Latvia offers an educational system on part with the rest of Europe in the full range with pre-school, a nine year basic education, as well as secondary and university level education.
Universities and other institutions of higher education award graduates with bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctoral degrees. Please find here the list of Accredited Universities and Colleges in Latvia.
Both academic and professional programmes are available at the post-secondary level, including courses for lawyers, teachers, engineers, doctors, and almost any conceivable field. In higher education, Latvia has a national system of credit points. One Latvian national credit point is defined as a one-week full-time student’s study workload. The average full-time workload of an academic year in most higher education programmes is 40 credits.
The Latvian credit point system is compatible with ECTS (The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). The number of ECTS credits is found by multiplying the number of Latvian credit points by 1.5
Graduates of first level professional higher education programmes (college education) receive 120 ECTS credits. Such study programmes are geared to prepare their graduates for specific parts of the labour market. Graduates of the first level professional higher education programmes can continue their studies in related second level professional higher education programmes or professional bachelor programmes.
Second level professional higher education programmes can result in at least 60 ECTS for holders of the bachelor's degree or at least 240 ECTS for graduates of secondary school.
Degrees in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy (5 and 6 year courses of study are available) are equivalent to a master's degree and graduates of these programmes can continue their studies at the doctoral level.
A master’s degree or its equivalent is required for admission to doctoral studies and a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent is required for admission to studies for the master’s degree. A doctoral degree is awarded after successfully presenting a doctoral thesis and passing exams in the specific discipline, and this will take three to four years. The doctoral thesis must be the product of original research.
The Latvian educational system comprises pre-school education, 9-year basic education, upper-secondary education and higher education. Formal post-secondary non-tertiary education in Latvia is classified within the secondary education level.
- Pre-school education (ISCED level 0) : 5-7 year old children have to participate in pre-school programmes provided by general education establishments or kindergartens as a part of the compulsory basic education. The objective of the pre-school education is to foster general development of children and their readiness to enter primary stage of the basic education.
- Basic education (ISCED level 1 and 2) : 9-year single structure basic education (primary and lower secondary education according to ISCED) is compulsory for all children from the age of 7. The curriculum is determined by the national basic education standard.
- Secondary Education (ISCED level 3) : There are two types of secondary education programmes: general secondary and vocational secondary education and training programmes. When admitting students to the secondary level education, schools are free to hold entrance examinations according to the basic education standard, except in those subjects for which students have already received a Certificate of the basic education.
- Post-secondary non-tertiary vocational education (ISCED level 4) : Vocational continuing or in-service training programmes can be acquired also after graduating general secondary or vocational education and training institutions (duration 1-2 years) or in vocational upgrading/ development programmes (duration not less than 160 study hours, which may be considered as a part of the qualification).
- Tertiary Education (ISCED level 4-5) : The admission procedure is not centralized: each higher education institution has its own admissions board and criteria. From the year 2004 the entrance examinations are replaced by the results of the national centralized secondary education examinations.
Higher education Studies.
The objectives of academic higher education are to prepare graduates for independent research, as well as to provide theoretical background for professional activities. Academic education programmes are implemented according to the national standard of academic education.
Academic programmes leading to a bachelor's degree comprise 80 national credit points (120 ECTS), of which:
- Compulsory subjects not less than 50 national credit points (75 ECTS).
- Electives not less than 20 national credit points (30 ECTS).
- Thesis not less than 10 national credit points (15 ECTS).
- The remainder is left for students as free choice.
- The duration of full-time studies is 6 - 8 semesters (3-4 years).
Academic programmes leading to a master degree comprise 80 national credit points (120 ECTS), of which:
- The thesis is not less than 20 national credit points (30 ECTS).
- The compulsory part of the programme includes theoretical aspects of the specific field of scientific discipline – not less than 30 national credit points (45 ECTS).
- And the practical application of theory in solving actual problems – not less than 15 national credit points (22,5 ECTS).
The duration of full-time studies is 4 semesters (2 years) and requires at least 5 years total length of bachelor and master studies.
The objectives of professional higher education are to provide in-depth knowledge in a particular field, preparing graduates for design or improvement of systems, products and technologies, as well as to prepare them for creative, research and teaching activities in this field.
Professional programmes leading to a professional bachelor's degree comprise at least 160 national credit points (240 ECTS) of which:
- General courses – not less than 20 national credit points (30 ECTS).
- heoretical courses of the chosen field – not less than 36 national credit points (54 ECTS).
- Courses – not less than 60 national credit points (90 ECTS).
- Optional courses – not less 6 national credit points (9 ECTS).
- Practical placement – not less than 26 national credit points (39 ECTS).
- And state examinations including thesis – not less than 12 national credit points (18 ECTS).
The duration of full-time studies is 8 semesters (4 years). Professional higher education programmes leading to a professional master's degree comprise no less than 40 (60 ECTS) credits, of which:
- Up-to-date achievements in the field - in theory and in practice ≥7 (10,5 ECTS) credits.
- Practical placements ≥6 (9 ECTS) credits.
- State examinations including thesis ≥20 (30 ECTS) credit.
- Research training, courses of design, management, psychology etc.
Duration of full-time studies is 2-4 semesters (1-2 years).
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Only graduates holding a master's degree or equivalent higher education diploma may take up doctoral studies. These last three to four years, involving advanced studies, examinations and the preparation and defense of a doctoral thesis. Before defending the doctoral dissertation, the student must publish articles on the chosen subject in internationally reviewed publications.
Up to the end of 1999, habilitated doctor's degrees were also awarded, at a higher level than the doctoral degree. Such a degree was required by candidates to professorships, but now the doctoral degree is the highest scientific degree in Latvia.
The rights to award the doctoral degree are delegated by decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to Promotion councils established at the universities. The procedure for awarding the doctoral degree is controlled by the Commission of the Scientific Qualification.
Two groups of programmes can be distinguished: academic programmes and professional programmes.
Academic higher education programmes are based upon fundamental and/or applied science; they usually comprise a thesis at the end of each stage and lead to a bachelor’s degree (bakalaurs) or master’s degree (maģistrs). Academic degrees are awarded in a certain area of science (there are 8 different thematic groups – education sciences; humanities and arts; social sciences, business and law; natural sciences, mathematics and information technologies; engineering sciences, manufacturing and construction; agriculture; health care and social welfare; services). The duration of bachelor’s programmes may be 3 to 4 years at different institutions. The 3-4-year bachelor’s degree programme is considered a complete academic qualification. A master’s degree is awarded after the second stage of academic education and requires at least 5 years total of university studies.
The Law on Higher Education Institutions and the Law on Vocational Education and Training stipulate two cycles of professional higher education – first cycle professional higher education also known as college education (2-3 years) leading to the professional qualification Level 4 (diploms par pirmā līmeņa profesionālo augstāko izglītību), and second cycle professional higher education leading to the qualification level 5 (2-3 years following a first cycle programme, or not less than 4 years following upper secondary education). The first cycle professional higher education programmes or college programmes prepare students to enter complicated professions (e.g. bank staff, business specialists, IT specialists, legal assistants, engineering technicians). The qualifications of the graduates correspond to professional qualification Level 4 that allows them to perform complex tasks under changing conditions, to take responsibility for the allocation of resources, to organize and manage the work of other specialists and/or workers. It also allows graduates to compete in the labour market or to continue their education in a related programme for obtaining a higher professional qualification. These programmes are considered to be "non-university" higher education programmes.
The qualifications obtained in the second cycle professional higher education programmes correspond to professional qualification level 5. (Level 5 – the highest qualification of a specialist in a given occupation). Level 5 provides the capacity for independent analysis, to take decisions, to design and/or plan, to organize, manage and control and/or to carry out scientific research activities in a given branch. Usually a professional bachelor’s (bakalaurs) degree in a certain sector of the national economy is obtained simultaneously with the qualification. These programmes are considered to be "university-type" higher education programmes.
Upon completion of a programme of professional higher education, students are awarded a professional qualification and a professional bachelor’s degree that can be followed by further 1-2 years of professional master’s studies. The master’s degree (maģistrs) of higher professional education is awarded if the total duration of studies is at least five years.
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Tuition fee depends on the chosen institution and the study programme. Popular study programmes tuition fees per year are approximately:
- Medical Sciences
- Business studies and Management Sciences
- Engineering and Technology
- Mathematics and Informatics
The academic year in most of the higher educational institutions starts at the beginning of September, there are 40 weeks divided into 2 semesters.
- Autumn semester:
- Lectures: September to December
- Exams: December / January
- Holiday: Christmas-time
- Spring semester:
- Lectures: February to the end of May
- Exams: May / June
- Holiday: July-August
The admission process to institutions of higher education involves filling out the applicationand provide proof of having completed their secondary education, entrance exams, registration and matriculation.
To study in an institution of higher education in Latvia, one must be a resident of Latvia or possess a permanent residence permit if they are non-European. Citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area need only present a valid passport or identity card to study in Latvia.
In Latvia both the Atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību (a certificate of general secondary education) and Diploms par profesionālo vidējo izglītību (diploma of secondary vocational education) are considered as equivalent to a full secondary education.
Admission procedures and requirements vary depending on the university, as well as on the level of competition to enter a particular programme. Please find here admission processes at state and private universities
Specific provisions for foreign students.
Foreign students can be admitted to Latvian institutions of higher education if their secondary education qualifications correspond to the Latvian standard. The overall procedure of evaluation and recognition of foreign credentials is stated in Article 111 of Latvia’s Law on Education.
The evaluation of academic degrees and other qualifications acquired abroad, as well as the evaluation of secondary education diplomas and certificates is carried out by the Academic Information Centre. The respective institution of higher education takes a decision based on the statement of comparability issued by the Academic Information Centre on recognition of the academic degree or qualification acquired abroad.
The recognition of partial studies in higher education acquired in another country is carried out by that institution of higher education where the student continues his/her education. The university determines to which study programme the partial studies abroad correspond, in what mode the student can continue the studies in the respective study programme and, if necessary, what additional requirements must be met in order to continue studies in the respective study programme in Latvia.
There are no separate requirements and selection procedures specifically aimed at foreign students. Higher education institutions in Latvia do ask all students for grades obtained in secondary school in subjects that are relevant to the studies to which they are applying. For example, for studying medicine, the courses taken during secondary education must include biology and chemistry. Additional entrance exams may also be required. The knowledge of the foreign students is tested according to general regulations applying to all students, and it must correspond to entrance requirements of the respective school of higher education. There must also be sufficient competence in the language of instruction.
There are no unified language requirements aimed at foreign students in Latvia. Usually study programs are offered in either Latvian, English, or Russian, or a combination of these languages. The higher education institutions do not strictly define the need for internationally recognized language tests (some schools do ask for IELTS or TOEFEL tests). Students need a certain fluency in the language in which they plan to study. Language skills are usually checked in discussions with the student. An institution of higher education may also organize its own formal testing for language skills.