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Latvia Higher Education System

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.

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.

Employability

According to the data of Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (reference year 2009), 42% of doctors were employed in academic posts of higher education institutions. 17% of doctors were employed in state and business administration. In 2009, because of economical crisis the unemployment rate in Latvia reached 16,9%, less than 2% of them were unemployed doctors (in economically active age group).

Assessment

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.

Certification

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.


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