Vice-rector Imants Bergs about the University of Turiba

Imants Bergs: "In Turiba we provide everything necessary for education, development and success of our students."

The University of Turiba is deservedly one of the best universities in Latvia  and the top one in the "Tourism Management" program.. Today, the Riga University of Turiba has students from more than 35 countries of the world, both on the full-time program and on exchange. The University closely collaborates with the ERASMUS + program , providing all students with equal opportunities to express themselves and to succeed not only in Europe but also in the USA.

It became possible thanks to the coordinated work of the whole team of the university, in general, and the International Department in particular. The head of the department, the vice-rector of the University of Turiba, Mr. Imants Bergs, is always focused on development. If there is an opportunity to introduce any changes that will be beneficial to the educational process, he will certainly offer to implement it. Mr. Bergs kindly agreed to share some valuable information about the university today and plans for the future with our esteemed readers. So, let's begin.

- How long have you been working at the University of Turiba?

- It seems to me that it has been many, many years already! Actually, only 19. I am a lawyer by education, therefore, I started my professional activity at the University of Turiba as an assistant at the Public Law Department. Then, in 2001 I was elected as a head of the Department of Law, and in 2003 – as a Dean of the Faculty of Law. In 2006, I was appointed as a Vice-Rector for Program and International Relations Development.

- What are your duties as a Vice-rector of the University? 

- My work is very exciting. My responsibilities include the development of university programs and preparation of documents for licensing, the development of programs for international students, the organization of exchange of students and teachers with partner universities from the EU and the United States. I travel a lot around the world, I visit countries, from which students come to study at Turiba, I communicate with entrants from different countries, telling about the European education.  

- The University Turiba has a very interesting motto - "Freedom, Susceptibility, Competence" - and the slogan that emerged from there is "Step outside the box".

- Yes, exactly. The choice of such a slogan gave us an idea for the logo. In the abbreviated form, the word "Tu" going outside the square limits. The same with a full logo - the words "Turiba University" go beyond the scope, that is, "out of the box". In Latvian, "Tu" means "you", so we tell all students that it is YOU who succeed, we only give you knowledge and all kinds of means, so that YOU, a student, open your potential, form a vision for the future, make plans.

Due to the fact that the Turiba University is a business-university, we consider each student as an independent and initiative person. After all, a successful businessman generates ideas by himself, he finds financing by himself, and embodies ideas in life by himself. We, as a university, provide opportunities. If YOU manage to use them, then you will prosper and develop in the future! And if not, then we can not force anyone, it all depends on you, not on your desk neighbor.

- Based on this concept, what is the teaching philosophy of the Turiba University? 

- In our opinion, the task of the university is to teach students to think independently, analyze and act, get adapted to modern conditions, and not to learn the material by rote. I will explain this idea. Have you ever wondered why IPhone has become so popular in a very short time? Although in 2006, Nokia, famous in the whole world at that time, already had a prototype of a similar phone under development. But, Nokia decided that buyers were not yet ready for such a radical turn – a completely touch phone. Unlike it, Apple only a year later released its perfect non-typical for that period phone and won. In the world, everything is very dynamic and changeable. Therefore, the teaching philosophy of the Turiba University is not only to provide a certain amount of knowledge in the direction chosen by them, but to teach them to think and take their own, to teach students to think creatively, outside of any frameworks, independently.

- What programs are available in English for international students? 

- To date, five programs are offered for Bachelor students: Public Relations, Media and Journalism, Management of International Communication, Business Administration  and Tourism and Hospitality Management. For Master students – MBA  and Strategic Tourism Management . For Doctoral students there are four programs: Law Science , Communication Management , Business Administration  and Management Science. At the same time, Turiba graduates receive international diplomas.

- How has the university been developed in recent years?

- We can say that in Turiba we are pioneers in the field of education in English for international students. It all started in 2006. I was at the origins of the formation of the International Department, and my tasks included popularizing the university among international students. This was due to the fact that 11 years ago the Board of the University decided to internationalize Turiba. The courses offered were supplemented with the programs in English. First, I worked alone at the international department, drafted programs, got licenses, traveled around the world, represented the university at exhibitions, concluded agreements, helped with the preparation of documents. But only 1.5 years later, thanks to the high interest to Turiba from students from different countries of the world, the International Department expanded and today there are already 6 of us. By the way, after us, other Latvian universities picked up the "gimmick" and began to open programs in English. But it was already easier for them, to along the path we traversed. Competition, in any case, is good. It motivates us to further development.

After getting the international status, it must be conformed with! Turiba invests large sums into comfortable living and training of our students. We conduct regular repair of classrooms. Our hostel (a "student hostel") is considered one of the most attractive ones for students in the ratio of price and quality of service. We even have students who study at other universities in Riga. Last summer we carried out a major renovation of the entire hostel. Also, we regularly update the equipment of classrooms and lecture rooms, replenish the library fund.

- How does the university support the quality of teaching at a high level? 

- This is a very important point in the work of any university. At the Turiba University, all professors have extensive work experience and are able to correctly teach the material in English. They regularly take advanced training courses and participate in exchange programs with other European universities. In addition, we invite guest lecturers who are successful businessmen, and they have something to share with students. The fact that the International Tourism and Hospitality Management program is accredited by TedQual, speaks for itself. This accreditation is awarded to the programs that meet high requirements of the UNWTO International Tourism Organization on the quality of teaching and the provision of academic practice. Thus, our students receive international diplomas.

- We know that the University of Turiba has the developed system of grants. Tell us about it in more details. 

- Of course. First of all, for all students, the university provides an opportunity to apply for own Turiba scholarship, which is approximately 500 euros per year. The selection is held on a competitive basis and the main requirement is no academic debts and scores above 7 points out of 10. In addition, for the most outstanding students we offer a scholarship in the form of a 100% discount on tuition for the next year. You can apply for it already from the 2nd year of the bachelor's degree course.

- Fair demand. Is it also observed for student exchange programs as well? 

- Yes, of course. If a student wants to develop himself, then he must prove that he is worthy of it. Exchange programs are no exception. We offer two options: the double degree and student exchange programs.  Our students have the opportunity to complete a semester or an academic year at partner universities in the UK, Finland, France, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and other countries. More than 80 universities to choose from. And this is not the limit. We constantly expand the network of partner universities and countries, respectively. Students receive huge benefits from this, fresh impressions, broaden their horizons, get acquainted with new people who in the future can become not only friends, but also business partners. Such educational trips help decide on the future as well.

- We also know that the Turiba University also participates in the Erasmus + grant programs?

- Absolutely right. Studying at Turiba, all students have the opportunity to apply for one of the three categories of the Erasmus scholarship program. The first category is the Erasmus scholarship for student exchange and double degree programs - the student goes study to one of our partner universities for one semester or a year, and in the case of winning the Erasmus scholarship, it covers 80 to 100% of living costs. 

Household needs are different for everyone, so some can save money. At the same time, a student does not bear any additional costs related to payment for tuition. The clear advantage of this program is a new academic experience: studying in different country, with its teaching methodology. This is an excellent opportunity for a student to test his adaptation skills in a new environment. Also, a great plus is the experience of independent living: developing the ability to equip one’s life, when no one is watching you, it is necessary to take full responsibility for yourself, control expenses, become more responsible. In addition, students acquire new acquaintances, as we say networking, that is, they expand the network of acquaintances: new contacts, acquaintance with different cultures, friends from all over the world.

- It's wonderful indeed! It is also an opportunity to see the world.

- Exactly. Therefore, a truly purposeful student will not miss the opportunity to use one more scholarship program Erasmus - practice. As a business university, we teach students to always be on the grind, to get skills during academic practice, while still studying at the university. Usually, for foreign students the practice lasts three months, since in this case no additional action is required to obtain a visa. However, you can go and a longer practice, if the student himself is willing to apply for a visa.

As a university, we cooperate with enterprises that take our students to practice. Basically, at the Faculty of Tourism, but, of course, at other faculties. However, we encourage our students to seek out the practice themselves. If we say that we "send" students to practice, this does not mean that we "pack them into boxes and send them off." Boxes are not enough. We provide an opportunity, and the guys submit documents and choose the country and the company themselves.

Why is it so strict? Because this is an excellent experience with the prospect of finding a job in the future. While being a student, applying for practice in different organizations, the students learn to represent themselves as potential employees - they write resume, make motivation letters, and have interviews. This is a great chance to look at yourself from the outside, to understand yourself, to realize all your advantages and disadvantages. And most importantly - to learn to "present yourself" as a professional.

What are the requirements for Erasmus? Is it difficult to win this grant? 

- Not at all, you just need to try hard. According to the requirements of the European Union, undergraduate students can apply for this scholarship only after the first year, and postgraduates - at the first semester of the first year. The main criterion is an average score higher than 7 points out of 10. Additionally, it may be needed to write an essay or be interviewed. It is interesting that international students are much more involved in this program than our local students. And they win! Including students from Uzbekistan. Vladislav Yurovsky, Bakhodir Saidov, Anastasiya Bogdanova and many others. The guys are great fellows, that they have taken this opportunity.

What about the third category?

- This is the so-called "bilateral exchange", not only within the framework of the European Union. Unfortunately, there are no scholarships for living here, however, you will not have to pay extra for tuition, i.e. these are “tuition free programs”. These programs offer our partner universities in the US, China, India, Mexico, CIS countries. The geography is vast. The main thing is the student's desire to learn new things. The only exception in this list is the United States, where education is always paid and costs only 5,000 US dollars per semester under this program, which is much lower than the cost that Americans themselves pay for tuition.

- Indeed, these are great opportunities for future students! And what about the future plans of the university? 

- Of course, I can not tell you everything. In general terms, plans for the future are the further expansion of the geography of partner universities and student representations. This will provide a greater academic and cultural experience for our students. We plan to work with universities in the North and South America through the student exchange program, as well as with the universities in Southeast Asia.

- Do you plan to visit Uzbekistan in the near future? 

- Definitely yes. For many years I visit Uzbekistan every year, I get personally acquainted with future students and their parents. Straight from the horse’s mouth I learn their wishes and preferences, which helps us a lot in the development of the university. This year is no exception. On April 2, 2017 in Tashkent I will hold a seminar and a master class. Taking the opportunity, I invite students and their parents, we will communicate!

- Finally, what would you like to wish future entrants and students from Uzbekistan from yourself? 

- Take your life into your own hands. In the future, everything depends on you. Make your life the way you want it to be. If you want to live better - be independent and work hard.

- Thank you so much. It’s a very good wish. Thank you for finding time for us.

- Always happy! I look forward to seeing you soon in Tashkent!

Keywords: Imants Bergs, Turiba University, Bachelor's program in Turiba, Master's program in Turiba, Erasmus Grant Programs, Practice in Europe, Education in Europe

Description: Mr. Bergs, the vice-rector of the Riga University of Turiba, kindly agreed to share some valuable information about the university today and future plans with our esteemed readers.