Fewer foreign students at Latvian universities this year

Data compiled by the Ministry of Education and Science (IZM) show that the total number of foreign students in Latvia's higher education institutions this year has fallen. Many are yet to arrive; those who are here, self-isolate in dormitories or rented apartments, Latvian Radio reported September 9. 

In total, around 400 foreign students are currently enrolled at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU), which is actually 20% more than last autumn. It is true that this year fewer students have applied from third countries because of the epidemiological situation.

This year, RSU will mostly have foreign students from Germany and Sweden. The university will start on-site studies October 5. The healthcare studies department head, Guntis Bahs, said hat foreign and Latvian students or teachers who have been in countries with an increased risk of COVID-19 have to spend 14 days in self-isolation.

Students, also new students, have to find the locations for self-isolation themselves.

The Foreign Students Association of RSU has started informing new foreign students about the search of residence and possibilities to purchase food remotely.

The majority of students have found accommodation to rent during self-isolation, but the head of the association, Hannah Katharina Schöberl, said that students have uncertainties about whether it will be possible to travel to Latvia in time for studies.

"If it is the first year of studies, I think students from other countries applied, already taking into account that there is this pandemic situation in the world. We have had e-mails from young students about the fact that the embassy recommends not to travel at the moment, but I think this is already a general recommendation on the part of the embassies (..) Moreover, there are fewer flights and more expensive tickets," said Schöberl.

She also said that RSU  already has about 2300 foreign students and some of those students haven't had a chance to visit their families this year, especially students from Sri Lanka and India.

“We have also offered these students the help of psychologists since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, because it has created mental tension, knowing that they cannot leave Latvia and travel to meet their families this year. But we have a strong foreign student community here, and we are hosting game nights or gathering online to be with those students who couldn't go to their home countries,” Schöberl said.

At Riga Technical University (RTU) studies will start on September 14. The number of applications for foreign students at this university has decreased by 50%, estimated pro-rector Uldis Sukovskis. RTU will have around 600 foreign students.

For these students, RTU has offered to self-isolate in student dormitories.

University of Latvia (LU) students, similarly to RSU, can only go to dormitories after self-isolation has been done elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education's data on student admissions shows that this year the total number of students enrolled in higher education is 17 000 (20 000 students last year) and 5% of them are foreign students, whereas last year they accounted for 11% of all students.

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