Use of information technology competences is rapidly becoming a necessity in all industries and professions. In order to increase the competitiveness of graduates in the labour market and their contribution in companies where they are employed, Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies - LBTU (formerly Latvia University of Agricultural - LLU) by the end of 2023 together with seven partners will jointly implement a large-scale project to strengthen student digital competencies.

The aim of the project “Digitalization Initiatives for Improving the Quality of Studies in the field of Strategic Specialization of Higher Education Institutions” (No.   8.2.3.0/22/A/005) is to strengthen digital capacity and introduce digital initiatives in Latvian higher education institutions, integrating technological solutions into the content and process of study courses.

"Acquisition of digital solutions at the university is an important process not only for future specialists in computer management and programming, but also in all our life science, engineering and social science study programs. An agronomist and forester, as well as an economist, veterinarian and landscape architect must be digitally educated. Therefore, in the coming year, we will significantly improve study content and include enhanced learning of information and communication technologies, specifically adapting it to the needs of each study course," says LBTU rector Irina Pilvere.

In previous years, LBTU and other universities have invested significant resources to raise the qualifications of teaching staff, have improved the content of study programs according to the needs of the labour market, as well as created a clear system for evaluating the quality of studies.

Project manager Ilze Beitāne explained that during the new digitalization project the focus and all activities will be aimed to improve students’ digital competences. In addition, the university's capacity in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning will be strengthened and a unified digital competence evaluation system will be developed and implemented, as well as a unified digital solution for ensuring the examination process will be created.

"According to the data of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia, in 2019 digital skills at least at the basic level were for 43% of the population in the age group from 16 to 74 years. Meanwhile, high-level digital skills in the European Union are in average for 33% of the population, while in Latvia this indicator is only 24%. University’s goal is not to develop basic digital skills, but to train future professionals to acquire high-level digital competencies. During the project we will create a system in order to evaluate students' digital skills and will work purposefully to raise those skills to at least the 6th competence level," explains I. Beitāne.

The project consortium involves six Latvian higher education institutions, where the aforementioned activities will be implemented, and two merchant organisations. The leading partner of the consortium is LBTU, which has united the other seven partners: Rezekne Academy of Technologies, Daugavpils University, University of Latvia, Ventspils University of Applied Sciences, "Turība" University, SIA "WeAreDots" and SIA "Baltijas Datoru Akademija". LBTU agency Malnava College is also involved in several project activities.

REACT-EU funding for mitigating of the consequences of the pandemic crisis has been attracted to the European Social Fund's project “Digitalization Initiatives for Improving the Quality of Studies in the field of Strategic Specialization of Higher Education Institutions" (No. 8.2.3.0/22/A/005).The total cost of the project is 2,052,269.47 EUR. Its implementation started on November 1, 2022 and will end on December 31, 2023.