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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes


7.Higher education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 14 January 2024

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 at least 180 credit points. 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 enrollment 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 institution 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.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

Generally, doctoral status candidates in Latvia are considered as students. As a student he/she either has to pay study fee for the studies or is entitled to study in state-subsidised study place, and entitled to receive monthly stipend from the state budget or monthly stipend from European Social Fund project. 

In some institutions, as for instance Riga Graduate School of Law, PhD candidates may either be enrolled as students or employed as research members of the faculty, depending on available financing. The same institution, in cooperation with the University of Copenhagen, offers special joint PhD programme where candidates are employed as a PhD research fellows, both at the institutions in Riga and Copenhagen.

Supervision arrangements

Doctoral candidates are usually affiliated to faculties / institutes. Doctoral candidates have to follow compulsory courses and are systematically assigned a supervisor to monitor and assist the development of their dissertations. The supervisor also provides support and advice (tutoring) to doctoral candidate regarding research issues and methodology.


The majority or 66.8% of Latvian doctors of science are involved in research and scientific activity, according to the 2019 data of the survey "Further career of doctors of science" (Zinātņu doktoru tālākā karjera) conducted by the Ministry of Education and Science in cooperation with the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

The results of the survey conducted in 2019 show that 54.4% of doctors of science were employed in education, 14.9% - in the field of professional, scientific and technical services, 7% - in state administration and defense, in the field of mandatory social insurance, 5.9% - in health and social care. Also, the data of the survey report show that 67% of employed people perform scientific activities, including 79.3% in education, 40.4% in public administration and 60% in the field of health and social care.

The report indicates that 6.9% of PhDs are employers, 3.9% are self-employed and 89.1% are employees. The highest employment rate in the self-employed and employer status is for PhDs in engineering and technology, reaching 7.9%.


Assessment in doctoral programmes varies. Professors of the corresponding branch and the scientific advisor monitor academic progress. The student reports about the results of his/her studies and research biannually participating in research seminars and conference organised in the corresponding branch where a special decision is made about the conformity of results with the individual study programme. The decision is documented and submitted to the programme director.


The degree Doktors internationally recognized as PhD can be conferred only after fulfillment of requirements for doctoral study programme and public defence of doctoral thesis. Doctoral thesis may consist of a dissertation, or also of a group of thematic papers or a monograph. A foreign expert is involved in the evaluation of thesis. A person who has obtained the scientific degree, receives a Doctor’s diploma or Professional Doctor's diploma in arts. 

Organisational variation

No variations in third cycle programmes. 

Legislative references

The Law on Institutions of Higher Education