand the material and complete assignments. The hesitation lasted the whole summer until the discussion with the Dean. When I expressed my concerns about the English language, Prof. Dr. B. Vaznonis reassured me that all lectures would be recorded and if I didn’t understand something, I would be able to review them again. It was during this interview that I decided to enrol in the MBA programme “Customs Process Management”. Interestingly, once I started my studies, I had no problems with the English language” says K. Zelenkauskas, revealing that the lecturers also help to overcome all other challenges. According to the student, the only thing you need to do is to be confident to ask questions, and lecturers kindly explain all the problems and share their experience.

The student says he sees that the programme is tailored to those who are already working in customs and want to develop their skills, as well as those who would like to become customs specialists. “I feel that I have improved in a specific field of study, I have gained a lot of theoretical knowledge and useful insights from professionals in the sector. I also have much more confidence in my English language skills. It is important that the lecturers are flexible, focus on specific topics that are relevant to the students, and share their knowledge on specific subjects in the customs field. Flexibility is also felt in the reporting, you can choose individual presentations or team presentations, etc. The lecturers are friendly and understanding, they know that English is not our mother tongue, so they always try to communicate clearly and if we don’t understand something, they use other words to explain. This programme will help you improve your English, and if you don’t know English but want to learn it, this is a good opportunity to get it started”, says K. Zelenkauskas.

A year of study with the opportunity to take part in Erasmus+ BIP courses

Leyli Gurbanzade, who has been living in Lithuania for six years and holds a bachelor’s degree from VMU, says that the first six months of her year-long MBA studies were really intense. It was challenging at times trying to balance work commitments with the assignments, but in terms of the amount of knowledge gained, the programme is useful, relevant and fully meets expectations.

Gurbanzade highlights the opportunity for students to take part in the Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP) course, where she, together with G. Dumbraite, gained new knowledge in the Czech Republic. “The course was very interesting, and I learned a lot of new things. I also made contacts with other students and lecturers. Now I can feel more confident in doing projects and in teamwork. I have also gained skills in problem solving, critical thinking and leadership. In addition, I now have a certificate and experience of working in a multi-cultural team”, says L. Gurbanzadeh about the benefits of the Erasmus+ BIP.

Dumbraitė notes that her week in the Czech Republic brought good practice in communicating with international students. “We studied together with students from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, Poland, Azerbaijan, Hungary. It was interesting to learn about their experiences. During this project we have been learning how to prepare projects for European Union funding and this knowledge will open up more new opportunities”, says G.Dumbraitė.

Project-based essay instead of a final master’s thesis

Assoc. Prof. Dr. E. Besusparienė says that one of the unique features of the study programme is that instead of the traditional master’s thesis, a final project is prepared, which is smaller in size. The final project is focused on solving a practical problem and applying innovations in business or in the country. “The final project provides an opportunity for the student to express his or her innovation and creativity, and the project thesis can be directly linked to business needs, which helps the graduating student to establish or strengthen the link with the real context of the labour market. We are constantly looking for solutions to help students achieve their professional goals through this intensive programme, and we would like to see this study programme open up new opportunities”, says Assoc. Prof. Dr. E. Besusparienė.

The Chair of the Programme Committee points out that the MBA in Customs Process Management is designed for those who wish to change careers or move up the career ladder. “We work closely with the Lithuanian Customs Practitioners Association, we are members of INCU, and we have also become members of the Institute of Customs Knowledge. Our students also have the opportunity to participate in these international networks, to deepen their knowledge, to build their international network, which undoubtedly gives them new career prospects. So, if a person has been working since graduating from a bachelor’s degree and has 3 years of work experience after graduation (whether as a manager, accountant, logistician or any other type of worker), he/she can enrol in the MBA programme “Customs Process Management”. The most important thing is the intrinsic motivation to climb the career ladder, which is why we have made motivation an important part of the admission rules”, summarises VMU Agriculture Academy Assoc. Prof. Dr. E. Besusparienė.