RIGA - The merging of institutions of higher education in Latvia is a matter of rising importance, and inevitability, as student numbers are falling every year, reports news agency LETA. If the director of a university or college came forward with information that the institution could not survive with its present funding, it would immediately be put on the daily discussion agenda at the Ministry for Education and Science, said Education and Science Minister Tatiana Koke (Union of the Greens and Farmers) in an interview on Latvian State Radio.
“Reform begins where finance ends” said the minister, adding that if an opportunity doesn’t appear to attract students from abroad, lecture halls will be half empty.
At the moment, the most important thing is approving of the Law on Higher Education, which will allow higher education institutions to shape and develop their mutual cooperation. “Merging of institutions should be examined by the institutions themselves, it can’t be regulated from above,” said Koke.
Last week the chairman of the newly elected Latvian Council of Rectors, Arvids Barsevskis, in discussions with Koke, suggested raising the quality standards for higher education institutions, both for quality of courses and for academic personnel.
In the course of the discussion, Barsevskis expressed support for changes in higher education financial frameworks, which for the most part are in agreement with the ‘money follows quality’ principles put forward by the Latvian Student Association. This means that the state would provide a certain base of funding, as well as making further financing available which higher education institutions would then compete for on a quality assessment basis.
The president of the Council of Rectors admits that due to limited financial resources, such a model will not be introduced this year or next, but should be considered in the long term. Barsevskis says that there are many other questions which he would like to discuss with the Council of Rectors. The sitting of the Council, on Feb. 26, could examine the plan for reforms in higher education and science, which must be submitted to the government by the Ministry for Education and Science and the Ministry for the Economy by April 30.