Recommendation 4: Strengthen the capacity for strategic leadership and management

Latvia has embarked on several ambitious reforms. Their success will depend on the national-level capacity to lead and sustain change and on the strategic leadership and management capacity at the institutional level to implement the desired changes. Whatever reform and policy initiatives follow should reinforce the current policy direction to integrate policy related to tertiary education, science and innovation. Finance policy plays an important role in this. Pillars II and III of the new tertiary education financing model, as well as EU structural funds should be used to leverage change.

MoES may also need to reconsider its own capacity to lead and implement these far-reaching reforms. Although we recognise the high-level capacity of some of its staff leading these reforms, their numbers are few. Strengthening MoES’s capacity for policy analysis and development, and monitoring progress towards national objectives is a precondition for success. This includes ensuring the quality of data monitoring and reporting systems.

In addition Latvia should reconsider how tertiary education and science are governed at the national level. First, Latvia should consider consolidating responsibility for the funding and operation of all tertiary education institutions (with the exception of those institutions related to national defence and security) within MoES. It should be possible to continue the relationships some institutions need (e.g. health, agriculture, and the academies for arts, culture and music) to determine the number of state budget places, provide opportunities for work-based learning/clinical experience, or support research without maintaining the current fragmented approach to overseeing and funding institutions.

Latvia should also ensure consistent high-level representation of issues related to tertiary education, science and innovation at the level of the Cabinet of Ministers to ensure co-ordination across the government, especially with the nation’s strategies related to economic development.

At the institutional level, institutional autonomy needs to be better matched with public accountability. Publicly accountability for their balance sheets is a case in point. Latvia should also consider the inclusion of external representatives in institutional strategic planning and management. To expand the pool of potential external stakeholders, international representatives could be included, for example internationally recognised academicians or researchers or civic leaders from the Latvian diaspora.

Lastly, institutional leaders should not overlook the capacity of the people on which the success of reform depends. Developing the proper human resource management should be a priority and not limited to attracting talented academics from abroad.

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