Amendments supported by the Saeima Education, Culture and Science Commission could mean that in the future, colleges would be considered vocational education institutions. The Ministry of Education and Science (IZM) promises that it will change nothing for students. The Latvian Association of Colleges is alarmed. Students of Culture College surveyed by Latvian Radio are also frustrated.
"Colleges were registered both in the Law on Vocational Education and the Law on Higher Education. We see that this is the moment when we can also introduce clarification and the system here by saying very clearly that colleges are vocational education institutions.
When setting benchmarks for universities and higher education schools, most of these criteria relate to high achievements, high levels in terms of research. At no point is it adequate to ask for the same thing of colleges,"
said Dace Jansone, spokeswoman for Ministry of Education and Science.
The study programs will remain unchanged, and the diploma will have the same effect as it has been. On whether such changes could affect students' choice in the future – Jansone believes students are pragmatic enough and their choices will not be affected. The Latvian Association of Colleges disagrees. Its president, Tālavs Jundzis, calls the ministry's statements a deception.
"It's a deception. They're referring to colleges as having a dual status.
We've been hearing this from the Ministry for a year. We have no dual status and never had. Yes, we are in two laws, maybe even three laws - like any Latvian higher education institution," said Jundzis.
According to him, if these amendments are adopted, colleges' prestige, quality and student interest will fall. Moreover, the fact that a higher education diploma has not been issued by a higher education institution but by a vocational would make it difficult for students to learn further or pursue a career abroad.
“I don't know what to comment on. I want to call it appalling incompetence. How can higher education, which has existed for 20 years, functioned, accredited, very well appreciated from foreign experts – now suddenly throw it out as needless, useless. How will we look in both the world's education and the labor market?” asked the Culture College principal, Sandra Plota.
Plota said that students and alumni are also frustrated.
“I don't want - five years later, if I go abroad to continue my professional course or try to do something with this diploma - to be told it's not really higher education,” said a student. Another said that they would never go to college if it wasn't a higher education institution.
Students, the college principal and also the association say they are prepared to fight for reconsideration of this amendment.