Number of state-funded students may shrink 5,500 in three years

The Education Ministry has plans to reduce the number of state-sponsored students by 5,500 over the next three years. The Latvian Students Union (LSA) says it will protest the decision, reported Latvian Radio Thursday.

The Education Ministry plans on using the saved funds to increase the salaries for academic personnel.

Board chairwoman Maira Belova of the LSA said that while students support raising salaries for academic staff, it should not be done by way of reducing the number of state-funded students.

The students' body has sent a request not to cut the number of state-sponsored students to the Saeima committees on education and budget, threatening protests over the matter.

"First of all we haven't reviewed it in the committee so I can only voice my personal opinion.

You have to consider whether the funds in the education system are reduced. If they're not, the current allocation of state-sponsored study spots is a far cry from being just," said Ilze Viņķele (Unity), head of the Saeima committee on education, culture and science.

Viņķele proposes considering the idea of former Education Minister Roberts Ķīlis, namely, to give student loans to all willing to study and repay the loans as the studies are finished.

While Anita Līce, an expert on education and employment at the Employers Confederation, said that the university funding model has recently been reformed and it wouldn't be right to cut the number of state-funded students. 

"It would mean a cut in the number of state-sponsored spots, which is not a solution that could be supported in the case of Latvia. For example, for the Rīga Technical University it would amount to a cut of about 1,000 state-funded students, which is unacceptable as our young people cannot afford paying the study fee in highly demanded economic professions, and we need the graduates," she said.

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