It is estimated that half of the current professions in Latvia will vanish within ten years. The trend is ongoing not only in Latvia, but also globally. Throughout the decades, various occupations have wiped out and re-developed into something new. Moreover, technological developments are fast-forwarding changes in education and in labor markets. Jump into the future with the Transport and Telecommunications Institute (TSI) – the only private technical university in Latvia.
“At least half of the professions in Latvia are starting to disappear and will disappear within ten years, while around 75 new professions will emerge. And the response of universities to this is very weak,” said Arvils Ašeradens, Chairman of the Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee, referring to the OECD conclusions.
Irina Jackiva, Chair of the Board of the Transport and Telecommunications Institute (TSI), agrees with these conclusions only partially. She admits that progress is unstoppable and sometimes cruel – it can destroy the lives of those who are not willing or able to adapt. But Irina Jackiva is convinced that the Institute she leads is already offering the kind of education that will be in demand in the decades to come, not only in Latvia but around the world.
The TSI offers nine Bachelor’s, eight master’s and two PhD programmes, all of which are future-oriented. TSI education is highly valued in the labor market – 100% of graduates start working in their profession immediately after or during their studies.
Irina Jackiva particularly highlights the new double degree programmes developed in collaboration with the University of the West of England (UWE) in Computer Science (Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence) and Aviation Management. A programme in aviation engineering is planned to be added to this list in the near future. Global experts predict that demand for these professions will only increase.
In cooperation with UWE, the TSI has developed cooperation and double diploma programmes that do not require a change of residence. This allows the student to both study in their usual environment, reducing the stress of moving, and to obtain a UK-level diploma at prices affordable for Latvia. “UWE has a similar portfolio to ours. It focuses on computer science and robotics. In addition, they have the best robotics centre in the UK, and last year they launched an aerospace research centre,” says Irina Jackiva about why TSI chose UWE as a partner.
While the very similar curriculum orientation is undeniable, common interests were not enough to start cooperation. To conclude the contract, UWE specialists were given full access to the syllabus, methodological materials, information about the teaching staff and even a list of the literature available in the Institute’s library. Only when UWE was satisfied that the programmes were in full unison with its requirements, they were validated. This means that when a graduate obtains a diploma from TSI, he or she also obtains a diploma from UWE.
However, the harmonization of the curricula was not the end of UWE’s presence during studies. During the teaching process, TSI lecturers maintain close contact with their UWE colleagues – coordinating study materials, exam topics, etc.
“Our teachers examine the student, but the results are also verified in England. Our lecturers pass all the exam information to the UWE lecturers and the mark is calculated by aggregating the marks of the lecturers from both universities. And that’s not all. UWE lecturers regularly contact our students to see if there have been any complaints about the way the course has been organized,” says Professor Jackiva, confirming that the UWE diploma is not simply handed out. Such close cooperation with the British means that the language of instruction at UWE is English, but Irina Jackiva and graduate Pavel Kovalevic, who co-founded the successful start-up JURO in the UK, are convinced that only learning in this language can truly open the doors to the global labor market for young professionals.
“Things are changing so fast in computer science that it’s easy to miss out on progress without learning the language. English is the world’s working language in computer science and learning English at university is an added value for the student. We have an international team and you can hear many languages when communicating remotely, but the work is done in English,” explains Pavels Kovalevičs of the need to learn in the language in which the knowledge is generated.
To keep up with the pace of the times, TSI pays special attention to attracting professionals. Lectures are given by both local professionals who have already gained recognition at the global level and foreign specialists working for worldwide companies.
“Future trends in education require close collaboration in the academic process – both academic professors who are able to excite with their deep theoretical knowledge and the professionals involved, who bring students up to date with the latest industry trends. Industry today pays them orders of magnitude more, especially in ICT, so it is extremely difficult to keep young people in academia, but we do a lot to keep them in TSI, so that they deliver at least two courses a year,” says Professor Jackiva.
To prepare its students for life after the institute, TSI has also set up a platform to introduce students to industry and their needs – iDEAHUB. The idea is that entrepreneurs will present various problems to the students and invite them to propose solutions. The student teams that come up with the best solutions will receive cash prizes, scholarships, and possibly future cooperation contracts. Students will also have the opportunity to present their ideas to experienced entrepreneurs and have them evaluated.
As a fees-based higher education institution, TSI does everything it can to justify the cost of an education at the Institute – an extensive student loyalty scheme is just the start.
“We respect every student very much and try to give them not only an education, but also a respectful relationship with the teachers and staff of the institute, because the most important thing that young people lack today is attention. I practically know the names of all the first-year students in the master’s programme. When they are approached, addressed by name and asked how they did in one subject or another, they appreciate it,” says Irina Jackiva.
The Institute also regularly surveys students to find out how they feel about the teaching process and whether there are any changes that could be made. “The Institute and its students have a two-way relationship; we can adapt and react very quickly. For example, last year, when teaching was disrupted due to the pandemic, we completely overhauled our teaching process literally within two days – we brought all the teaching online. People pay us not only for education, but also for service, so we have to prove that we are the best,” says Irina Jackiva, determined to lead the Institute with progress.