More foreign students than expected in Latvia's universities

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In some Latvian universities, the number of foreign students has decreased, whereas at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) it has increased,  Latvian Radio reported September 22.

The proportion of foreign students in the “Turība” business university has so far been 25%-30% of the total number of students, with the highest number of people from India, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Georgia.

Imants Bergs, the pro-rector of Development and International Cooperation, said:

"We forecast in March, April, that the drop could be up to five times, the situation is actually better, the number has fallen by two and a half, three times.

Three factors have affected foreign student admissions: travel restrictions, financial difficulties, and also socio-psychological aspects, where families, even if they have a chance and a desire to study abroad, decide to postpone this step for a few years. "

Jānis Saulītis, director of the University of Latvia's (LU) student department, said the number of foreign students has fallen by about 5% this year. It's not much - but the number of applications, on the other hand, was significantly smaller, at least by half. 

"For us, the number of these foreign students has not been as large as in some other universities, so for them the 5% or 10% reduction is more significant than for us. If we look at total tuition fee revenues, the finances will even out."

Medical studies is a magnet for foreign students at Rīga Stradins University (RSU). Its administration and development prorector Toms Baumanis said that surprisingly, RSU has a record number of students from other countries this year and the majority of them – 43.9% – are from Germany. Sweden and Finland also play a large part.

Baumanis emphasized foreign students' contribution to the economy. "They leave their money here – they pay for dormitories, studies, family members come to visit, they fly airBaltic, they rent apartments. They buy movie tickets, hamburgers and everything else. I think 2600 students in Riga is a very large number in economic terms. Nearly €100 million a year. If this student stays for six years, then it's nearly €600 million."

Foreign students also study in a relatively small number at Daugavpils University. Its spokeswoman, Jelena Tamane, said foreign students are only 1.5% of the total number of students, while the university would like to increase their numbers in the future.

“They come from countries such as Belarus, Israel, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Finland, Armenia, Georgia (…),” Tamane said.

Latvia is well up in the competition for attracting foreign students to higher education institutions with neighboring countries and other European countries. COVID-19 time has shown how transfer studies into a virtual environment, which means that one can start studying even when still on the way to Latvia.

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