HOW DO THE RESTRICTIONS ON LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION IMPACT LATVIAN HIGHER EDUCATION SECTOR?
Small nations like Latvians, Estonians etc. are using various tools to preserve their national language, including adaptation of the legislation that regulates education system. National education laws declare that education shall be received in the official state language, whereas the other languages can be used with some restrictions. While planning the implementation of particular restrictions on language of instruction, not only the language policy, but also the potential financial gains and losses should be taken into consideration.
Regarding the language of instruction, the Law on Higher Education Institutions of Latvia provides that in the state-founded higher education institutions (HEI), the study programs shall be implemented in the official state language. The use of foreign languages is possible only in certain cases. Particularly, the study programs for foreign students in Latvia may be delivered in the official languages of the European Union. The new amendments introduced to the Law on Higher Education of Latvia in 2018 provide that the existing language restrictions are binding to the private HEIs as well, meaning that the studies in Russian, Chinese and other non-EU languages cannot be undertaken any more in all Latvian HEIs.
The aim of this research is to study how the new restrictions on the language of instruction impact the Latvian higher education sector.
The regulatory enactments of the European Union, the Baltic States and Poland regarding the languages of instruction have been analyzed and the statistics on languages of instruction in Latvian HEIs are compiled. In addition to that, the opinions of students, still studying in the Russian language, have been studied by the survey. As well as the viewpoints of higher education industry professionals regarding restrictions on the languages of instruction have been clarified by semi-structured interviews. The potential financial impact on higher education sector development has been calculated.
The research shows that due to the new language restrictions, the Latvian higher education sector will lose its competitive advantage in comparison with other neighboring countries. The language restrictions in private HEIs cause an essential reduction of the incoming students’ flow from post-Soviet countries, preferably studying in the Russian language. At the same time, the local Russian-speaking potential students mostly will prefer to leave the country and study abroad. Thus the new language restrictions will bring the decrease of number of students and hence - the drop in annual income of the Latvian economy, equal to the one-third of higher education sector’s budget.
Therefore, the new amendments to the Law on Higher Education Institutions of Latvia will have a negative impact on both - mainly on private higher education institutions, and on the development of the higher education sector and the Latvian economy in general.