On January 19, 2020 at the Toronto Latvian Centre the 100th anniversary of University of Latvia was celebrated. There were 12 other speakers at this gathering, each charged with the task of presenting something interesting, personal or academic, worthy of the gathering of ex-alumni and the diaspora at large. The afternoon was memorable. Three hymns rang out during the gathering, first of all, the Latvian national anthem (Dievs sveti Latviju), next the Hymn of the University of Latvia (Lidzigi saulei tu atnes mums dienu) and at end the assembled stood to join in the immortal academic hymn sacred to every student, Gaudeamus igitur.
The University of Latvia is the youngest of the three Baltic greats. University of Latvia in Riga founded in 1819.
The second oldest is the University of Tartu in Estonia. University of Tartu, founded in 1632.
The oldest is the University of Vilnius in Lithuania, The University of Vilnius, founded in 1579.
There were 12 other speakers at this gathering, each charged with the task of presenting something interesting, personal or academic, worthy of the gathering of ex-alumni and the diaspora at large – in three minutes. The afternoon was memorable. Three hymns rang out during the gathering, first of all, the Latvian national anthem (Dievs sveti Latviju), next – towards the middle of the presentation, the Hymn of the University of Latvia (Lidzigi saulei tu atnes mums dienu) and at end the presentation the assembled stood to join in the immortal academic hymn sacred to every student, Gaudeamus igitur.
During the time of the First National Awakening, a period that lasted from the 1850’s until the 1880’s, there was a real push for education, not only for the elite but also for the common people in Latvia. The University of Latvia actually started out as the Riga Politechnical Institute or the Riga Politechnicum in 1862, but was accredited as a University (Universitas Latviensis) in 1919 by the approval of the constitution of Latvia. Subsequently it underwent several name changes with the various occupations that plagued the country. At the advent of the Soviet occupation the University was renamed the Latvian State University. Then briefly with the Nazi occupation (1942-1944) it was called the University of Riga and at the Soviet occupation in 1944, it went back to the State University of Latvia of Peteris Stucka. Once Latvia regained its independence in 1991, the University reclaimed its name on September 18th, 1991 as The University of Latvia. At the same time the University reclaimed the various symbols of the university, such as the flag, the emblem, the hymn and the chain and robes of the Rector.
Currently there are roughly 15,000 students, both Latvian and international, who are studying at one of the 13 faculties the University offers. Most courses are taught in Latvian, but over 200 courses are taught in English, including medicine and dentistry, to accommodate the international students that come there to study but expect to return to their home country and fully expect that their studies in Latvia will be granted credit in their home country. It is important to note that from its earliest beginnings, the University offered scholarships and bursaries to worthy applicants who lacked the funds to finance their education. Education was highly regarded in Latvia, and many of the students came from poor farm families.
CBSS (the Council of the Baltic Sea States) established in 1993 in Helsinki, created the Euro Faculty, an organization designed to support the reforms at the three Baltic Universities in Tartu, Riga and Vilnius. Its statutes were accepted at the Third Ministerial session in Tallinn, Estonia and its aim was to bring the Baltic Universities up to the Western standard, to facilitate the acceptance of their degrees in other countries. They concentrated at that time to reform and co-ordinate the Higher Education in Law, Economics, and Public and Business Administration and the seat of their administration was at the University of Latvia in Riga. They functioned until 2005 when the three Baltic States entered into the European Union.
In 2019, the University of Latvia celebrated its one hundredth anniversary. Actually, the celebrations started a year early. On September 19th of 2018, the celebrations were officially declared open and their program lasted all through the following year with speeches, seminars, countless get-togethers for students in both academic and social venues, concerts, a travelling library and exposition and many other offerings. The crown jewel of the year long celebrations was a grand ball (Carpe Noctem) or Seize the Night of the Century, in the grand auditorium of the University on September 27th 2019, organized for any and all students, alumni, professors and benefactors.
To honour the centenary of the University, the Latvian Post released two commemorative stamps.
Today, the University of Latvia is highly regarded among the ranks of the Universities and students alike, offering a life rich in both academic and social education. Besides the regular degrees, the Bachelor, the Master and the Doctor of Education, students and guest lecturers from abroad enrich the life of the students. Fraternity and sorority life flourishes, the University boasts several choirs such as the Minjona, a woman’s choir, dance groups, a student theatre and countless clubs and academic organizations that allow for both heated debates and relaxation.
The motto of the University is Scientiae et Patriae!!