Students from large families have access to social stipend
In June, the Parliament approved amendment to the Law on Higher Education Institutions. The amendment (in Latvian language) offer students from large families the option to receive support – social stipend – paid from the state budget.
The social stipend is intended as support for youngsters from large families. This is a historic event, as for the first time since the restoration of the country's independence, a new scholarship fund based on social criteria will be introduced. Previously stipends were paid only based on academic accomplishments.
Young people from large families up to the age of 25 will be eligible for a social scholarship - students in public, private universities and colleges in both state-subsidized and study fee-paying study places.
The Cabinet of Ministers set student categories that will be eligible for the social stipend, stipend allocation conditions, as well as the size of the stipend based on the student’s academic accomplishments and income, the amendments state.
The stipend is being paid to students from 1 September 2021 onward.
Preliminary data on Graduate's monitoring confirms the need for changes in Latvian Tertiary Education
In summer 2020 the Ministry of Education and Science published first findings on tertiary education graduates’ monitoring data (2017). First conclusions draw attention to the substantial fragmentation of tertiary institutions and study programs in certain domains, leading to an ‘overproduction’ of specialists, thus increasing the unemployment. In direct terms, affecting the opportunities for young specialists to work in accordance with their qualifications.
The data shows that students in Latvia most often choose to study Social Sciences, Business administration and Law – almost one out of four graduates have this background field. According to the medium- and long-term labor market forecasts of the Ministry of Economics, in 2022 there will be already a surplus of specialists – particularly the Social Sciences domain will significantly rise – while a shortage will become evident for specialists in Natural Sciences, ICT - Information and Communication Technologies and Engineering.
Data also validates that, particularly in the fields of study where the supply of higher education is higher than the demand in the labor market, there is a consequent higher unemployment rate among graduates, whom are more likely to work in lower-skilled professions.
Among other findings:
- The majority (79%) graduated from public tertiary institutions, 21% graduated from private sector institutions;
- 75% of private graduates were in Social Sciences, Business administration and Law;
- 81% of graduates were employed a year after graduation (in 2018).
- The average income of 2017 graduates was 22% higher than the average salary in 2018 in the country.
- Latvia has a particularly low proportion of graduates with doctoral degree (1% vs. 4% in Europe).
This monitoring data (in Latvian) is crucial for the development of effective policies for tertiary education, particularly in view of efficient allocation of public budget. This methodology of monitoring is compliant with the Council of the European Commission Recommendation (2017) on tracking graduates in EU Member States.
Benelux and Baltic countries: automatic recognition of diplomas
In November 2019 the Declaration of Intent on the Automatic Mutual Recognition of Higher Education Degrees between the Baltic and Benelux countries was signed in Brussels.
The automatic recognition of degrees and diplomas implies that anyone who has obtained a recognised higher education qualification in one of the signatory countries is assured that this title will be recognised automatically in the partner countries, without any specific procedure to follow. This measure facilitates access to studies and the labour market in other countries. Automatic recognition also offers several advantages for students, higher education institutions, the private sector and the authorities, particularly in the areas of time and money, legal certainty and reduced administration.
Automatic recognition has existed within the Benelux since 2015, as well as between the three Baltic countries since 2018. The new multilateral treaty will be essential and will be open to other countries and regions. The EU Council urges the 28 EU Member States to make automatic recognition of higher education qualifications a reality by 2025.
The state-funded assistant will also be available to university and college students with disabilities
Amendments to the Cabinet of Ministers Regulations "Arrangements for Granting and Financing Local Government Assistant Services" (available in Latvian language) provides for assistant services for students in higher education and colleges as of September 2019.
The assistant service will be provided in accordance with the time needed to get to and from the educational institution and assist with the education programme, but not more than 40 hours per week and only during the academic year. Until now, only students with a first-group visual disability were eligible for the assistant service - and thus assistance at tertiary education level.
In order to provide the service this year, 32,000 euros have been reallocated to the Ministry of Welfare from the Ministry of Education and Science.
Professionals with attained higher education will obtain a teacher qualification within one year
In order to encourage talented and motivated new teachers to enter schools and to address teacher shortages, the Ministry of Education and Science, in cooperation with universities and partners, will develop a one-year teacher training programme.
In designing the programme, universities will take over the experience that has been proven abroad and has so far been offered in Latvia by the “Mission Possible” - work-based learning for those who have already completed higher education in a particular field. The new study programme is being developed by the University of Latvia in cooperation with Liepaja University, Daugavpils University and Mission Possible. Implementation of the study program is planned to start in 2020.
The Ministry of Education and Science has prepared an informative report “Work-Based Study Programme for Teacher Training: Implementation and Development” (available in Latvian language) to inform about the necessary measures for the design and approbation of the new study programme and to evaluate the sustainability of its funding. By June 2022, indicative additional funding of € 2,949,777 would be required to start implementing a one-year work-based study programme for teacher training.
Such a study program will enable to attract industry professionals to work at school. This is particularly important in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects where there is a severe shortage of teachers in Latvia now.