Claudio Rivera: MIT always makes us think about the real influence on our students and economy

Last week for me as a  patriot and facilitator in the field of education was a significant one as 17 Latvian higher education leaders and education development promoters from the business environment started a new educational experience. To strengthen digitalization and innovations, and the internal administrative processes in the Latvian universities, these professionals began their participation in the international Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study program for the leaders of education coordinated in Latvia by the Riga Business School (RBS). 


Latvian education leaders on the global stage  


We began developing the program for Latvian education leaders, as provided by MIT, started after we signed a three-year cooperation memorandum between the Riga Technical University (RTU) and RBS as its structural unit with the initiative of MIT J-WEL (Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab) on 16 September 2021. 


With the signing of this memorandum, RTU and RBS joined the community of MIT experts to bring to Latvia the best international education and education process organizing experience. Pilot group from Latvia in the MIT studies will consist of heads of different structural units from 4 universities, representatives from the Ministry of Economics (EM), Ministry of Education and Science (IZM), and representatives from LMT and Ernst&Young. 


The program anticipates the participation of education leaders in special MIT trainings, which, for several months in a row, allows them to take part in at least two international webinars. It also gives access to the MIT Horizon content library, access to J-Wel materials library, studies in one of the online courses provided by EdX on innovation and education management, and participation in international MIT J-WEL centre workshops on the management of education and digitalization. At the conclusion of the program, participants will present the transfer of knowledge and introduction of innovations. The program includes an exchange trip to MIT in Boston which is planned for the beginning of May. The exchange program will include participation in the Times Higher Education Digital Universities Week. 


Implementation of the program is planned in several stages. In the three year period, as many as 66 higher education experts, representatives of business and public administration will participate. The program will also establish a higher education competence center to promote introduction of innovations in education and transfer of international experience.



How Latvia was noticed by MIT 


All this started on 7 November 2019, when RBS Director Jānis Grēviņš and I  made a short visit to the MIT Open Learning department looking for new cooperation opportunities with the leading universities of the world. We were certain that if we want to take up the leading position in the region, we need to build stable bridges with the best institutions. We require that our professors and scientists cooperate with the best professors and scientists. Our students need to have access to the best courses.


Since our first meeting, we engaged in a long brainstorming process with MIT, IZM, EM, and Latvian universities. We wanted to clearly define our cooperation goals and establish a long-term plan. It was an enriching experience itself as it helped us to focus on ambitious goals and understand the potential we were not using.


MIT is well-known for its number of alumni who have established start-ups as a result of scientific work. They assess the success of the study program on the basis of workplaces created by their graduates. In Latvia we require the same approach and we developed a plan accordingly. Currently we have the first pilot program, alongside the MIT project, where with the support of RBS as the coordinator today 22 university faculty members are at the University at Buffalo to gain experience in the teaching and preparing of technology-related subjects. 


Consider the influence and make it happen 


Colleagues at MIT always urged us to think only about factors having real influence on our students and economy where the representatives of industry, education and government are involved. It is inspiring. I was touched by the words of Minister Anita Muižniece about the MIT program for education leaders. Hearing what the Minister said about the goal of this study program to strengthen the knowledge of the executives of higher education establishments in reaching strategic goals, as well as bringing the sector closer to the aims defined in the reform of universities, increasing the role of universities in the development of the natural economy and civil society, builds the confidence that we are approaching the goal where education is developed for the public interest. 


Cooperation with MIT serves as a high appraisal for the experience of RTU and RBS in the provision of the educational process excellence. In order for education to follow the pace of innovations in the world, it needs to be improved to make it flexible, also more time and cost-efficient. During this MIT program for the education leaders, through debates and learning of the latest scientific data, participants will find out how digital technologies can transform learning and studies, as well as the university environment in the form based on cooperation and innovation.


Claudio Rivera, MIT Education Project Director, Riga Business School Deputy Director