Latvian Cabinet of Ministers accepts university management changes

On February 18 the Cabinet of Ministers approved a conceptual report from the Education and Science Ministry (IZM) on the restructuring of the university management system, according to a February 19 press release.

“This is an historic moment and a large step on the road to a quality, modern and internationally competitive higher education,” said the ministry.

The conceptual report focuses on management, financing and human resources, taking into account constructive proposals from industry and social partners. The next steps include preparing amendments to the Law on Higher Education Institutions on institution classification, the involvement of outside experts in management through council implementation, as well as other issues. Meanwhile the Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre will develop guidelines for appointing and dismissing the councils by the end of 2020 or as late as 2023.

“In any case we are ready to keep working to implement the commitments put forward in the report in a timely manner,” said Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska. She emphasized that the amendments will be developed in cooperation with industry experts, so the ministry is ready for augmented criticism and practical proposals for implementing the councils.

“It’s clear that our nation’s teaching staff has huge potential, our young students have huge potential, but we’ve not yet reached a level that satisfies everyone in the country, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in a press conference.

“We have to move towards a certain consolidation of higher education and scientific institutions, we have to move towards a model that will improve  higher education management,” continued Kariņš. The conceptual report also calls for state scientific institution management issues to be evaluated only according to international evaluations of scientific institutions. European Union structural funds will be used to support the structural management transition.

The role of colleges and their place in the higher education system will be evaluated in a separate informative report prepared by IZM in cooperation with other ministries, the Latvian College Association, employer organizations and other social partners. IZM has also taken into account the opinions or regional universities in terms of higher education institution classification, focusing on the quality of scientific work before considering quantitative data.

Previous attempts to move the sector towards closer cooperation and openness to international standards have taken place since Latvia joined the European Union.

As previously reported, in 2019 Kariņš said that reforms of the education system promoted by the previous government had failed to materialize, citing Estonia as an example from which Latvia might learn.

The Prime Minister pointed out that in Estonia, for example, the education sector is allocated comparable resources as in Latvia as a percentage of the budget, but the salary of a teacher in the neighboring country is about twice as high. This can be explained by the fact that the education system in Estonia has been effectively organized, and this must also be done in Latvia, said Kariņš at the time.

In 2019 the University of Latvia (LU), the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LLU) and Riga Technical University (RTU) qualified for the "Times Higher Education" 2020 world university rankings by subject in life and physical sciences, according to the ranking data. 

LU was included in the life sciences subject ranking for the first time, coming in at 501.-600 place. It moved up to 601.-800 place in the physical sciences ranking, which is the highest result for any Latvian university. The life sciences ranking also included LLU, which placed 601.+, with RTU also entering the physical sciences ranking at 801.+ place.

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