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Experts say Higher Education Council's assessment of study programs was badly thought-out project

Photo: Edijs Palens.
 RIGA, Nov 26 - Experts who were involved in the Higher Education Council's assessment of Latvian higher education system say they had never participated in such a poorly thought-out project, therefore the assessment cannot be considered an internationally acceptable method for determining the quality of universities and colleges' curricula in Latvia, TV3 broadcast "Neka personiga" reported last night.
The European Social Fund allotted LVL 1 million to help Latvia carry out reforms to higher education. The goal was to make Latvia's higher education system competitive, of high quality, in line with the needs of the national economy, and cost-effective.
The previous government appointed Higher Education Council, headed by Janis Vetra, to carry out the project. The council, in turn, entrusted the project to the former Higher Education Council's head, then Education and Science Minister Baiba Rivza.
For instance, Julian Hilton of Great Britain, who headed an expert commission evaluating pedagogical programs, told the TV program that what she had seen in Latvia was certainly not in line with the internationally-accepted practice.
The person who ordered the experts to evaluate universities and colleges' study programs was Rivza, even though the project manager had told the experts that this was just a pilot project. According to Hilton, if all the state-funded programs in education were to be assessed, this should have been preceded by the relevant preparations, feasibility studies and others. The experts were not provided enough information, even study programs' names changed on many occasions.
On the other hand, one of Latvia's experts who participated in the assessment, Laura Valtere says that she is not sure if the data that the experts had signed were presented to the Education and Science Ministry by the Higher Education Council.
"Experts have information that the data which were submitted to the ministry had no experts' signatures, therefore they believe that other data may have been submitted to the ministry. I have visited the Higher Education Council inquiring why certain study programs had been included in Group 3, although, in the experts' opinion, they should have been in Group 1. My questions have not been replied as yet," said Valtere.
As reported, current Education and Science Minister Roberts Kilis was planning to revamp the state funding system for higher education based on the results of the assessment. The minister's plans were put on hold due to suspicions that the data in the Higher Education Council's assessment may have been forged.

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