Daugavpils university moves partially remote to avoid heating bills

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As a method of austerity, Daugavpils University has not connected most buildings to central heating this winter. Where possible, learning takes place remotely, Latvian Radio reported on November 23.

Latvian Radio met several young women who study in person.

“In principle, everything is going on in person. There are only a few exceptions when a few lectures take place via Zoom. I don't see how it might be possible at all that physiotherapists would not be trained in person but remotely. A lot of things are going on in practice because the work is directly with patients. It could be warmer, but in the classrooms, the heating is connected,” said one of the physiotherapy students.

In another building, labs and rooms are locked. Only one person, biology assistant Aleksandra, was met by Latvian Radio. She said nothing takes place in that building. “On Monday morning, it was 13 degrees here. Now the learning is remote, because it's cold, we are saving, not heating as we should,” said Aleksandra.

Deputy Rector for Development of Daugavpils University Jānis Kudiņš said that centralized heating is not connected in many buildings of the university. “We are heating with electric heaters because it is currently cheaper than with Daugavpils thermal networks. The electricity contract concluded three years ago allows heating in the offices, but the Daugavpils heat tariff […] takes it out of your pocket seriously. The austerity regime is inevitable, we simply have no other option," Kudiņš said.

He said that the heating season started around October 20 at the dormitory and on one floor in the university buildings.

"And then that bill was around €9,000, which used to be standard during the winter for all of our buildings. DU owns three study buildings, two dorms, and a sports complex, six buildings with thousands of square meters to be heated. Then the heating costs are disastrously high. We don't get any compensation components. We have to pay full price for the megawatt hour. According to current estimates, if we paid EUR 10,000 per month for all buildings last winter, the tariff is now more than four times higher. Accordingly, if we were to heat as we had before, the heating bill would be approximately EUR 44,000 for us," Kudiņš said.

That is why the university has decided to move to learning mostly remotely. "There's nothing else we can do. If we heat all these buildings, then it's more likely we have to take from the staff payment. Because there are no other sections," Kudiņš said.

In this situation, full or part-time higher education students who pay for tuition suffer the most. Therefore, the Manabalss.lv portal is currently launching a signature collection initiative for reducing tuition fees in the case of remote learning, preferably at 50%, and reducing or compensating students for the costs of dormitories. At the beginning of this week, two thousand people had signed this initiative.

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