In Latvia, academic staff, like other teachers, do not have civil servant status. Their terms and conditions are defined within the law by individual contract and any collective agreements which may apply. Employment contracts are signed by the Rector of the institution, normally for six years but they may be longer (Eurypedia, 2015; MoES, 2015a). Academic staff are appointed on the basis of their education and experience and a doctoral or master’s degree is normally a prerequisite for an academic career. The following education is required for the following posts:
- • professor: doctoral degree and at least three years of experience as associate professor
- • associate professor: doctoral degree
- • assistant professor (docent): doctoral degree
- • lecturer: doctoral or master’s degree
- • assistant: doctoral or master’s degree.
Prospective lecturers in tertiary education institutions follow further training in their subject field after obtaining their first tertiary education qualification. They usually have to obtain a master’s degree, followed by a doctorate (3 to 5 years) in the area they are teaching and researching. For professional programmes, because of the need for practical skills and knowledge, the position of docent, lecturer and assistant can be taken by staff with tertiary education but without an academic degree (bachelor’s) as long as they have sufficient practical experience in the work related to the subject being taught (Eurypedia, 2015; MoES, 2015a). Academic staff must undergo 160 hours of professional development activities within their first 6 years.
Latvia aims to increase the proportion of academic staff with doctoral degrees from 54% in 2012 to 60% in 2017 and 65% in 2020 (not including colleges) and has made this a priority for European Social Fund (ESF) investment. Between 2007 and 2013 ESF funding has supported 23 master’s degree scholarship projects and 28 doctoral degree scholarship projects, as well as supporting young researchers by paying their salaries in projects that have received funding on a competitive basis (World Bank, 2014a; SEDA, n.d.). Some progress has been made since 2012; in 2014/15 58% of staff had a doctoral degree.
A dramatic change has taken place in the working patterns of academic staff since 2007 (Figure 5.6). Up to 2006 the greater proportion of academic staff worked full time but in 2007 part-time staff started outnumbering full-time staff. Figure 5.6 shows the impact of the economic crisis on the number of full-time academic staff which has fallen rapidly since 2009; by 2012 Latvia had fewer than 1 900 full-time staff left. These changes reflect decisions taken in response to severe budget constraints worsened by the decline in student enrolments, which meant less revenue from student fees.
As with other levels of education, a challenge for Latvia in the coming years is the ageing tertiary education workforce. At the tertiary level, 50% of academic staff were 50 years or older in 2013 and the proportion of staff between the ages of 30 and 49 fell slightly to 45%. In recognition of the situation, Latvia has set a target to increase the proportion of academic staff between the ages of 30 and 49 from 45% in 2013 to 50% in 2017 and 55% in 2020 (MoES, 2014a).
Attracting young academic talent to the profession has been a challenge, partly due to low salaries and heavy workloads. MoES has recognised the situation and has initiated a number of reforms that aim to make an academic career a more attractive option. These include plans to raise salaries and to implement of a new tertiary education funding model which will have an indirect, positive impact on institutional salary policy.
Figure 5.6. Numbers of academic staff, full-time and part-time (2003-12)
Source: Eurostat (2015b), “Teachers (ISCED 0-4) and academic staff (ISCED 5-6) by employment status (full-time, part-time, full-time equivalence) and sex”, Eurostat database, Eurostat, http://appsso. eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=educ_pers1t&lang=en (accessed 8 June, 2015).