Growing numbers of international students, but more Latvians studying abroad

The number of students enrolled in tertiary education outside their country of citizenship has sharply increased over the last decades, from 1.3 million in 1990 to nearly 4.3 million in 2011, an average annual growth rate of almost 6% (oECD, 2013). This reflects the expansion of tertiary education systems worldwide and the globalisation of economies and societies.

As countries increasingly benefit from student mobility, the competition to attract and retain students has diversified the map of destinations over the past decade. Latvia has joined this competition and has set the objective of raising the proportion of foreign students in Latvian tertiary education institutions to 6% in 2017 and 8% in 2020 (MoES, 2014a). Latvia has made good progress in recent years and has already reached the 2017 target. in 2014/15, 6.2% of the tertiary student population (5 293 students) consisted of foreign students, which represents an increase of more than 4% over 4 years.

Plans to continue and possibly strengthen this trend and increase the attractiveness of tertiary education in Latvia include the reform of the quality assurance system. other plans include increasing the number of scholarships for foreign students (MoES, 2014a).

nevertheless, a considerable challenge for Latvia is that outward mobility continues to considerably exceed inward mobility. in 2012, 6 632 Latvians pursued their tertiary studies abroad while the country hosted 2 757 foreign students and 736 exchange students. one positive sign is that the number of inbound students from within Europe is increasing. Also, while data are not available on the educational backgrounds of young Latvians returning to the country, anecdotal evidence suggests that many of them are returning with tertiary qualifications earned abroad. in this respect, the outflow of students may in the long run contribute to increasing the country’s human resource capacity if these students can be encouraged to return and provided there are jobs available.

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