Students' association says universities charge foreigners too much

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Foreign student numbers have increased several times during the last years, and it's a lucrative enterprise for Latvian universities, seeing as the number of local students is shrinking. However the Latvian Students' Association (LSA) says all's not well at how they're treated by the universities prior to and during their studies, reported Latvian Radio Wednesday.

According to the association, there are two extremes.

Part of the universities don't even offer studies in an European Union language other than Latvian.

While another part ask for money from foreign students prior to admitting them, and it's a risky situation for foreigners who still haven't acquired a visa.

"In the end part of the potential students are refused a visa for various reasons, while the university has already charged them the money–the study fee.

The fact that the education institutions in Latvia charge 30% or more from the semester study fee [prior to admitting them] is not fair against foreign students," said Maira Belova, head of the institution.

Furthermore, these universities charge foreigners much more than locals.

Belova said that while the fees can be different for foreign students, the association would not want higher education to be commercialized with universities doubling their earnings on the account of foreigners. 

The Rīga Stradiņš University and the Rīga Technical University have the largest proportion of foreign students.

The Rīga Stradiņš University charges foreign students up to three times more than locals. The university claims they couldn't make ends meet only from the state funding.

"We have a market economy and it's clear that free education is out of the question.

Each study program has individual criteria, following which the fees are set. There's no unified approach here. It's obvious that studies in English are more expensive," said Toms Baumanis, a representative of the Rīga Stradiņš University.

While Igors Tipāns of the Rīga Technical University says that their university only requests study fees after admission, and fees for foreigners are only slightly higher than those of locals. 

The Education Ministry says that some universities have indeed been acting unfair in the way they accept money and increase fees, and inspections are ongoing.

"It would not be right to ask higher study fees from foreign students just because all of the program of part of it is taught in a foreign European language," said Laura Treimane, representative of the Education Ministry.

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