India, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka saw the biggest drops, with -16.41%, -6.37% and -2.04% declines in student numbers, respectively.
However, student numbers admitted from across Europe increased, with Germany leading the way with 5.77% more students in 2020, followed by Finland (+4.33%), Sweden (+3.65%), Russia (+2.58%), with gradual rises from Estonia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.
Turība University, ISMA University of Applied Sciences and Transport and Telecommunication Institute saw the biggest declines in international admissions, with 165, 146 and 111 fewer students respectively, figures from the State Education Information System of Latvia showed.
“We only have experienced a substantial rise in students within the last few years”
“Students from Germany and Scandinavia are mostly in the field of medicine and veterinary medicine,” said Egita Diure, manager of the Communication Unit at The Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia.
“Respective universities have been working hard on the quality of studies and gaining credibility. This is a long term sustainable approach and it pays off, as the reputation spreads.”
While the drop in overall numbers of international students will affect university revenues, it does not have the same potential consequences as in other countries such as the UK or Australia.
“We only have experienced a substantial rise in students within the last few years. So for Latvia it would be a return to situation which was normal just 3-4 years ago,” she said.
Despite the declines in students, universities have noted that the situation is not as bad as first feared.
Vice rector for Study Development and International Cooperation at Turība University Imants Bergs recently said that some students had stayed away due to travel restrictions, financial difficulties and postponements.
“We forecast in March, April, that the drop could be up to five times, the situation is actually better, the number has fallen by two and a half, three times,” he said in September.
Rīga Stradins University is one of the institutions that attract international students for its medical training, according to its vice rector for Development Toms Baumanis.
The institution saw international students admitted rise from 340 in 2019 to 406 in 2020, with the majority coming from Germany, Sweden and Finland.
This year was also the first time a Latvian institution – Rīga Stradiņš University – has gained approval for the participation in the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master program.
“This is significant success for Latvia, because throughout the implementation period of the Erasmus+ program (2014-2020) no other Latvian higher education institution so far had managed to enter any of the approved Erasmus Mundus joint master’s programme implementation consortia,” said Zane Gailīte, director of the Erasmus+ Program Department in the State Education Development Agency of Latvia.