Higher education in Latvia

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

Academia Petrina
© Photo: Ivars Veiliņš/ The Latvian Institute, www.latvia.lv

In Latvia there is a difference between academic and professional higher education, nevertheless, it is not institutionalised. Universities and other higher education institutions run both academic and professional programmes, e.g. lawyer, teacher, translator, marine mechanic etc. Bachelor's (bakalaurs) and master's (maģistrs) degrees are awarded in both academic and professional higher education programmes. A master's degree is awarded after the second stage of academic/professional education (post-graduate studies) and requires a total of at least 5 years of university studies. Graduates of both types of bachelor's degree have access to master's studies, graduates of the master's degree - to doctoral studies.

Latvia is using a national credit point system in higher education. One Latvian national credit point is defined as a one-week full-time 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 number of ECTS credits is found by multiplying the number of Latvian credit points by a factor of 1.5.

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 120 - 160 national credit points (160-180 ECTS), including:

  • 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.

Smokestack
© Photo: Imants Urtāns/ The Latvian Institute, www.latvia.lv

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),
  • theoretical courses of the chosen field – not less than 36 national credit points (54 ECTS),
  • specialized 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).

Surgeons at work
© Photo: Imants Urtāns/
The Latvian Institute, www.latvia.lv

Studies in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy professional studies (5 and 6 year studies), are equal to the master's degree and graduates of these programmes can continue their studies in doctoral level programmes.

First-level professional higher education (college) programmes comprise 80-120 national credit points (120-180 ECTS) credits. These programmes are targeted mainly to the labour market. Graduates of the first-level programmes can continue their studies in related second-level professional programmes or professional bachelor programmes.

Second-level professional higher education programmes can comprise either at least 40 national credit points (60 ECTS) for holders of the bachelor's degree or at least 160 national credit points (240 ECTS) for secondary school leavers. In both cases programmes should include a practical placement of at least 26 national credit points (39 ECTS) and graduation examinations including thesis of not less than 10 national credit points(15 ECTS).

The degree of master or equivalent is required for admission to doctoral studies. A doctoral degree is awarded after public defence of a doctoral thesis and successfully passed exams in the chosen scientific discipline. The doctoral thesis has to include results of original research and new insights in the scientific discipline. The duration of doctoral studies is 3-4 years.

See also Entrance requirements