University of Latvia

University of Latvia

The idea about a national institution of higher learning was first proposed in the second half of the 19th century, as Latvians were yearning for high quality education. After Latvia gained its independence, the Latvian Institution of Higher Education (later renamed the University of Latvia) was established.

From 1919 to 1940, this was the largest higher education, as well as science and cultural center in the country, where the nation’s intelligentsia was formed. The university featured 12 faculties of various educational programs. The Latvian state had high regards for education, and supported the university both morally and financially. For example, during the 1937/1938 school year, 14.7% of national budget expenditures went to education, with the European average 12.1% at the time. Education was the third most financed sphere, after infrastructure and defense. In 1939, Latvia had 13,900 residents with a university or higher educational degree, 59% of them graduates of the University of Latvia. The number of higher education students per 10,000 residents was 30.1 at the time (14.2 in Sweden, for example). The university continued to serve its purpose during the Soviet occupation, but received a breath of fresh air when Latvia regained independence. At the moment, approximately 22,000 students are enrolled in the university, with the teaching staff at around 1,400.

Interesting facts

The University building itself was constructed in 1869 combining features of Neo-Romantic, Renaissance and Byzantine styles. The roof of the building features a sun dial, as well as an astronomy tower with a telescope, and on clear nights and certain times it is also available to visitors.