Both exports of the country’s higher education sector and its added value will continue growing this year. Higher education’s contribution to the national economy is measured in EUR 179 million this school year. This includes EUR 84.5 million from direct payments (tuition fees, taxes, etc.) and EUR 85.5 million from indirect payments (revenue from related industries, the money foreign students leave in Latvia), according to results compiled by Certus think tank.
6,314 foreign students enrolled on higher education or vocational education courses in Latvian education institutions in the 2016/2017 school year. In the 2015/2016 school year, the number of foreign students in Latvia was 5,458, according to Certus data.
Exports of higher education helped create 1,703 jobs. Foreign students’ direct tax payments reached EUR 22.5 million at the beginning of 2017, which is EUR 2.5 million more than last year.
On Tuesday, 15 February, Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee discussed survey results in relation to economic importance of higher education exports in Latvia.
The meeting was attended by Certus research director Daunis Auers and members of Education and Science Ministry, Finance Ministry, Economy Ministry, Higher Education Council, Latvian Employers’ Confederation and Latvian Students Union.
Considering the contribution of higher education exports to Latvia’s economy and the potential of the industry, Certus experts recommend entrusting the industry’s supervision to Economy Ministry.
«Over the past twenty years, higher education has proven itself as important and demanded. Countries now compete more intensely for nearly five million international students that study outside their home country. If the current student number increase rate remains the same, there will be around 18,000 foreign students in the 2020/2021 school year. The contribution of the industry to Latvia’s national economy could reach half a billion euros annually,» as stated by Certus compiled results.
Certus representatives explain: «Estonia and Latvia have achieved similar results in foreign student attraction since 2011/2012. However, while University of Estonia has made progress largely thanks to the country’s national strategy, Latvia’s higher education institutions have had to work on their own this whole time.»
It was concluded at the meeting that the main steps to support Latvia’s international education exports include: the resolution of matters related to administrative, life conditions and education capacity affairs.
Certus recommendations for higher education export improvements:
1.Expansion of the role performed by Economy Ministry
«Economy Ministry should take on responsibility over exports of higher education, similar to how Britain’s Business, Innovation and Skills Department was responsible for higher education exports in Britain. Economy Ministry should give universities to compete for EU funds to help realize innovative projects and finance student accommodations.»
2.Pardaugava – Riga Campus
Public investments in transports and communication infrastructure to ensure study, research and student accommodation opportunities in Pardaugava and position Daugava’s left bank as an international higher education centre.
Riga Campus Coordination Council, whose main coordinator function would be taken over by the office of the Mayor of Riga would invite representatives from Education and Science Ministry, Economy Ministry, Riga municipality, universities and private sector to coordinate investments share information regarding future plans and number of foreign students, student housing plans and main infrastructure.
3.Simplified and sped-up attraction of foreign students
Consolidated and modernized studyinLatvia website will help foreign students find the necessary information more conveniently.
Amendments to Section 85 of the Law on Higher Education would help qualified university specialists check and perform admittance of foreign education certificates.
Embassies and diplomatic offices in countries with high numbers of potential foreign students should take on more employees to ensure successful and quick processing of increased volumes of documents associated with study applications in the spring and summer periods.