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Study in Latvia

Location and Geography

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Latvia borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, the Baltic Sea with the Gulf of Riga in the west, Russia in the east, and Belarus in the southeast. Latvia is largely a fertile lowland with numerous lakes and hills to the east.

Climate

Latvia has four pronounced seasons of near-equal length. Winter starts in mid-December and lasts until mid-March. Winters have average temperatures of −6 °C (21 °F) and are characterized by stable snow cover, bright sunshine, and short days.

History and Population

The History of Latvia began around 9000 BC with the end of the last glacial period in northern Europe. Ancient peoples appeared during the second millennium BC, and four distinct tribal realms in Latvia's territories were identifiable towards the end of the first millennium AD. Latvia's principal river, the Daugava River, was at the head of an important mainland route from the Baltic region through Russia into southern Europe and the Middle East that was used by the Vikings and later Nordic and German traders.

In the early medieval period, the region's peoples resisted Christianization and became subject to attack in the Northern Crusades. Today's capital, Riga, founded in 1201 by Teutonic colonists at the mouth of the Daugava, became a strategic base in a papally-sanctioned conquest of the area by the Livonian

Brothers of the Sword. It was to be the first major city of the southern Baltic and, after 1282, a principal trading centre in the Hanseatic League. By the 16th century, Germanic dominance in the region was increasingly challenged by other powers.

Due to Latvia's strategic location and prosperous city of Riga, its territories were a frequent focal point for conflict and conquest between at least four major powers: the State of the Teutonic Order (later Germany), the Polish–Lithuanian Common wealth, Sweden and Russia. The longest period of external hegemony in the modern period began in 1710, when control over Riga switched from Sweden to Russia during the Great Northern War. Under Russian control, Latvia was in the vanguard of industrialization and the abolition of serfdom, so that by the end of the 19th century, it had become one of the most developed parts of the Russian Empire. The increasing social problems and rising discontent that this brought meant that Riga also played a leading role in the 1905 Russian Revolution.

A Latvian National Awakening arose in the 1850s and continued to bear fruit after World War I when, after two years of struggle in the Russian Civil War, Latvia finally won sovereign independence, as recognized by Russia in 1920 and by the international community in 1921. Latvia's independent status was interrupted at the outset of World War II in 1940, when the country was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941, then retaken by the Soviets in 1944–45.

From the mid-1940s, the country was subject to Soviet economic control and saw considerable Russification of its peoples. However, Latvian culture and infrastructures survived and, during the period of Soviet liberalization under Mikhail Gorbachev, Latvia once again took a path towards independence, eventually succeeding in August 1991 to be recognized by Russia the following month. Since then, under restored independence, Latvia has become a member of the United Nations, entered NATO and joined the European Union

During 2015 Latvia population is estimated to be decreased by -11 929 people and reach 1 986 173 in the beginning of 2016. The number of deaths will exceed the number of live births by 7 273, so the natural increase is expected to be negative. If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be declined by 4 656 due to the migration reasons. It means that amount of people who leaves Latvia to settle permanently in another country (emigrants) will prevail over the amount of people who moves into the country (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants).

Government:

 Parliamentary democracy 

Language in Latvia

The official language of Latvia is Latvian, which belongs to the Baltic language group of the Indo-European language family. Another notable language of Latvia is the nearly extinct Livonian language of Baltic-Finnic sub-branch of Uralic language family, which enjoys protection by law. The Latgalian language (a dialect of Latvian) is also protected by Latvian law as historical variation of Latvian language. Russian is by far the most widespread minority language. 

Latvian People, Culture and Society

Religion

At one time, Latvians ascribed to naturalist or what might be termed ‘pagan’ beliefs in natural deities. Although no longer practised as a religion the tradition lives on in folk songs, legends and festivals. 
Christianity arrived during the 12th and 13th centuries while the Russian Orthodox religion took hold in the 18th century. The effect religion had on the population greatly diminished during Communist occupation, when followers were harassed and discriminated against. 

Today the constitution guarantees freedom of religion. There has been a religious resurgence since the fall of the Communist regime, with the majority of the population belonging to the Lutheran church, although there are also large Catholic and Orthodox Christian minorities. 

A Nation of Singers

Latvia is called “the singing nation”. It unusual to find a Latvian who has not sung in a choir or some other group at some point in their life. Every few years all Latvia's choirs, as well as folk dance groups, gather together for the Song Festival, which includes several thousand singers. 

Folk songs are one of Latvia's national treasures. The Latvian folk song ("daina") is one of the distinguishing features of Latvian culture. There are three essential elements of these folk songs: tradition, literature and symbolism. The daina is a form of oral art and is a symbol that has both shaped and epitomized Latvia’s national identity for the last two centuries. Dating back well over a thousand years, more than 1.2 million texts and 30,000 melodies have been identified. 

The Family

The family is still the centre of the social structure. Even in urban areas it is common for generations of extended family to live together in the same apartment. Most families have only one or two children. The family provides both emotional and financial support to its members. It is common for parents to provide financial assistance to adult children. In return, children are expected to take care of their elderly parents. It is uncommon to move from the area where you are born. Even if a child goes to a city to work, they tend to go home for holidays. 

A Hierarchical Society

Latvia is a hierarchical society. People are respected because of their age and position. Older people are viewed as wise and are granted respect. Latvians expect the most senior person, by age or position to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group. 

Privacy Please

Although friendly and informal with close friends and family, Latvians are reserved and formal when dealing with outsiders. They are private people and do not flaunt their possessions or readily display emotions. They believe that self-control is a behaviour to be emulated. They do not ask personal questions and may not respond should you intrude on their privacy. 
Personal life is kept separate from business. If a friendship develops at work and is carried into the personal arena, this camaraderie is not brought into the office. Personal matters are not discussed with friends.


Latvian Customs and Culture

Meeting and Greeting

  • A quick, firm handshake with direct eye contact is the traditional greeting.
  • Latvians have rather controlled facial expressions and are not quick to smile.
  • Their initial reserve warms up after they get to know you.
  • When greeting a close friend or family member, some Latvians offer a light kiss on the cheek, although many do not, so it is not a universal measure of the intimacy of the relationship.
  • Titles are very important and denote respect.
  • When introducing someone, it is common to state their first and surname with the honorific title "kungs" for a man and "kundze" for a woman appended.
  • Wait until invited to use their first name.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • In general, Latvians exchange gifts with family and close friends for Christmas, birthdays and other events such as baptisms and weddings.
  • Gifts need not be expensive; it is more important to buy something that shows you have thought about the recipient.
  • If you are invited to a Latvian’s house, take a box of chocolates, a bottle of imported liquor, fruit or flowers for the hostess.
  • Flowers should be given in odd numbers.
  • Even numbers of flowers are given when someone is in mourning.
  • Do not give red roses as they are used at funerals.
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.

    Dining Etiquette

  • Latvians generally entertain in restaurants and occasionally in their homes.
  • Arrive on time; punctuality indicates respect for your hosts.
  • Dress well, this shows respect for the host.
  • You may be asked to remove your outdoor shoes before entering the house.
  • Table manners are formal in Latvia.
  • Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
  • Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess starts or you are invited to begin.
  • Napkins should be left on the table and not put in your lap.
  • Finish everything on your plate.
  • It is quite common to sing after a meal.
  • Economy

    The economy of Latvia is an open economy in Northern Europe and is part of the European Union's (EU) single market. Latvia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1999,[8] a member of the European Union since 2004, and of the Eurozone since 2014. Latvia is ranked the 21st in the world by the Ease of Doing Business Index prepared by the World Bank Group,[9] According to the Human Development Report 2011, Latvia belongs to the group of very high human development countries.[10] Due to its geographical location, transit services are highly developed, along with timber and wood-processing, agriculture and food products, and manufacturing of machinery and electronic devices.

    Latvia's economy has had rapid GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006–07, but entered a severe recession in 2009 as a result of an unsustainable current account deficit, collapse of the real estate market, and large debt exposure amid the softening world economy. Triggered by the collapse of the second largest bank, GDP decreased by almost 18% in 2009,[11] and the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and other international donors provided substantial financial assistance to Latvia as part of an agreement to defend the currency's peg to the euro in exchange for the government's commitment to stringent austerity measures. In 2011 Latvia achieved GDP grew by 5.5%[12] and thus Latvia again was among the fastest growing economies in the European Union. The IMF/EU program successfully concluded in December 2011.[13]
    Privatization is mostly complete, except for some of the large state-owned utilities. Export growth contributed to the economic recovery, however the bulk of the country's economic activity is in the services sector. In May 2013, the OECD decided to open accession negotiations with Latvia

Government                                                                                            

The Government of Latvia is the central government of the Republic of Latvia. The Constitution of Latvia (Satversme) outlines the nation as a parliamentary republic represented by a unicameral parliament (Saeima) and the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, which form the executive branch of the Government of Latvia.

Since early 2000s cabinet meetings in Latvia are open to the public. In June 2013 Latvian government became one of the first in Europe to offer live internet broadcasts of the cabinet meetings.

 

Living Conditions and Cost of Living

The standard of living is much lower in Latvia compared to the more developed European states. The average wage is also not competitive in comparison with Europe. The average gross monthly wage in Latvia in the4th quarter of 2013 was EUR 737.

The monthly subsistence minimum for a basket of goods and services for one person in December 2013 was approximately EUR 252.19. Income tax and social insurance contributions are not included in calculations of the subsistence minimum.

Average food prices: meat – EUR 6/kg; frankfurters, sausages – EUR 5/kg; chicken – EUR 4.5/kg; cheese – EUR 6-15/kg; milk – EUR 0.80/litre; bread – EUR 0.5-1; potatoes – EUR 0.5/kg; beer, price in shops – EUR 1-2/500 ml). An average restaurant meal costs between EUR 7 and EUR 30. The price of electricity is ≈EUR 11.64/100kwh – starting tariff, basic tariff – ≈EUR 15.15/100kwh, while the average price per litre of 95 grade fuel is EUR 1.299 (4 March 2014).

30-40% of the average monthly wage is spent on rent and utility payments. Average consumer prices in Latvia do not differ significantly from average prices in other European countries.

Latvia Education System & Information specific to International Students

  • Structure of the Higher Educational System in Latvia
  • Admissions to Higher Education in Latvia
  • Types of Higher Education Institutions in Latvia
  • Cycles of Higher Education in Latvia   

Types of Higher Education Institutions 


In Latvia, tertiary education programmes are provided by: 


• university type institutions of augstskola, 

• non-university type institutions of augstskola, 

• koledža. 

The Law on Institutions of Higher Education makes distinction between university-type and non-university-type institutions. While non-university-type institutions run professional programmes, universities often offer both academic and professional programmes. The law defines four determinant criteria for a university status: 

1.implementation of bachelor, master and doctor study programmes; assertion of doctoral thesis occurs annually,

2.at least half of persons elected in academic posts hold a doctor’s degree, 

3.institution issues scientific publications and 

4.establishes scientific institutions or units in the main scientific disciplines corresponding to the implemented study programmes. 

Koledža may function under higher educational institution and also as an independent institution. Colleges provide first-level higher professional education considered as the first phase of the second-level professional higher education programmes offered by a higher education institution. 

There are public and private (i.e. established by legal persons as defined by the legislation) higher education institutions. 

First Cycle Programmes 

Higher academic education (augstākā akadēmiskā izglītība) programmes last three or four years for Bachelor degree (Bakalaura grāds). The Cabinet of Ministers issues Regulations regarding the State Standard for Academic Education. 

Professional higher education (profesionālā augstākā izglītība) is divided into first and second-level professional higher education. 

• First-level professional higher education programmes are short-cycle programmes or koledža programmes and are mainly aimed at preparing specialists for the labour market. These short-cycle programmes last two or three years. 

• Second level professional higher education programmes lead to professional Bachelor's degree. These programmes encompassing first-level studies last at least four years. 

Bachelor


Branches of Study 

Higher education institutions may independently determine the timetable for students. The capacity of studies is measured in credit points (credits). The amount of full-time and part-time Bachelor study programmes is from 120 to 160 credit points including at least 10 credit points for Bachelor thesis. Full-time studies last from six to eight semesters. 

Latvia's credit point is defined as a full-time weekly study load. The credit point system is compatible with European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and is used for both accumulation and transfer since its implementation. The number of ECTS credits is found by multiplying the number of Latvian credit points by a factor of 1.5. In Latvia, one credit corresponds to 40 academic hours (one study week) of which up to 50% are expected to be contact hours. 

Full-time studies correspond to 40 credit points in an academic year and at least 40 academic hours a week. Part-time studies correspond to less than 40 credit points in an academic year and less than 40 academic hours a week. 

An academic hour is a unit of study time lasting 45 minutes. A contact hour is a direct interface between students and academic staff lasting one academic hour. 

Professional higher education Bachelor study programmes (second-level professional higher education programmes) last at least 160 credit points. The structure of study programmes consists of study courses, internship outside educational institution and state examinations including development and defence of Bachelor or Diploma thesis. At least 30% of study courses should be practically taught. During studies the student develops and defends at least three study works. 

According to thematic groups of education determined in the Regulations on Classification of Education in Latvia and the Law on Institutions of Higher Education, education programmes are available in the following study fields: 

• Education, 

• Humanities and Arts, 

• Social Sciences, Business and Law 

• Natural Sciences, Mathematics and IT, 

• Engineering, Production and Construction, 

• Agriculture, 

• Health and Welfare, 

• Services (for example, personal services, such as hotel, restaurant, beauty treatment etc., transport services, environmental protection and civil and military defence). 

In accordance with the completed study programme, academic Bachelor degree is awarded in the following groups of sciences: 

• Education; 

• Humanities and Arts; 

• Social Sciences; 

• Natural Sciences; 

• Engineering Sciences; 

• Agricultural Sciences; 

• Health Sciences; 

• Environmental Sciences. 

Academic Bachelor degree allows continuing studies in the same or a related branch of science in Master programme. 

A transfer to another branch of studies during studies is possible; the conditions depend on the study programme and the institution. 

Admission Requirements 

Every resident of Latvia and persons who have permanent residence permission, have the right to study in a higher educational institution, if they possess a document certifying a completed upper-secondary education. There are no age restrictions for acquiring higher education. 

If international agreements do not state otherwise, admission of foreigners in higher education institutions of Latvia is possible taking into account that: 

• the certificate on upper-secondary education should correspond to the standards of Latvia, 

• knowledge tested in an ordinary manner should correspond to the admission provisions in the respective institution, 

• foreigners should know the language of instruction well, 

• tuition fee is paid according to the contract between the foreigner and the higher education institution. 

For citizens of the European Union member states and their children acquiring education in Latvia the tuition fee is specified and covered according to the same procedures as for Latvian citizens. 

Admission to the study programme is regulated through admission provisions issued by the Cabinet of Ministers and higher education institutions. There, the procedures of application and competition, entrance examinations (if prescribed), registration and matriculation are stipulated. The size of student population is influenced by government procurement, and a maximum number of study places is determined by individual institutions, which, in turn, depends on the supply and demand of specialists of each study field. 

The admission to the study programme is organized according to the principles of competition. 

All higher education institutions and colleges enrol local or resident students on the basis of the results of centralized examinations (at least in two subjects as determined by each higher education institution) passed at the end of upper-secondary education. They are organized according to a uniform methodology, applying identical requirements and held at the same time in all secondary education institutions. There are, however, categories of persons who are allowed not to pass centralized examinations – those having completed secondary education till 2004 or abroad as well as persons with special educational needs. Admission procedure for such persons is developed by the higher education institution and approved by the Council of Higher Education. 

Although the main criterion are the results of centralized examinations, higher education institutions may still organize one or several additional entrance examinations, aptitude tests or a competition with an emphasis on subjects pertinent to the chosen programme. The standards required for the entrance examinations correspond to secondary education programme. 

Although the main document on completed education entitling to enter a higher education institution is that of upper-secondary education, required prior education may differ depending on the level of higher education. The access to first-level professional higher education programmes (college programmes) and Bachelor programmes (academic) is granted to holders of secondary education certificates. For the admission to second-level professional higher education programmes (Professional Bachelor study programmes), there are two possibilities: 

• a certificate on general secondary education is required if the second-level professional higher education programme is offered in one cycle as an integrated Bachelor programme, 

• a diploma on first-level professional higher education is required if the programme is offered in the second cycle of professional higher education. 

Alternative access routes for admission to higher education institutions are not developed yet, nor the methods to facilitate access to higher education (such as recognition of prior learning, special admission procedures, etc.). 

Curriculum 

The Cabinet of Ministers issues Regulations regarding the State Standard for Academic Education and Regulations regarding the State Standard for the Second Level Higher Professional Education. 

State or municipal education institutions provide education in the state language (Latvian). There are three cases, when it is, however, possible to use foreign languages (the first two refer to the use of official languages of the European Union, and the last one, to any foreign language): 

• in study programmes acquired by foreign students in Latvia, and study programmes implemented within the scope of co-operation provided for in European Union programmes and international agreements; 

• it is rather common to invite a guest lecturer from a cooperation university of another country to deliver a lecture, or to offer several courses in foreign language taught by local teaching staff. In such a case, it may not exceed one-fifth of the credit point amount of a study programme (in this part final and state examinations, as well as the writing of qualification, bachelor and masters thesis may not be included). 

• in study programmes where implementation in foreign languages is necessary for the achievement of their aims, for example for language and cultural studies or language programmes. 

In Latvia, higher education institutions have a significant degree of autonomy, which affects inter alia the curricula. Institutions have the right to determine the content and form of their education programmes themselves. However, a higher education institution has to receive a licence from the Ministry of Education and Science for each particular study programme. Licensing is a kind of preliminary quality assurance, in that within three years after getting a licence, a higher education institution has to submit the study programme for accreditation. 

The amount of full-time and part-time Bachelor study programmes is from 120 to 160 credit points including at least 10 credit points for Bachelor thesis. Full-time studies last from six to eight semesters. The study programme is divided into compulsory (at least 50 credit points), restricted optional (at least 20 credit points) and optional courses. The compulsory content includes principles, structure and methodology (at least 25 credit points), history of development and recent problems (at least 10 credit points) in the field or sub-field of science as well as its profile and interdisciplinary issues (at least 15 credit points). No more than six mandatory courses are prescribed at the same time. 

In professional higher education, the content of study courses and placement is determined by the respective professional standards. Professional higher education Bachelor study programmes (second-level professional higher education programmes) last at least 160 credit points. The structure of study programmes consists of study courses, internship outside educational institution and state examinations including development and defence of Bachelor or Diploma thesis. At least 30% of study courses should be practically taught. During studies the student develops and defends at least three study works. 

Teaching Methods 

Teaching methods are chosen by academic staff of the institution, depending on the type of studies and specifics of individual courses. 

Teaching is structured by discipline, and the main teaching methods are lectures and seminars. Lectures are held for larger groups of students, and involve little student activity, whereas seminars are based on active participation and performance. Other teaching methods include exercises, consultations, seminar papers and reports, practical work, internships, individual studies, projects, laboratory works, and colloquia; in arts – individual training lessons. 

Various teaching materials may be used in teaching and learning process, their choice is upon the lecturer, and students themselves may choose supplementary reading. 

As addition to traditional methods, developments in sector indicate increased use of various e-learning methods. For instance, since 2009 Stockholm School of Economics in Riga is the first higher education institution in Baltic States that offers online lectures where the audience (students and previously registered users) can send their questions to lecturer during internet broadcasting. 

Progression of Students 

Progression to the next year is automatic if the student has fulfilled all requirements set by the study programme, therefore the rule demands either fulfilment of semester requirements (with the chance to leave some not-passed courses to next semesters) or to leave studies. Higher education institutions have introduced possibility to re-register for the same study semester, but it is possible only for the students, who pay for their studies themselves. There are no regulations regarding the number of times the student can attempt to pass an examination, but a mechanism has been developed by several institutions to raise students’ motivation – an extra payment must be made in order to pass an examination repeatedly. 

It is possible to interrupt studies for a short period of time. Each higher education institution defines provisions regarding the length of study break, possible reasons, procedure etc. 

Employability 

Students may seek assistance and advice concerning study process in counselling centres of higher education institutions and administrative units of the respective faculty. In the recent years the issue of guidance services has gained more importance. Several higher education institutions offer a wide range of services, not only career counselling, but also training on how to apply for a job consisting of general information, information on vacancies, and supplementary training. 

In Latvia students have taken initiative to run Career Days in order to learn about their potential employers, exchange information between students and companies, learn how to present oneself in labour market and investigate what kind of skills and knowledge employers want to see in their future employees. 

Some higher education institutions provide students with internship placements; however, it is difficult to administer such placements in institutions with thousands of students. 

Student Assessment 

The main principles of student evaluation in higher education (both academic and professional) are as follows: 

• principle of mandatory evaluation – it is necessary to acquire positive assessment on the content of programme; 

• different methods are used to determine assessment (the main forms are tests and examinations); 

• adequacy of evaluation: students are given a possibility to prove their analytical, creative skills and acquired knowledge. 

10-scale grading system is used to evaluate academic performance on all levels of higher education: 

• Very high level (outstanding – 10, excellent – 9); 

• High level (very good – 8, good – 7); 

• Medium level (almost good – 6, satisfactory – 5, almost satisfactory – 4); 

• Low level (a negative assessment: poor –3, very poor – 2, very, very poor – 1). 

The lowest "pass" grade is 4 – "almost satisfactory". "Pass" and "Not pass" are used for assessing tests and internship. 

The main form of evaluation is end-of-semester examinations, when students receive credit points for every course and get their internship assessed with "pass" or at least 4 in 10-scale grading system. However, continuous evaluation during the semester may be carried out by lecturers as well. 

Certification 

A state-recognized diploma is issued to persons who have completed accredited study programmes. Only accredited higher education institutions providing state-accredited study programmes have the right to issue state-recognised diplomas. In conformity with a state-accredited study programme it is possible to receive academic education resulting in Bachelor degree, or fifth-level professional qualification and Bachelor professional degree. 

Diploma Supplement is issued to each graduate (except those of doctoral programmes) automatically and free of charge. This diploma supplement follows the model developed by the European Commission, Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES and covers information regarding the nature, level, context and status of the pursued and completed studies. The supplement is issued in Latvian and English, and its purpose is to promote international transparency and fair academic and professional recognition of qualifications. 

Students pass final examinations at the end of academic Bachelor study programme. Part of final examinations comprises the development and presentation of a Bachelor thesis. Graduates receive a diploma certifying Bachelor’s degree and a Diploma Supplement. 

Students of second-level professional higher education programmes (Profesionālās augstākās izglītības Bakalaura studiju programmas, Profesionālās augstākās izglītības studiju programmas) also pass final examinations at the end of studies. Part of final examinations is the development and presentation of Bachelor or Diploma thesis. Graduates receive: 

• after professional higher education Bachelor study programmes – a diploma certifying the Professional Bachelor degree and fifth-level professional qualification; 

• after professional higher education study programmes – fifth-level professional qualification. 

The Diploma Supplement is also issued. 


Short-Cycle Higher Education

Branches of Study 


The Vocational Education Law (1999) stipulates professional higher education at two levels and first are first level higher professional education programmes (pirmā līmeņa augstākās profesionālās izglītības programmas) or college programmes (ISCED 5B level or professional qualification level 4 according to the Regulations on Classification of Education in Latvia). 

First level higher professional education programmes (2-3 years after upper-secondary education) are available at koledža and augstskola. The Diploma of the first level higher professional education is equal to professional qualification level 4, i.e. occupations of complex level are mastered, for example, bank officers, lawyer assistants, technologists. This qualification allows working in the occupation or continuing studies in the relevant higher education programme. 

First level higher education programmes are available in the following study fields (as determined also in the Regulations on Classification of Education in Latvia and the Law on Institutions of Higher Education): 

• Education, 

• Humanities and Arts, 

• Social Sciences, Business and Law 

• Natural Sciences, Mathematics and IT, 

• Engineering, Production and Construction, 

• Agriculture, 

• Health and Welfare, 

• Services (for example, personal services, such as hotel, restaurant, beauty treatment etc., transport services, environmental protection and civil and military defence). 

Admission Requirements 

Every resident of Latvia and persons who have permanent residence permission, have the right to study at higher educational level, if they possess a document certifying a completed upper-secondary education. There are no age restrictions for acquiring higher education. 

If international agreements do not state otherwise, admission of foreigners in colleges and higher education institutions of Latvia is possible taking into account that:

• the certificate on upper-secondary education should correspond to the standards of Latvia, 

• knowledge tested in an ordinary manner should correspond to the admission provisions in the respective institution, 

• foreigners should know the language of instruction well, 

• tuition fee is paid according to the contract between the foreigner and the higher education institution. 

For citizens of the European Union member states and their children acquiring education in Latvia the tuition fee is specified and covered according to the same procedures as for Latvian citizens. 

Admission to the study programme is regulated through admission provisions issued by the Cabinet of Ministers and higher education institutions, and colleges. There, the procedures of application and competition, entrance examinations (if prescribed), registration and matriculation are stipulated. The size of student population is influenced by government procurement, and a maximum number of study places is determined by individual institutions, which, in turn, depends on the supply and demand of specialists of each study field. 

The admission to the study programme is organized according to the principles of competition. 

All higher education institutions and colleges enrol local or resident students on the basis of the results of centralized examinations (at least in two subjects as determined by each higher education institution) passed at the end of secondary education. They are organized according to a uniform methodology, applying identical requirements and held at the same time in all secondary education institutions. There are, however, categories of persons who are allowed not to pass centralized examinations – those having completed secondary education till 2004 or abroad as well as persons with special educational needs. Admission procedure for such persons is developed by the higher education institution and approved by the Council of Higher Education. 

Although the main criterion are the results of centralized examinations, higher education institutions may still organize one or several additional entrance examinations, aptitude tests or a competition with an emphasis on subjects pertinent to the chosen programme. The standards required for the entrance examinations correspond to upper-secondary education programme. 

Alternative access routes for admission to higher education institutions are not developed yet, nor the methods to facilitate access to higher education (such as recognition of prior learning, special admission procedures, etc.). 

Curriculum 

The Cabinet of Ministers issues the Regulations regarding the State Standard for the First Level Higher Professional Education. 

The content of first level higher professional education comprises study courses (comprising general subjects, humanities, social sciences as well as technical subjects), a practical placement and a thesis. The content of the study course and the practical placement is set out in occupational standards for some professions. The volume of programmes in credit points is 80-120 (1 Latvian credit point is equal to 40 student work hours and 1.5 ECTS credit point), of which general courses constitute minimum 20 credits, courses in speciality – minimum 36 credits, training practice – minimum 16 credits, diploma paper minimum 8 credits. 

In Latvia, institutions providing higher education programmes have a significant degree of autonomy in determination of the curricula. Institutions have the right to determine the content and form of their education programmes themselves. However, an institution has to receive a licence from the Ministry of Education and Science for each particular study programme. Licensing is a kind of preliminary quality assurance, in that within three years after getting a licence, an education institution has to submit the study programme for accreditation. 

State or municipal education institutions provide education in the state language (Latvian). There are three cases, when it is, however, possible to use foreign languages (the first two refer to the use of official languages of the European Union, and the last one, to any foreign language): 

• in study programmes acquired by foreign students in Latvia, and study programmes implemented within the scope of co-operation provided for in European Union programmes and international agreements; 

• it is rather common to invite a guest lecturer from a cooperation university of another country to deliver a lecture, or to offer several courses in foreign language taught by local teaching staff. In such a case, it may not exceed one-fifth of the credit point amount of a study programme (in this part final and state examinations, as well as the writing of qualification, bachelor and master’s thesis may not be included). 

• in study programmes where implementation in foreign languages is necessary for the achievement of their aims, for example for language and cultural studies or language programmes. 

Teaching Methods 

Teaching methods are chosen by teaching staff of the institution, depending on the type of studies and specifics of individual courses. 

Teaching is structured by discipline, and the main teaching methods are lectures and seminars. Lectures are held for larger groups of students, and involve little student activity, whereas seminars are based on active participation and performance. Other teaching methods include exercises, consultations, seminar papers and reports, practical work, internships, individual studies, projects, laboratory works, and colloquia; in arts – individual training lessons. 

Various teaching materials may be used in teaching and learning process, their choice is upon the lecturer, and students themselves may choose supplementary reading. 

Progression of Students 

Progression to the next year is automatic if the student has fulfilled all requirements set by the study programme. There are no regulations regarding the number of times the student can attempt to pass an examination, but a mechanism has been developed by several institutions to raise students’ motivation – an extra payment must be made in order to pass an examination repeatedly. 

It is possible to interrupt studies for a short period of time. Each higher education institution defines provisions regarding the length of study break, possible reasons, procedure etc. 

Employability 

Students may seek assistance and advice concerning study process in counselling centres of their education institutions and administrative units of the respective faculty. In the recent years the issue of guidance services has gained more importance. Several higher education institutions offer a wide range of services, not only career counselling, but also training on how to apply for a job consisting of general information, information on vacancies, and supplementary training. 

In Latvia students have taken initiative to run Career Days in order to learn about their potential employers, exchange information between students and companies, learn how to present oneself in labour market and investigate what kind of skills and knowledge employers want to see in their future employees. 

Student Assessment 

The main principles of student evaluation in higher education programmes are as follows: 

• principle of mandatory evaluation – it is necessary to acquire positive assessment on the content of programme; 

• different methods are used to determine assessment (the main forms are tests and examinations); 

• adequacy of evaluation: students are given a possibility to prove their analytical, creative skills and acquired knowledge.

10-scale grading system is used to evaluate study performance on all levels of higher education: 

• Very high level (outstanding – 10, excellent – 9); 

• High level (very good – 8, good – 7); 

• Medium level (almost good – 6, satisfactory – 5, almost satisfactory – 4); 

• Low level (a negative assessment: poor –3, very poor – 2, very, very poor – 1). 

The lowest "pass" grade is 4 – "almost satisfactory". "Pass" and "Not pass" are used for assessing tests and internship. 

The main form of evaluation is end-of-semester examinations, when students receive credit points for every course and get their internship assessed with "pass" or at least 4 in 10-scale grading system. However, continuous evaluation during the semester may be carried out by lecturers as well. 

Certification 

Students of first-level professional higher education programmes (college programmes) pass state qualification examination at the end of studies. Part of state qualification examination is presentation of a qualification thesis. Graduates receive a diploma on first-level professional higher education if the programme is completed, a state qualification examination is passed and the assessment of the qualification examination is at least 5 (almost satisfactory). A certificate on professional qualification profesionālās kvalifikācijas apliecība verifying fourth-level professional qualification is also granted to the graduate. 

Organisational Variations 

Some colleges – providers of short-cycle tertiary education – offers acquisition of study programmes through distance learning. Distance learning or e-studies are positioned as a student-friendly and result oriented approach to higher education studies. 

A student admitted in a distance learning programme acquires study content through internet and video-lectures. However, the study programme has all the components of ordinary study programme, namely, objectives/study aims, content/curriculum, a system of control and assessment of the results, etc. 

The study programme usually comprises 80 national credits and is 2,5 years long. Students have the rights to change the distance learning study programme to normal study programme, and vice versa, if they wish. 


Second Cycle Programmes


Branches of Study 

According to thematic groups of education determined in the Regulations on Classification of Education in Latvia and the Law on Institutions of Higher Education, education programmes are available in the following study fields:

• Education, 

• Humanities and Arts, 

• Social Sciences, Business and Law 

• Natural Sciences, Mathematics and IT, 

• Engineering, Production and Construction, 

• Agriculture, 

• Health and Welfare, 

• Services (for example, personal services, such as hotel, restaurant, beauty treatment etc., transport services, environmental protection and civil and military defence). 

Second cycle education programmes in Latvia last one or two years. 

Admission Requirements 

The prerequisite for the admission to a Master programme (academic studies) is a Bachelor degree in the same or related field of science. 

Only candidates with Bachelor degree or at least four-year studies leading to professional qualification are eligible to second-level professional higher education programmes offered as Master or Professional (higher level of studies after an academic degree) programmes. 

Curriculum 

Higher education institutions may independently determine the timetable for students. The capacity of studies is measured in credit points (credits). Latvian credit point is defined as a full-time weekly study load. Latvian credit point system is compatible with European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and is used for both accumulation and transfer since its implementation. The number of ECTS credits is found by multiplying the number of Latvian credit points by a factor of 1.5. 

In Latvia, one credit corresponds to 40 academic hours (one study week) of which up to 50% are expected to be contact hours. The nominal study year comprises forty credits. 

An academic hour is a unit of study time lasting 45 minutes. A contact hour is a direct interface between students and academic staff lasting one academic hour. 

The amount of Master study programmes is 80 credit points including at least 20 credit points for Master thesis. The compulsory content of Master programmes includes research on theoretical conclusions (at least 30 credit points) of the respective area in the field or sub-field of science and approbation of theoretical conclusions (at least 15 credit points) currently important in the field or sub field of science. 

The amount of professional higher education master study programmes (second-level professional higher education programmes) is at least 40 credit points. Study courses include approbation of recent accomplishments in theory and practise of the study field, courses on management, research work, pedagogy and psychology. Internship and state examinations involving the development and defence of Master or Diploma thesis are also a part of compulsory study content. 

State or municipal education institutions provide education in the state language - Latvian. There are three cases, when it is, however, possible to use foreign languages (the first two refer to the use of official languages of the European Union, and the last one, to any foreign language): 

• in study programmes acquired by foreign students in Latvia, and study programmes implemented within the scope of co-operation provided for in European Union programmes and international agreements; 

• it is rather common to invite a guest lecturer from a cooperation university of another country to deliver a lecture, or to offer several courses in foreign language taught by local teaching staff. In such a case, it may not exceed one-fifth of the credit point amount of a study programme (in this part final and state examinations, as well as the writing of qualification, bachelor and masters thesis may not be included); 

• in study programmes where implementation in foreign languages is necessary for the achievement of their aims, for example for language and cultural studies or language programmes. 

Teaching Methods 

Teaching methods are chosen by academic staff of the institution, depending on the type of studies and specifics of individual courses. 

Teaching is structured by discipline, and the main teaching methods are lectures and seminars. Lectures are held for larger groups of students, and involve little student activity, whereas seminars are based on active participation and performance. Other teaching methods include exercises, consultations, seminar papers and reports, practical work, internships, individual studies, projects, laboratory works, and colloquia; in arts – individual training lessons. 

Various teaching materials may be used in teaching and learning process, their choice is upon the lecturer, and students themselves may choose supplementary reading. 

Progression of Students 

Progression to the next year is automatic if the student has fulfilled all requirements set by the study programme. There are no regulations regarding the number of times the student can attempt to pass an examination, but a mechanism has been developed by several institutions to raise students’ motivation – an extra payment must be made in order to pass an examination repeatedly. 

It is possible to interrupt studies for a short period of time. Each higher education institution defines provisions regarding the length of study break, possible reasons, procedure etc. 

Employability 

Students may seek assistance and advice concerning study process in counselling centres of higher education institutions and administrative units of the respective faculty. In the recent years the issue of guidance services has gained more importance. Several higher education institutions offer a wide range of services, not only career counselling, but also training on how to apply for a job consisting of general information, information on vacancies, and supplementary training. 

Student Assessment 

The main principles of student evaluation in higher education (both academic and professional) are as follows: 

• principle of mandatory evaluation – it is necessary to acquire positive assessment on the content of programme; 

• different methods are used to determine assessment (the main forms are tests and examinations); 

• adequacy of evaluation: students are given a possibility to prove their analytical, creative skills and acquired knowledge. 

10-scale grading system is used to evaluate academic performance on all levels of higher education: 

• Very high level (outstanding – 10, excellent – 9); 

• High level (very good – 8, good – 7); 

• Medium level (almost good – 6, satisfactory – 5, almost satisfactory – 4); 

• Low level (a negative assessment: poor –3, very poor – 2, very, very poor – 1). 

The lowest "pass" grade is 4 – "almost satisfactory". "Pass" and "Not pass" are used for assessing tests and internship. 

The main form of evaluation is end-of-semester examinations, when students receive credit points for every course and get their internship assessed with "pass" or at least "4" in 10-scale grading system. However, continuous evaluation during the semester may be carried out by lecturers as well. 

Certification 

Students pass final examinations at the end of academic Master study programmes. Part of final examinations comprises the development and presentation of Master thesis. Graduates receive a diploma certifying Master’s degree and a Diploma Supplement. 

Students of second-level professional higher education programmes (Profesisonālās augstākās izglītības Maģistra studiju programma, Profesionālās augstākās izglītības studiju programma) also pass final examinations at the end of studies. Part of final examinations is the development and presentation of Master or Diploma thesis. Graduates receive:

• after professional higher education Master study programmes – a diploma certifying the professional Master degree; graduates with previous academic education also obtain fifth-level professional qualification; 

• after professional higher education study programmes – fifth-level professional qualification. 


Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes 


Organisation of Doctoral Studies
 

The objective of doctoral studies programmes is to obtain an internationally recognized doctoral degree in a branch of science and to acquire principles of research organization and management. Only university-type institution universitāte may run doctoral programmes. 

The doctoral programmes are offered in the following fields: 

• Social Sciences and Law 

• Humanities and Arts 

• Natural Sciences 

• Technical Sciences 

• Medicine 

Doctoral study activities last three or four years for Doctoral scientific degree. 

The amount of full-time Doctoral programme is 120-160 credit points (of which 40-60 credit points are awarded for teaching a certain number of courses). Doctoral study programme contains also the list of compulsory and optional subjects and corresponding number of credit points. The rest of the content of doctoral studies includes independent research with the aim to obtain original and verified results in the corresponding branch. The student, after consultations with scientific advisor and professor of the corresponding branch, works out an individual plan for the whole period of doctoral studies. 

Doctoral students must carry out well-documented studies of practical application of the latest research methods in the corresponding branch; studies of current IT methods, research planning, data processing and presentation; comprehensive studies of theoretical disciplines of the corresponding branch; mastering of lecturing and project management skills by participating in Bachelor and Master programme as well as research projects implementation; reporting in international seminars, conferences, schools; in-service training in other universities completed by publication of joint results; independent presentation of research results and their submission for publication in research editions. 

Admission Requirements 

The access to doctoral studies is granted to holders of Masters’ degree (both academic or professional) or an equivalent. Applications are usually submitted in July/August depending on the institution. The enrolment procedure is as follows: 

• applicant registration (submission of necessary documents) 

• contest for study places (including entrance test or discussion) 

• announcement of contest results 

• signature of study agreement 

• registration as a student. 

Potential candidates should contact higher education institutio about the application procedure. 

The level of proficiency required in the Latvian language depends on the institution and the programme. State HEIs implement study programmes in Latvian but programmes in foreign languages and programmes for students from abroad exist. It is therefore possible to pursue doctoral studies in English. 

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