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:
- Humanities and Arts,
- Social Sciences, Business and Law
- Natural Sciences, Mathematics and IT,
- Engineering, Production and Construction,
- 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:
- 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.
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.).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.