RIGA - Education and Science Minister Ina Druviete has called on the country's higher learning institutions to build an international image and to offer interesting study programs as ways to attract more foreign students.
In the past year the number of visiting students has fallen dramatically, though the minister denied that this was due to the low quality of the educational programs in Latvia's universities and institutes.
"We may have the best study programs in the world in some specialties, but a university builds its recognizable name over years. Everybody knows Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Yale," she said.
Specifically, she mentioned the Baltic studies program at the University of Latvia as an example of a program that has many exchange students
Druviete said Latvian universities should start building their image in the Baltic Sea region first. In addition, three factors must be taken into account when trying to lure foreigners to pursue studies in Latvia, she explained. The first is the language barrier, the second is a well thought-out international promotion policy, and the third is the development of interesting study programs.
The minister said that the universities should be more confident in themselves and offer foreign students the possibility to learn Latvian and study subjects in it as well.
"It is possible, it is commendable, it is realistic. We simply have to evaluate prospects of our language, its place and role in the EU, and we must not be too modest. We have to invite guest students on condition that they learn Latvian and study on general terms," said Druviete.
"I presume that we still feel pretty skeptical about the idea that foreign students could come to this country and study in the Latvian language, but it is a fully regular practice - in Poland, in the Netherlands, also in countries with languages that are not popular in the status of an international language," she explained.
According to the Citizenship and Migration Administration, this year about 460 people have come to Latvia to study, which is down 100 from last year's number.