Business, scientific and technical services, education
Plan to merge universities and attract foreign students
The number of students in higher education in Latvia continues to decrease, therefore the state is planning different scenarios to stimulate the education sector, for example, to more actively attract a number of foreign students and reduce the number of higher educational establishments. Despite the negative trends, private higher educational institutions still are able to increase their turnovers.
Education sector in brief:
• Latvia had a total of 811 elementary/high schools during the 2015/2016 school year, 58 higher education institutions and colleges as well as two branches of foreign higher educational institutions.
• In 2017, Latvia has allocated 8.2% of GDP or EUR 683.7 million for education.
• The number of students in Latvia’s universities and colleges continues to drop from 85,881 students in the 2014/2015 academic year to 84,282 students in the 2015/2016 academic year.
• The most popular courses in Latvian higher educational institutions still are law, communications, and business management.
Key facts about the education sector
• The largest schools of higher education in Latvia (except for those state-funded), in terms of their market shares, are Turība University, the Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration, and the Baltic International Academy.
• A large number of education reforms are seeing a slow progress, for example, in 2017 there are active discussions about consolidation of higher educational institutions.
• In 2016 the Education and Science Ministry and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development signed an agreement on cooperation in a project on improvement and modernization of higher education management with a goal to strengthen the ability of higher educational establishments to ensure the education quality that meets the needs of the Latvian national economy and society. The project will be carried out in two stages until June 2018.
• The main players in research are the larger universities: the University of Latvia, Riga Technical University, Riga Stradiņš University, and Latvia University of Agriculture.
• In 2014 the government supported redistribution of additional financing to 14 research programs to ensure unique research projects in different areas, including energy, environmental issues, IT, agriculture, etc.
EUR 23.14 million worth of funding for institutes
On an annual basis, base funding for scientific research is allocated from the state budget to scientific institutes, universities and colleges and their institutes. In 2017, this funding amounted to EUR 24.14 million, which was distributed among various scientific and research institutions, including the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Center, the Institute of Solid State Physics of the University of Latvia, the Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry, the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Latvia, the Institute of food Safety, Animal Health and Environment BIOR, the Institute of Agricultural Resources and Economics, the Institute of Electronics and Computer Science, the Institute of Horticulture, the Research Center of Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, the Institute of Art History of the Art Academy of Latvia. Also, financing has been allocated for several higher educational establishments.
Turnovers of private higher educational establishments grow
While the state, to a greater or lesser degree, finances higher educational establishments and research institutes from the national budget, private universities and institutions are facing increasing competition. This is largely determined by the decreasing number of students, as well as every school’s ability to increase its competitiveness. For the past several years, private higher educational establishments in Latvia showed poor results, still in 2015 compared to 2014 all private higher educational establishments were able to increase their turnovers.
Increase in number of foreign students
As the population of Latvia continues to decrease, so does the number of high school graduates. Furthermore, a part of high school graduates chooses to study abroad instead of Latvia, which means that competition is increasing not only among Latvian higher education institutions – they also have to compete with foreign universities and colleges. This means that they have to offer programs and skills that are in demand on the labor market. As a result, the number of foreign students continues to increase in Latvia. During the 2016/2017 academic year, there were 8,137 foreign students in all universities in Latvia, which is considerably more than the previous academic year. Foreign students currently account for 10% of all students in Latvia. According to latest data, the largest number of foreigners (1,837) enrolled at Riga Stradiņš University, and these students make up 22% of the total number of students enrolled at the university. Out of all the foreign students enrolled in Latvian universities 14.5% are from Germany, 13% from Uzbekistan, 9.2% from India, 7.4% from Russia, and 4.5% from Sweden.