A case initiated with respect to norms that provide that study programmes of institutions of higher education and colleges must be implemented in the official language
On 18 July 2019, the 1st Panel of the Constitutional Court initiated the case “On Compliance of the Third Sentence of Section 5 (1), Section 56 (3) and Para 49 of the Transitional Provisions of the Law “On Institutions of Higher Education” with Article 1, Article 105 and Article 112 of the Satversme of the Republic of Latvia”.
The Contested Norms
The third sentence of Section 5 (1) of the law “On Higher Education” provides that institutions of higher education in their activities cultivate and develop science and art.
Section 56 (3) of the law “On Institutions of Higher Education”: “The study programmes of institutions of higher education and colleges shall be implemented in the official language. The use of foreign languages in the implementation of study programmes shall be possible only in the following cases:
1) study programmes which are acquired by foreign students in Latvia, and study programmes, which are implemented within the scope of co-operation provided for in European Union programmes and international agreements may be implemented in the official languages of the European Union. For foreign students the acquisition of the official language shall be included in the study course compulsory amount if studies in Latvia are expected to be longer than six months or exceed 20 credit points;
2) not more than one-fifth of the credit point amount of a study programme may be implemented in the official languages of the European Union, taking into account that in this part final and State examinations may not be included, as well as the writing of qualification, bachelor and master’s thesis;
3) study programmes, which are implemented in foreign languages are necessary for the achievement of the aims of the study programme in conformity with the educational classification of the Republic of Latvia for such educational programme groups: language and cultural studies and language programmes. The licensing commission shall decide the conformity of the study programme to the educational programme group; and
4) joint study programmes may be implemented in the official languages of the European Union.
Para 49 of the Transitional Provisions of the law “On Institutions of Higher Education”: “Amendments to Section 56 (3) of this Law with respect to the language in which study programmes are implemented shall enter into force on 1 January 2019. Institutions of higher education and colleges, where the language in which study programmes are implemented does not comply with the provisions set out in section 56 (3) of this Law, shall have the right to continue implementing study programmes in the respective language until 31 December 2022. After 1 January 2019, enrolment of students in study programmes, the language of implementation of which is incompatible with provisions set out in Section 56 (3) of this Law, shall not be permitted.”
The Norms of Higher Legal Force
Article 1 of the Satversme of the Republic of Latvia (hereinafter – the Satversme): “Latvia is an independent democratic republic.”
Article 105 of the Satversme: “Everyone has the right to own property. Property shall not be used contrary to the interests of the public. Property rights may be restricted only in accordance with law. Expropriation of property for public purposes shall be allowed only in exceptional cases on the basis of a specific law and in return for fair compensation.”
Article 112 of the Satversme: “Everyone has the right to education. The State shall ensure that everyone may acquire primary and secondary education without charge. Primary education shall be compulsory.”
The case was initiated on the basis of an application by twenty members of the 13th convocation of the Saeima (hereinafter – the Applicant). The Applicant notes, inter alia, that the contested norms establish an obligation for all institutions of higher education to cultivate and develop the Latvian language and restrict the freedom of the founders of private institutions of higher education and the teachers in structuring their academic activities, thus infringing upon the right to education included in Article 112 of the Satversme.
The Applicant also is of the opinion that the contested norms infringe upon the right to property of private institutions of higher education, established in Article 105 of the Satversme, in interconnection with the principle of legal expectations that has been derived from the basic norm of a democratic state governed by the rule of law and falls within the scope of Article 1 of the Satversme. I.e., the right of private institutions of education to implement as part of their commercial activities licenced study programmes also in foreign languages. The Applicant holds that private institutions of higher education, by acquiring the respective licences and accrediting study programmes, have developed legal expectations and financial interests regarding engaging in such commercial activities that require protection.
The Legal Proceedings
The Constitutional Court has requested the institution, which issued the contested act, – the Saeima – to submit a written reply on the facts of the case and the legal reasoning by 18 September 2019.
The term for preparing the case is 18 December 2019. The Court will decide on the type of procedure and the date for hearing the case after it has been prepared.
Open in PDF: 2019-12-01_PR_par_ierosinasanu_ENG