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Latvian Saeima okays higher education reform

On Tuesday, June 8, the Latvian Saeima approved the amendments to the Law on Higher Education Institutions in the third reading in order to implement a management reform.

52 Members voted for, two against, 26 abstained. The reform has been discussed in the Saeima for over a year. Higher education institutions are still unsatisfied with the reform.

The reform provides for a number of major changes, including the breakdown of higher education establishments in sciences universities, arts and cultural universities, applied sciences universities, and applied sciences university colleges.

Each type of university will have to meet different criteria. Sciences universities will have to implement at least three higher education level study programs and at least 65% of the academic staff in the educational establishment must have a science doctorate.

In turn, arts and cultural universities will implement bachelor's and master's study programs, as well as professional doctoral programs in the arts. Research programs will be developed if research results corresponding to the requirements of international level have been reported in the specific field of studies or if joint doctoral programs with another partner institution have been established. At least 70% of students will have to study art. On the other hand, at least 40% of the elected academic staff must be a science doctorate or hold a professional degree in arts, including at least 25% must be a science doctorate and at least 20% of the academic staff must be artists recognized at national and international level.

Applied sciences universities, as well as university colleges, will implement bachelor's and master's level programs. Research programs will be able to be developed if the research results corresponding to the requirements of the international level are presented in the specific field of study, or if the programs are developed in cooperation with another partner institution. Universities must implement study programs in at least two fields of study, and university colleges in at least one. At universities, at least 60% of the elected academic staff should be a science doctorate, while at least 50% of the university colleges staff must be a doctorate.

A further criterion for science universities that there must be at least 4,000 students, which was debated before, was refused.

Major changes are expected in the management of higher education, as higher education councils are expected to be set up. The Council will be a collegial supreme decision-making body responsible for the sustainable development, strategic and financial supervision of higher education. The Council should also ensure the functioning of the State establishment of higher education in accordance with the objectives set out in its development strategy.

The Council will be composed of representatives selected by the senate of higher education itself and by representatives of industry and society selected by the government and nominated by the President. The Saeima did not support a proposal that a student representative be included in the council.

Members of the council cannot have been Saeima deputies, Cabinet members or parliamentary secretaries in the last 12 months.

The amendments to the Law are scheduled to take effect on August 16 of this year.

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