Created on 27 March 2019

Within the Twinning project between Bosnia and Herzegovina as a beneficiary country and Croatia, France and Latvia as member states, entitled Strenghtening Institutional Capacity for Recognition of Qualification in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the representatives of the Centre for Information and Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education (hereinafter Centre) visited the Twinning partner in Latvia, that is, Academic Information Centre (AIC) in Riga.

During the study visit, the Centre's employees had the opportunity to get acquainted with the Latvian education system, the qualifications framework, principles of quality assurance in higher education, the licensing procedures and the accreditation of HEIs in Latvia. The exchange of experiences in the field of recognition of foreign higher education qualifications was of particular significance, as well as good practices in this field. The general conclusion related to recognition procedures in both centres was that the same criteria are in place concerning recognition of formal qualifications taking into account, duration of study, level of qualification, workload, learning outcomes, but also qualification obtained through joint programs, transnational education. Both centres use qualifications framework in countries where it exists to position qualification giving the same level in recognition procedures in both countries.

Also, the two largest higher education institutions in Latvia presented their practices of recognition of non-formal and informal learning, and organized a university tour, where the new innovative approach of Latvian universities in teaching was presented. These recognition practices, taking into account different learning paths, can be a real positive example how this area can be arranged in Bosnia and Herzegovina especially because it had been shown that if recognition procedures of non-formal and informal learning are transparent and quality assured then such education and learning is considered on the same way as any other education and learning path in Latvia and validated and recognized on the same way. However, as a precondition for implementation of Latvian model in recognition of different learning path is change of thoughts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, both in academic community and in educational politics.

Representatives of the Centre were especially impressed by Latvia's progress when it comes to finding suitable databases, all data and information on education. Bosnia and Herzegovina still struggles with comprehensive database about different higher education information including data about recognition procedures. Because the complex structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina and an absence of database the exact number of recognition application in Bosnia and Herzegovina is unknown, neither an overview of countries in which foreign qualifications were awarded, whether decision is positive or negative and so on. Related to this, Latvian example of organization, can be a direction in which statistical data in area of education should be organized in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

Also, when it comes to quality assurance, Latvia has a very well-organized system of licensing study programs and accreditation of study programs, both public and private. This system is very similar to quality assurance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, starting with registration of higher education institution and getting the license to provide higher education while in the period of higher education institution work quality assurance is checked. The main difference from the point of view of the Centre is that the accreditation procedures have been more developed compared to accreditation procedures in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In Latvia special attention is devoted to academic and student mobility, so that they have about 10% foreign students, and at the two largest universities that Centre's representatives visited this rate is up to 18% (most foreign students come from India, former Soviet republics and Nepal). During the meetings at universities, universities’ efforts to attract foreign students were presented. They took different analyses and statistics in order to detect countries and profiles of students which could have interest to study in Latvia.

Moreover, Latvian ENIC/NARIC Center-AIC is organized as a foundation. Within AIC, there is a quality assurance agency in higher education. AIC is financed partly from the budget, partly from its own revenues (they charge opinions and recommendations for recognition), and partly from international projects and other sources. It is especially interesting that they have a separate department for international projects, which is funded entirely from the projects, while the employees in this department work for a limited period of time during the project. Thanks to this department, AIC has a large number of international projects, and it is their recommendation to use as many as possible opportunities of applying to international projects, especially from different EU funds. These projects are crucial for every institution while they open a new way of thinking.

Regulated professions in Latvia are fully regulated by law and a large number of by-laws, in line with EU directives, and there is a special database. The AIC acts as a contact point, it publishes and delivers information on regulated professions, receives requests, and gives opinions in a form of statement on requests for recognition of regulated professions, and the final decision is made by the competent authorities.

Finally, the study visit surpassed expectations, it was extremely useful to Centre's representatives. General impression is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is unfortunately far away of the standards and achievements of Latvia in different areas of higher education but Latvia can be a positive example for higher education changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the organization of higher education, quality assurance, development of qualifications framework, implementation of EU directives of professional qualifications etc.

The Centre's representatives were especially impressed by the hospitality, kindness and organization of their host.