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Student population decline has had little impact on institutions and study programmes

Demography has become a subject of concern in a growing number of countries. The population of some OECD countries is rapidly ageing, especially in Japan, Korea and Southern and Eastern Europe (OECD, 2008a). As discussed in Chapter 1, the combination of two decades of low fertility rates and emigration means Latvia has lost significant numbers of its population in the prime age groups for tertiary education (Hazans, 2013; Lulle, 2013).

Overall, student numbers increased steadily through the 1990s until 2004/05 but have been declining steadily since then (Figure 5.8). Both full-time and part-time enrolments are decreasing but the proportion of part-time students declined especially sharply during the economic crisis, leading to a change in the balance between full-time and part-time students.

Enrolment at state tertiary education institutions has declined by 25%, from 89 644 students in 2004/05 to 56 723 ten years later. The decrease in enrolments has been even sharper in private tertiary education institutions which saw a fall of 45% over the same period, from 32 315 to 17 223 students. Enrolments at state colleges have increased by 47% from 4 571 to 6 733 students and at private colleges by 25% from 4 176 to 5 202.

Following these patterns, the proportion of students in the population as a whole showed a dramatic increase until the mid-2000s and a decline since then. The decline in total student numbers has been steeper than the decline in new entrants, suggesting that in recent years, the number of students leaving before completing a degree may be increasing.

Figure 5.8. Student enrolment in tertiary education (1990/91-2014/15)

Source: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2015c), “iZG24. Higher education institutions and colleges (beginning of the school year)”, Statistics Database, Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, http://

data.csb.gov.lv/pxweb/en/Sociala/Sociala__ikgad__izgl/IZ0240.px/?rxid=a79839fe-11ba-4ecd-8cc3-

4035692c5fc8 (accessed 16 June 2015).

There are clear differences between regions in enrolment rates. The Riga region has the highest percentage of students enrolled, reflecting the number and range of institutions there. An analysis of enrolments revealed significant year-on-year variations in some regions which may suggest anomalies in reporting of enrolment by students’ residence. nevertheless, a part of the explanation is likely to be due to differences in socio-economic conditions and students’ performance in the national examinations that determine eligibility for places.

Although enrolments have declined sharply, the number of institutions and study programmes has remained relatively constant during the last decade, resulting in a much lower average number of students at each institution (Table 5.2). Changes have occurred in the distribution of enrolments and graduates among fields of study but these have been relatively minor in comparison to the decline in overall enrolments.

Table 5.2. Number of institutions by legal status and number of study programmes (2004/05-2014/15)

2004/05

2009/10

2013/14

2014/15

Total number of institutions of tertiary education

56

61

61

60

State institutions of tertiary education

20

19

17

17

Private institutions of tertiary education

16

15

19

18

State colleges

16

18

17

17

Private colleges

4

8

8

8

Total number of accredited study programmes

920

901

936

Source: Central Statistical Bureau of latvia (2015d), “iZG25. Higher education institutions by legal status”, Statistics Database, Central Statistical Bureau of latvia, http://data.csb.gov.lv/pxweb/en/Sociala/ Sociala__ikgad__izgl/iZ0250.px/?rxid=a79839fe-11ba-4ecd-8cc3-4035692c5fc8 (accessed 16 June 2015).

in the period from 2001/02 to 2004/05 latvia developed separate professional tertiary education programmes for the first time. initially students in three-year professional training programmes at technical schools started their first-level higher professional education in new experimental project-method based programmes. vocational schools providing first-level professional tertiary education started being counted as tertiary education institutions and colleges in 2003/04. This change resulted in an increase in the number of tertiary-level colleges. This change is reflected in the increase in the number of institutions from 2004/05 to 2009/10.

improving the alignment of capacity with the realities of enrolment and national goals is a central theme of the Education development Guidelines 2014-2020. The guidelines call for higher quality and more efficient use of resources. Planned and initiated actions include concentrating the resources for tertiary education institutions through increased collaboration among institutions; joint study programmes and, in some cases, consolidation of study programmes within and across institutions; and various policies and changes in national laws that are aimed to integrate the education system and industry as well as consolidate the research and teaching of the education system (MoES, 2014a).

 
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