Survey of Tertiary Vocational Education in Latvia

Final version written and edited by: 

Aleksandra Joma,

project manager, Phare Higher Vocational Education Reform Programme,
Valnu iela 2 LV-1098, Riga, Latvia,
phone 371-7-222873,
fax 371-7-243127,

Baiba Ramiņa,

researcher, National Observatory,
Valnu iela 2 LV-1098, Riga, Latvia, phone/fax 371-7-2221006,

Andrejs Rauhvargers

Head, National Observatory,
Valnu iela 2 LV-1098, Riga, Latvia,
phone 371-7-225155,
fax 371-7-2221006,

Also participated in drafting the answers:

Jānis Čakste

Director, Department of Higher education and Research, Ministry of Ed.And.Sci.

Anatolijs Melnis

Head of division, Department of Higher education and Research, Ministry of Ed.And.Sci.,

Pēteris Sliede

Head, Study Department, Riga Technical University

Riga, 1997

List of acronyms:


higher education institution(s)


vocational education and training


advanced-level secondary VET


Ministry of education and science


Professional Education Centre

(a structure at the MES responsible for

curriculum development in secondary VET)


Law on Higher Educational establishments


Law on Professional Education


  1. Basic Information on the Sector of Tertiary Professional/Vocational Education (TPVE).


  1. The concept of tertiary professional/ vocational education in Latvia is in the process of being worked out. The two main existing legislative acts: the Law on Education and the Law on Higher Education Establishments do not define TPVE as a separate sector apart from both higher education and secondary-level VET at present. The need to develop post-secondary VET is well understood in the country, therefore it is going to be elaborated in detail in the coming Law on professional education which is currently being drafted.

De facto post-secondary VET at the moment exists both under higher education and under secondary vocational education.


1.1. The main objectives of TPVE are:

  1. To offer a more extensive range of education possibilities corresponding to the demands of the labour market,
  2. To provide high- quality professional education,
  3. To shorten the period of time necessary for acquiring a profession, thus assuring a quicker entry into the labour market,
  4. To increase the amount of students,
  5. To reduce costs of education per student while preparing persons for higher level professional activities.


  1. 2. Types of TPVE programmes (courses)

(please see also 1.3.)

  1. Professional higher education programmes (at least 4 year study period)
  2. Professional programmes of "colleges at higher education institutions" (lasting 1,5-2,5 years)
  3. further (continuing) professional education programmes;
  4. programmes of advanced secondary vocational (specialised secondary) education;


The programmes mentioned in the first item may be implemented as full-time, part-time studies and as distance education.


TP/VE is being carried out in the following directions:

  1. Social sciences - especially economics, enterpreneurship, finances etc.
  2. Engineering, manufacturing and construction;
  3. Agriculture.
  4. Health and Welfare
  5. Humanities and Arts


  1. TP/VE programmes are carried out :
    • at higher educational establishments,
    • at advanced-level secondary vocational educational establishments;

The Law on Higher Education Establishments envisages university-type higher educational institutions at which mainly academic education is obtained and academic degrees (bachelor and master) as well as doctoral degrees are granted. Alongside these institutions, the law also envisages non-university professional higher education establishments where higher education and professional qualification are obtained. However, no pure Fachhochschule type institutions are created in Latvia so far. Instead, professional higher education programmes exist at academic higher education institutions.

According to a Governmental decision the professional qualifications of engineer, doctor, teacher, lawyer and some more - can be conferred by higher education institutions only and the duration of professional higher education studies can not be less than 4 years.

The above mentioned professional study programmes (also at universities) can be realised as pure professional programmes (part of which can be attributed to TPVE levels) or as ones that can be entered after completion of a bachelor's level study programme.

The Law on Higher Education introduced a possibility to realise college-type programmes at higher education establishments including universities. College-type programmes are considered to be "tertiary" or "post-secondary" but not regarded to as "higher education", due to the length of the study period - only 1,5 - 2,5 years. At present college-type programmes is being realised at Riga Technical University with the possibility to obtain full higher education by prolongation of the study period to a total of 4 - 4,5 years.

There is no requirement for a certain period of practical placement/experience for granting a professional qualification after mastering higher educational institution professional study programmes and college-type programmes.


Vocational programmes of a higher level (which should be attributed to post-secondary education but formally belong to the secondary education level in terms of existing legislation) are also offered by advanced-level secondary vocational education establishments (according to the law this sector is named specialised secondary education) which are named tehnikums or koledža. These programmes last 2-3 years for general upper secondary education graduates or 1-2 years for graduates of secondary VET schools or 5 years for holders of 9-year basic education certificates.



  1. Statistical data on the higher educational institutions (HEI) of TP/VE



TP/VE sector* of HEI


Total higher education in total




(incl. Master's programmes)

Number of HEI




Number of new enrolees in 1996/97




Total student number




Number of graduates in 1995/96




Student-teaching staff ratios





*The data on TPVE should be treated more as an estimate since it is not completely clear which of the professional programmes can and which can not be attributed to TPVE .

No more or less reliable breakdowns can be provided at this stage.


Statistical data on the alvet

  Fields of Education Total Student number

Number of institutions



State institutions

Private institutions



1. Social Sciences, Business and Law





2. Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction





3. Agriculture





4. Health and Welfare





5. Services:        







personal services






security services





6. Humanities and Arts






  1. Legal Basis and Supervision. (please see also 1.3.)
  1. Legislative basis for TP/VE .
  2. 1) Law on Education;

    2) Law on Higher Education Institutions;

    3) Charters of HEI;

    4) Statutes of the ALVET Institutions.

  3. There is no strict definition of TPVE in the existing laws i.e. according to the present legal situation in Latvia the ISCED level 5 has in fact been left empty. At the moment the only type of "post-secondary" or "tertiary" education seen by Latvian laws is the education provided by "colleges at higher education institutions". However, these are only introduced after adoption of Law on HEI in the end of 1995, therefore the main part of the education that should be attributed to TP/VE is presently seen as a the more advanced component of secondary VET.

It is expected that the new Law on Professional education will finally introduce an understanding of an education level between secondary education and university-type higher education (ISCED level 5) and will thus create a space for TP/VE in the legislation.

  1. As it as been explained above, TPVE sector is not clearly defined in the existing legislation. According to the Law on higher educational establishments (further LHE), one can only distinguish between the "academic programmes" and "professional programmes" (taking into account that most of the latter are still attributed to the "university-type education in the European sense and just part of them could be regarded as TP/VE programmes). LHE stipulates that the academic programmes are based upon fundamental and applied science. An element of research is mandatory in these programmes and they lead to bachelor's or master's degrees. The "professional programmes" are more based upon applied sciences, research element is not compulsory in these but they envisage acquisition of knowledge and professional skills of a more practical character. However, according to LHE the group of "professional programmes" at higher education institutions includes also such programmes like teacher training programmes on top of a bachelor's academic degree in a given subject, professional programmes in technical sciences on top of a bachelor's degree in engineering, or even training in professions like doctor, dentist, pharmacist, painter or actor (where bachelor's or master's degrees are not applicable).
  2. Thus, only a minor of the programmes regarded in LHE as "professional programmes" actually lay with the understanding of TPVE. The examples of these could be higher education programmes for training of bank employees, broad-scale "economics/law" programmes for training of managers for SME, programmes for training of business interpreters, social workers and some others.


  3. According to LHE the higher education institutions (the existing State and State-recognised higher education institutions) enjoy a wide autonomy. This regards all the research and teaching including also the programmes which could be attributed to TPVE. Thus, in the case of HEI there is practically no direct state supervision/control. As a means of indirect control one could see the recently established higher education quality assessment/accreditation system. In this case the quality criteria applied to professional programmes substantially differ from the applied to academic ones.

  5. The following ministries are responsible for TPVE:
    • The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible in general - general supervision and issuing of laws. As well, all the HEI and most of the advanced-level secondary VET institutions are overseen by the Ministry of Education and Science;
    • The Ministry of Agriculture - oversight over the agricultural HEI and secondary level VET institutions .
    • The Ministry of Welfare - oversight over higher education in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy and over the nursing schools which are one of if not the most typical TPVE institutions formally regarded to secondary education level.

However, one has to take into account that as regards HEI the role of the appropriate ministries is just an "oversight" rather than "supervision".


  1. The Ministry of Education and Science submits proposals (co-ordinating with the corresponding ministry if necessary) to the Cabinet of Ministers for the establishment of reorganisation or liquidation of HEI or secondary-level VET institutions. MES also organises the accreditation of HEI study programmes and it carries out accreditation of study programmes of secondary VET institutions.

. As regards quality assessment/accreditation processes, the accreditation of HE programmes should be looked at separately from the accreditation of secondary VET ones.

In higher education, the quality assessment is based upon a self-evaluation of the programme given by the HEI institution plus an expert visit by international peers (according to the regulations peer groups are formed in co-operation with other two Baltic states. They should contain not more than one expert from Latvia. Besides Baltic experts Western experts are involved where possible. The results of peer evaluation are then forwarded to the Accreditation commission which takes the decision. The difference in evaluation of academic and professional programmes lies in both selection of famous academics for academic programmes and high-level practitioners for professional ones) and in the different quality criteria applied. The process of accreditation is equal for both - state and private HEI.

As regards these secondary VET programmes which in fact belong to TpvE, the accreditation of programmes is carried out by the Ministry of Education and Science. In this sector, in fact a real "accreditation" is carried out by the most for programmes of the private educational institutions. In these cases the curricula are carefully studied by 1-2 specialists of the appropriate field who ware employees of PIC and those nominated by PIC. The "Accreditation commission" in this case is a group that carries out an inspection visit to the educational institution and finally takes the decision. This group usually also includes employers and social partners.

However, in the case of these state VET institutions which are under supervision of MES, the formal accreditation procedure is usually not carried out. Instead, there are "standard" or "template" curricula developed by PIC which can be adapted or modified by VET schools and the modifications are then again approved by PIC. As an alternative, a school can develop the curriculum independently and then present it to PIC for approval. In all the cases regarding "secondary" VET the main criterion for accreditation/approval is: whether the curriculum actually leads to fulfilment of qualification standards in the given profession.


The Ministry of Education and Science realises the State policy in the secondary vocational education including its advanced level.

The Ministry of Education and Science:

    • confirms the statutes of the VET institutions,
    • issues licences for opening private educational institutions,
    • issues licences for change of the profile and/or status of educational institutions according to the Law on Entrepreneurial Activities of LR,
    • co-ordinates elaboration of syllabus and curricula,
    • is responsible for rational usage of the state funding allocated for education,
    • oversees the financial activities of the educational institutions that are under its supervision,
    • determines the content and the order for training of pedagogues,
    • determines the order for improvement of professional skills and attestation of pedagogues,
    • carries out the assessment/accreditation procedure.


Other ministries

    • establish educational institutions according to the regulations laid down in the law,
    • elaborate and approve their statutes according to the template statutes,
    • determine the curriculum contents in special subjects, elaborate template curricula and guidelines for appropriate educational programmes,
    • elaborate and approve the standards of education,
    • realise financial providing of education institutions according to the state funding allocated for education and oversees the financial activities of the educational institutions.


  1. Regarding the higher education institutions there is no difference between the autonomy of HEI. The following rights of HEI are stipulated in the LHE :

1) to work out and adopt the charter of the higher education institution, to hire personnel;

2) to define both the content and the form of studies,

3) to determine additional requirements for applicants,

4) to determine the main directions of research as well as the structure and organisation of their own administration,

5) to determine the remuneration of the staff,

6) to carry out all the other duties and rights appointed by law.

The autonomy of higher education establishments is characterised by division of authority and responsibility among the state institutions and the administration of the higher education establishments, as well as between the administration of higher education establishment and academic personnel.

In fact, there is not too much direct state supervision to HEI. The supervision is carried out mainly through the financing of HE programmes, through the Higher Education council, which is appointed by the Parliament and includes academics, social partners and high-ranking ministry officials but is not subordinated to the Minister of Ed. and Sci., and through the accreditation of programmes and institutions. AS well, if necessary, the Minister of Ed. and Sci. may appoint a Convent of Advisors to a particular HEI which would then include employers, graduates and state officials.

The situation is different in the sector belonging to secondary VET. MES has appointed the State Education inspector in the districts, towns and districts of cities, who is directly subordinated to the Minister of Education and Science and is working according to the regulations confirmed by the Minister. State Education inspector maintains the relations between educational institutions, local authorities and MES. As well, oversight upon the observation of the statutes and other legislation in the education institutions and the representation of MES to local authorities and educational institutions are included in the duties of inspector.


  1. In higher education sector the present legislation does not foresee any differences between different HEI. However, in practice there are differences in the realisation of academic and professional programmes:
    • staff appointment - for professional programmes professional experience and skills can be more important then academic awards and achievements at selection of staff;
    • potential employers and specialists from outside the HEI are often involved in the curriculum development for professional study programmes (in contrary to the academic ones);
    • educational process comprises acquisition of practical skills alongside acquisition of theoretical knowledge in the professional programmes;
    • Examinations commissions at the end of professional programmes always include representatives from the industries/professional associations working outside HEI; the graduation works elaborated by students are of a more practical rather than research character.


In the sector of advanced secondary vocational education centralisation is on a much higher level compared to HEI. The centralisation is higher, for instance, in:

    • management of education institution,
    • allocation of finances and supervision on rational usage,
    • organisation of examination processes,
    • determination of the number of student enrolment.

In this sector the school headmasters are appointed by the ministry supervising the school and not elected as in the HEI; they are directly accountable to the ministry.


  1. Administration, Funding and Staff.


3.1. Again, because TPVE is not defined and does not exist as a distinct sector, the part of TPVE belonging to HEI has all the features of the higher education. The management institutions of the HEI are:

    • Constituent Assembly;
    • Senate;
    • Rector;
    • Auditing Commission;
    • Court of Arbitration.


Constituent Assembly is determining the order of election of representation, management and decision making institutions of the higher education establishments as well as the order of appealing the adopted acts. Constituent Assembly is a collegial management and decision making institution authorised by higher education establishment.

Constituent Assembly is elected, in secret voting, by professors and other academic personnel; students; representatives of from other groups of staff.

Constituent Assembly adopts and changes Constitution of the higher education establishment; elects and dismisses the rector; elects the Senate, the Auditing Commission and the Court of Arbitration.

The Senate is the collegial management and decisive institution of personnel of the higher education establishments, which confirms the order and regulations of activities of the higher education establishments, including examining and final approval of the study programmes.

The Rector represents the official administrative management and without a special authorisation he represents the higher education establishment .

The rector is elected at the Constituent's Assembly for the period which does not exceed 5 years, but no more then 2 times successively.

The rector is approved by the Cabinet of Ministers upon proposal by the Minister of Education and Science.

The Auditing Commission inspects all the activities of the institution and its correspondence to legislation.

The Court of Arbitration considers the applications of students and academic staff referring the restrictions of academic freedom and violation of rights as well as the conflicts between the officials and administration institutions of structural units.

The main structural units of HEI are faculties (departments), institutes, chairs, research laboratories and professor's groups. The structural units of the higher education establishment may have or may not have a status of a legal entity.

There may be organised college- type education under the supervision of HEI("colleges at higher HEI") in order to provide a professional education.


The situation in the advanced secondary VET sector is the following.

The head of the advanced secondary vocational education institution:

    • is appointed by the appropriate Ministry and is directly accountable to it;
    • is responsible on organisation, activity and result of educational processes,
    • appoints deputy directors and chief accountant, confirms their duties, rights and level of responsibility,
    • employs and dismisses pedagogical staff,
    • confirms salaries of pedagogical staff according to legislation,
    • reports on the activities to establishments in order of supervising.

An Advisory Board is organised in each education institution. Its structure, tasks and objectives are stipulated by its Regulations. The Advisory Board includes social partners, parents and representatives of local government.

The Teachers' Council is working in the each VET institution. The competence of the Teachers' Council includes organising and implementing of education processes, evaluating of education quality.

The teachers of related subjects are joining together on Methodological Committees for development and improving of:

    • the methods for teaching and learning,
    • the student assessment,
    • the tests for examination.

If programmes of different profiles are provided by the education institution, separate Divisions may be organised. The head of the school appoints the head of division who is responsible on planning and implementing of educational programmes.


  1. The part of TPVE provided at the universities is provided partly by the same staff that delivers academic courses and partly by additionally appointed staff of high-level professionals (who may not have very high academic awards) who often teach part-time and continue their work at the industry

  3. TPVE higher education sector. The tertiary professional / vocational education is financed by two sources - from the state budget and from the tuition fees. In state higher education establishments - the state budget makes 80%, 15% - study fees, 5% - other income. The income of private higher educational institutions mainly consists of the students' tuition fees formed and other income. The State-recognised private higher institutions get limited subsidies from the Government at the present.

The state secondary VET institutions are mainly financed from state budget. The education institutions have an authorisation to organise groups with tuition fees - full time or part time - educational programmes or courses. The funds thus obtained are summed up in a special account.

This account will be mainly used for:

  • improving of equipment,
  • remuneration of teaching staff,
  • supporting of needy students,
  • purchase or working out of teaching aids.

The accredited private education institutions get subsidies from the State.


  1. TPVE at HEI. As tertiary professional / vocational education type is not distinguished from the other higher education, the same academic characteristics refer to all the teaching staff.


Teaching staff of the HEI comprises:

    • professors and associate professors;
    • docents;
    • lecturers;
    • assistants.

The academic personnel of the higher education establishment carries out academic activities and research. The academic position is obtained by being elected. Persons with the degree of doctor habilitatus can become professors, but persons having obtained at least the doctoral degree can be elected in the post of associate professor or docents.

On the average 49% of the total academic personnel have the scientific degree doctor habilitatus or doctor.

Academic personnel of the higher institution has the right to participate in the elections of the self-government institutions of the higher education establishment and can be elected in it.

Remuneration of the teaching staff is determined by the Senate and the rate of wages can't be lower then the norms set by the Cabinet of Ministers.

TPVE at secondary VET institutions. Only a person who has higher professional education in the relevant occupational family and has complete course of trade-pedagogical education can work as a teacher in the programmes of advanced secondary vocational education. At least one year experience of practical work in enterprises is necessary for these teachers who carry out practical training. The amount of lessons for full time teacher is 24 lessons per week. The payment for 1 lesson depends on the length of pedagogical service.


The remuneration of teaching staff at HEI (except full professors since very recent time) and even more at secondary VET institutions is ranking low in the scale of the whole society therefore the teaching staff positions can not be considered as materially attractive.


  1. At HEI. Once in 6 years the members of academic personnel have the right to a paid 6 moths sabbatical leave for upgrading outside the given HEI.


At advanced secondary VET institutions. A state system for upgrading the qualification of teachers is worked out. To upgrade teachers' qualification at least once a year for 12 hours or 36 hours in three years a special program has been worked out. These upgrading programmes are financed by the state budget. Unique state program meant specially for the teachers of TPVE is not worked out yet. The personnel improves their professional qualification according to his/her initiative in the study programmes and courses, which are offered by the higher education establishment, either state, private or international institutions.


  1. Entry Requirements and Admission.


  1. At HEI. In order to participate in TPVE study programmes the applicant has to have a certificate of general secondary education (which is also obtained at 4-year vocational programmes). No previous work experience is required.

For TPVE programmes at HEI there can be special entrance requirements for such applicants who have completed secondary vocational training without completion of a full general education course..


At advanced secondary VET institutions. In order to participate in TPVE study programmes the applicant generally has to have a general secondary education (12 years) or a vocational secondary education (3-4 years after 9 grade). A previous work experience is not needed.

However, so far part of the programmes leading to advanced-level vocational education (TPVE) admit students after 9-year basic schooling and provide the advanced-level vocational training in 5 years without issuing of a secondary education certificate in between. Distinguishing between the secondary and the post-secondary components of these programmes is one of the tasks of the on-going VET reform.


  1. (please see also 4.1)

Entrance requirements to TPVE programmes at HEI as well as to these programmes of advanced-level secondary VET institutions which require a completed general secondary education, generally don't differ from those of the academic programmes.

The admission regulations consist of two parts:

    • the regulations of MES referring all professional/vocational/HE establishments,
    • the regulations laid down by the senate of the HEI or approved by Teachers' Council of advanced secondary VET institutions.

These determine:

    1. which particular elective subjects have to be taken at secondary school in order to qualify for entrance to each study programme;
    2. if and what kind of entrance exams or other sorts of assessment of the applicants shall be used;
    3. (if necessary) additional requirements such as a specific previous education/training, specific suitability requirements etc.


4.3. There are no alternative ways to enter TPVE.


  1. Since the number of study places is limited (usually by the limited state funding) the admission is selective. There is no official statistics on the rate of selectivity gathered by the Central Statistical Bureau.

However, from the reports of the education institutions it follows that competition on specially popular profiles such as economics, finance, business, business administration is higher than in the technical profiles (3-4 persons on one learning place at the first case and 1-2 persons at the second case)

The average ratio of competition (= no. of applicants / no. of students admitted is

2,6 in year 1995/96

3,1 in year 1996/97

The highest selectivity rate in higher education has been observed at the following programmes of University of Latvia :

business administration 15,3

political sciences 10,4

psychology 12,8


The average ratio of competition in the "secondary specialised" (partly TPVE) educational institutions has been (an estimate from the data of Ministry of Education and Science)

total 1,37

full-time studies 1,4

correspondence 1,16

evening studies 1,07


4.5. So far the main choice of students after secondary education has been entrance to "pure" higher education programmes and TPVE has been understood as just another option. Situation is changing at present. For instance, the TPVE programmes in banking, finance management, management in SME and also technical programmes at "colleges at HEI" have appeared as highly attractive.

They start being seen as programmes which lead to highly useful professional skills in a shorter and easier way compared to the "pure" higher education studies. The on-going reforms of VET system and its legislation will hopefully change the situation even more in this direction. Also a trend to use TPVE as an option for re-entering to the world of learning after a work experience.

There is no favourable terms for socially disadvantaged students, except the orphans.




  1. Curricula, Teaching and Learning, Examinations.


  1. According to the fact that TPVE is not yet defined as a distinct sector of the educational system, there is a rather wide variety of the length of programmes that can be attributed to TPVE:


Higher education programmes that could be attributed to TPVE 4 (3) years
Programmes of "colleges at HEI" 1,5-2,5 years,
Advanced "secondary" VET colleges 3 years after general secondary ed. or
2 years after vocational secondary ed. or
5 years after 9-year basic schooling.


  1. Programmes at HEI. The period of practical training for the teachers' education is 8 weeks determined by the regulations of the Ministry of Education and Science. In all the other fields of education the period of practice is conditioned by each higher education establishment individually. In the field of engineering and technology the duration of practical placement may be up to 10 months.

Each study year is divided into two semesters, with an examination session after each of them (usually up to 5 written or oral exams). At the end of the TPVE-type higher education programmes there are Final(State) Examinations and/or a Diploma Work (engineering project ).

"Advanced secondary" TPVE programmes. Major phases during the course of study on advanced secondary vocational education are approximately :

    • theoretical studies-50%,
    • practical training (including laboratories, individual or team projects, workshops etc.)-30%,
    • practice period in enterprises or industry-20%,
    • interim examination-(3-5exams per semester),
    • final examination.


  1. Alongside with full-time studies, part - time studies and distance courses are available at TPVE level of education.

  3. The period of part-time or distance studies is 1-2 years longer than the one of full-time studies. The number of students in part-time studies averages to 30% of the whole bulk.

  5. TPVE at HEI. The dominant teaching and learning methods TPVE as compared to those in university study programmes do not differ too sharply. While teaching at TPVE programmes more attention is paid to the acquisition of practical skills: practical training in the laboratories, study works and projects, practical training and placements at corresponding enterprises.
  6. TPVE at advanced-level "secondary" VET institutions. Again, because the TPVE programmes are not a distinct art of the sector, the methods are more or less similar to the ones generally used in other secondary VET programmes. One could only indicate that more emphasis is put on problem-solving, team work, non-standard situations


  7. Programmes at HEI. There is no essential difference in the assessment and types of examinations in the programmes meant for professional higher or academic education. A credit system rather similar to ECTS is being introduced. Each study year is divided into two semesters, with an examination session after each of them (usually up to 5 written or oral exams). At the end of the TPVE-type higher education programmes there are Final(State) Examinations and/or a Diploma Work (engineering project ). So far the oral examination system is dominating.
  8. "Advanced secondary" TPVE programmes. The dominant assessment and examination modes in advanced secondary vocational education as compared to those in secondary vocational education mainly do not differ. There are oral/written exams, graduation thesis or a final qualification exam.


  9. The following day- to- day activities are being used for enhancing the quality of teaching and learning:
    • surveys of employers needs are carried out,
    • highly qualified specialists are used as short -term teachers,
    • social partners are involved in assessment of teaching and learning process, provision and supervision of students practice periods.


  1. As regards quality assessment/accreditation processes, the accreditation of HE programmes should be looked at separately from the accreditation of secondary VET ones.

TPVE at HEI. The accreditation of TPVE study programmes takes place at least once in six years. This procedure is organised by the Ministry of Education and Science in accordance with the regulations confirmed by the Cabinet of Ministers. State-recognised diplomas can be issued by the accredited higher education establishments only. The decisions of accreditation of higher education establishment or study programmes are adopted by the Council of Higher Education which is approved by the foreign expertise opinion.

In higher education, the quality assessment is based upon a self-evaluation of the programme given by the HEI institution plus an expert visit by international peers (according to the regulations peer groups are formed in co-operation with other two Baltic states. They should contain not more than one expert from Latvia. Besides Baltic experts Western experts are involved where possible. The results of peer evaluation are then forwarded to the Accreditation commission which takes the decision. The difference in evaluation of academic and professional programmes lies in both selection of famous academics for academic programmes and high-level practitioners for professional ones) and in the different quality criteria applied. The process of accreditation is equal for both - state and private HEI.


As regards these secondary VET programmes which in fact belong to TPVE, the accreditation of programmes is carried out by the MES. According to the regulations regarding secondary VET institutions Minister appoints the chairman and the secretary of the Accreditation Commission. All-in-all the MES Department of Professional Education is responsible for the quality assessment. Head of Accreditation Commission, who is one of the officials from the Department of Professional education, chooses experts from the appropriate branch, usually including 1-2 specialists of the appropriate field who are employees of PIC and those nominated by PIC.

In this sector, in fact a real "accreditation" is carried out by the most for programmes of the private educational institutions. The "Accreditation commission" in this case is a group that carries out an inspection visit to the educational institution and finally takes the decision. This group usually also includes employers and social partners.

However, in the case of these state VET institutions which are under supervision of MES, the formal accreditation procedure is usually not carried out. Instead, there are "standard" or "template" curricula developed by PIC which can be adapted or modified by VET schools and the modifications are then again approved by PIC. As an alternative, a school can develop the curriculum independently and then present it to PIC for approval. In all the cases regarding "secondary" VET the main criterion for accreditation/approval is: whether the curriculum actually leads to fulfilment of qualification standards in the given profession.



  1. Qualifications or Credentials and their Professional and academic Value.


  1. TPVE at HEI. Graduates of higher education TPVE programmes receive diplomas testifying the qualification of professional education on certain qualification level. Upon graduation the following types of qualification are awarded:
    • agronoms - agronomist,
    • ekonomists -economist,
    • inženieris - engineer,
    • tulks -interpreter,
    • banku darbinieks - bank employee,
    • sociālais darbinieks - social worker etc.

In the case of "pure" higher education programmes where the duration of studies is no less than 4 years, the name of diploma is "diploms par augstāko profesionālo izglītību" (diploma on professional higher education), in some cases also a diploma of bakalaurs (bachelor)with the name of professional qualification added.

In the programmes of "colleges at HEI" the status of diplomas remains unclear until adoption of the Law on professional education. Since a diploma of "higher education" so far can be conferred if the duration of studies is no less than 4 years but these programmes are substantially shorter (and no understanding of "associate degree" exists in the legislation so far), the legal status of these diplomas at present can only be a status of a "specialised secondary" education diploma.


TPVE at advanced-level "secondary" VET institutions. The legal name of diploma so far is "diploms par vidējo speciālo izglītību" - diploma of specialised secondary education. The diploma testifies the qualification of professional education on certain qualification level as technicians or associated professionals:

    • Nursing and midwifery professionals/associated professionals,
    • Pharmaceutical assistant,
    • Travel consultants and organisers,
    • Administrative secretaries and related associate professionals,
    • Bookkeepers,
    • Customs and border inspectors,
    • Social worked associate professionals,
    • Decorators and commercial designers,
    • Agronomy and forestry technicians,
    • Farming and forestry advisers,
    • Computer equipment operators,
    • Ships' deck officers and pilots . etc.


  1. Important comment! Answering to this question, we must first stress that in the existing practice of international credential evaluation it is a prerogative of the "receiving" country to find equivalencies to a foreign qualification in its own educational system. In fact, according to, for instance, the spirit of the Lisbon convention, signed this year, the country in which the qualification is obtained should not "teach" other states how to evaluate its credentials.

    For this reason we hereby declare that the "international equivalencies" mentioned in this point are just our guess on how the qualifications could be compared and that the countries mentioned here have not been asked to approve that they evaluate Latvian credentials in such a way.


    TPVE at HEI. The TPVE (4 year study period) of Latvia can be roughly compared to a diploma of a German "Fachhochschule". The 1,5-2 year programmes of the "colleges at HEI" lead to qualifications that could be compared to French Baccalaureat+1 or Baccalaureat+2.


    TPVE at advanced "secondary" VET institutions. Part of these programmes might at present compare approximately to French Baccalaureat professional +1 or +2, some of them (e.g. nursing schools) are already at a level that might be compared to Dutch Hogescholen. At the end of the reform of tertiary VET in Latvia these programmes should all become comparable to programmes of Dutch Hogescholen or Finnish Ammatikorkeakoulut.


  3. Two major obstacles make it difficult to give a precise answer to this question. Firstly, both the TPVE programmes at HEI and the advanced-secondary VET programmes are rather new and there is no statistical data regarding the employment of their graduates apart from general employment statistics.
  4. Secondly, since the economy of the country is still in transfer, a substantial part of holders of higher education degrees./qualifications actually work at job positions which in fact do not completely use their academic knowledge but rather their professional skills only.

    Of course, it could be said that an engineer with a full engineering education of Technical university is more research-oriented than a graduate of TPVE engineering programmes and therefore the first of them can rather solve complicated problems or create new technologies while the second should rather maintain the production processes. As well, it should be clear that a master of Business administration should solve global economic problems or lead business at a huge enterprise while a graduate from a banking college should work at bank etc. In fact, at the today's distorted labour market situation when a great part of MBA's work as regular bank operators or accountants, when engineers often do jobs where a qualification of a technician would be suitable, the simple logical rules do not work so well. On the other hand, the present situation provides an evidence that a "mid-level" in professional education such as TPVE is extremely useful, that the legislation has to be changed to find a niche for it and that more TPVE programmes should emerge as the result of VET reform.

  5. Again, since TPVE is not strictly defined as an education sector, the outcomes can be different at different levels and institutions. generally, TPVE qualifications are viewed as complete professional qualifications, which gives the right to start practical work right after the graduation. At present there no other certificates/licenses are required upon graduation in Latvia, except in the nursing field where the certificate is still obtained without additional examination.
  6. It has to be taken into account that in the present period when the legislation of Latvia is being harmonised with the one of the EU, more regulated professions will certainly appear in the near future which will result in additional certification/licensing of graduates by state or municipal institutions or professional associations.


  7. TPVE at HEI. 4-year "pure" higher education programmes as such do not give direct access to Master's studies since a bachelor's degree is required for that. At present transition measures are being worked out by the HEI to give a possibility to graduates of professional programmes to enter Master's programmes. After having fulfilled the integrated program of professional and academic education or by additional one year study period one can obtain the degree of bachelor.

Graduates of the 1,5-2 year programmes of "colleges at HEI" can be transferred to bachelor's degree programmes and a substantial part of credits can be transferred.

TPVE programmes at advanced "secondary" VET institutions. The graduates of these programmes encounter greater problems in transfer to university programmes since this sector is formally regarded to secondary education sector and transfer of credits from secondary institutions to higher education programmes is not internationally appreciated. Thus, formally, the graduates can be admitted to higher education studies on equal terms with general secondary education graduates.

In order to facilitate further studies of the graduates from advanced secondary VET institutions, some HEI co-operate with advanced secondary VET institutions in order to develop courses that can give higher education credits upon admission to HEI. To do this, teaching staff of HEI participate in the development of these courses and/or examinations.

  1. Links to the employment System.
  1. On the whole the links between TPVE and employment system are just developing. The links between VET system and employers were in fact lost during the transitional period of the early 1990's. Historically part of the VET schools were even located inside the biggest enterprises and most of the schools sent their students to the enterprises to complete practical training and practical placements. Many of these big enterprises which were completely oriented towards the soviet economy and soviet market collapsed during the first years of independence. The co-operation between VET and employers is being re-established in new ways during the last 1-2 years and the main actors from the employer's side so far are the Chamber of Commerce and industry, Chamber of Craftsmanship and Confederation of Employers. Professional bodies in Latvia so far exist just in a few professions but new ones appear in the recent years and their role is increasing with the ongoing work towards integration into the internal market of EU.
  2. No regular surveys on employment of the graduates from concrete schools or programmes are available so far. Since 2 years the MES carries out a survey uf unemplyed graduates from secondary VET schools including these which actually belong to TPVE.
  3. One of the most important information sources at this time is the Labour force survey of the Central Statistical Bureau, but this survey does not provide a breakdown by concrete programmes and even not a strict distinction between different types of VET. Some of the VET institutions have begun surveying of their graduates in the recent years . As well, both the Chamber of Commerce and industry and the Confederation of Employers have recently begun their own surveys which give at least a partial picture of the situation.

    National Observatory with the financial and methodological support of the European Training Foundation is developing as an institution which hopefully will be able to provide reports on labour market studies in future.


  4. The actual discussions about TPVE were started only in the last years regarding the preparation of the new Law on Vocational Education. The working group drafting the Law on professional education includes representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and industry and the Confederation of Employers as well as representatives members of the Trade Unions. The most significant discussions began in 1996 within Phare projects "Vocational Education and Training Reform", "Business Education Reform" which resulted with a seminar in last March. The members of the working group who were drafting the Law on VET had participated in this seminar.

  6. In the biggest towns of Latvia (Ventspils, Valmiera, Rēzekne, Liepāja, Daugavpils) the regional higher education establishments are being formed for providing the TPVE. In setting up the conceptual development project of the above mentioned study programmes the representatives of local-government and the most important members of the employers are involved.

  8. In every day life the employers are invited as consultants or experts with the aim to be involved in developing the new educational programmes, part time teaching, advising and consulting the students at practice or supervising graduation theses. They are also invited to participate as lecturers at the teachers' upgrading seminars as well as to be members of the Higher Education Council and School Boards of secondary vocational/technical schools. In the recent years representatives of employers have also participated in the final examinations as well as in the accreditation of TPVE programmes.

  10. On the whole the co-operation between TPVE education establishments and the employment system is not satisfactory because of several reasons :
    • absence of deep traditions (they were not formed during the period of planned economics);
    • absence of qualification and experience for people (on both sides - educators and employers);
    • the lack of a national strategy for the improvement and development of these relationships.


8.Implementation of Reforms since the Early 1990`s.


  1. In the 1980`s TPVE was not widely developed in Latvia. Basically it was offered to the graduates of the advanced secondary VET schools where the students were trained in different technical and economical lines and obtained a certain occupational qualification. After passing the new Law on Education in 1991 this type of education was named Advanced Secondary Vocational Education. It was carried out at college type VET institutions as 5-year programmes for holders of 9-year basic education certificates or 2-3 year programmes for 12-year general secondary schooling.
  2. The 1995 Law on Higher Education introduced a college type education at the HEI.


  3. The main contributing factors for the TPVE are :
    • changes at the employment market are demanding new personal qualifications for the employees.
    • new international relations - in 1995 Latvia became a EU associated country, which sets an obligation for Latvia to develop the human resources according to the tendencies set by the EU.
    • new philosophy on the lifelong education.
    • the development of partnership between the Latvian educational institutions and the similar institutions of EU and CEE countries.
    • international projects for the development of new curricula, development of teaching aids teachers training.
    • more intensive learning and using the information acquired at international seminars, conferences .
    • students` and teachers' exchange in the EU and other countries.
    • economical considerations - shorter time for education of qualified employees.


  1. Main reason for impediment of realisation TPVE reforms are:
    • absence of short and long-term strategy for education reforms in general on the state level;
    • frequent changes in the structure and personnel on the state education steering level;
    • insufficient professional qualification of the people involved in the reforms;
    • insufficient financing of educational system on the whole, as well as for the TPVE;
    • the collapse of the labour market at the beginning of the 1990;
    • week transparency of labour market's development tendencies, absence of labour market researches;
    • week influence and support of labour market to the TPVE reforms and development .


  1. , 8. 5. In the 1990`ies international participation and exchange of information promoted the development of the reforms. The most intensive co-operation in the field of TPVE has been carried out with Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. Taking into consideration the local situation in Latvia, none of the systems of these countries can be transferred to Latvia as such. It is likely however, that after the reform of TPVE will be completed, the TPVE institutions in Latvia could become most similar to Dutch Hogescholen or Finish Ammatikorkeakoulut .


8.6. The following activities have been carried out with the assistance of other countries and foundations (TEMPUS, Phare Programmes, bilateral contracts with Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway):

    • upgrading teachers,
    • developing new curricula,
    • purchase or developing new teaching aids,
    • developing a new system of assessment and examination,
    • developing a new system of accreditation of educational institutions and programmes,
    • upgrading the people involved in organisation and administration of education.


  1. Recent Reform Debates and Efforts and Expected Future Development.

9.1. Regarding to the questions of this chapter the main debates are addressed to:

    • Legislation, governmental policy and supervision,
    • Management, administration, funding and staff,
    • Links to employment system,
    • Qualifications and their value,
    • Curricula and teaching and learning.

The need to develop a White Paper on Vocational Education and Training (including TPVE)in Latvia was strongly encouraged. There is expected future development by working out a new Law on Vocational Education and Training, which regulated:

    • the principles of decentralisation, autonomy,
    • lump-sum-finance system,
    • the role of social partners,
    • managing quality systems.


9.2.At the moment there is huge necessity to arrange the system. The main attention is paid to put in order the legislation. The first result is that in 1997 the Structure of Classification of Educational Programmes (adapted ISCED) has been worked out and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, and accordingly there is a certain place for TPVE in the education system. Five occupational and educational qualification levels (described by CEDEFOP) are under debate as well as facilitating progression from VET into higher Education.

The most attention in public debates are given on:

    • status, commonalties and differences between the education provided at "colleges at HEI" and advanced secondary vocational education,
    • responsibility for the oversight of TPVE (degree of autonomy and supervision),
    • establishment and approval/accreditation of TPVE programmes,
    • teaching staff,
    • entry requirements and admission,
    • structure of curricula,
    • links to the employment systems and further education system,
    • qualification and their value,
    • examination system.


  1. New Draft of Law on Education and the Draft Law on Vocational Education are in the process of being worked out. Within the Phare projects "Higher Vocational Education and Training Reform" there will be developed :
  • Strategy for higher professional and vocational education;
  • Strategy for Regional Training and Examination Centres (including initial vocational education and training reform, post-secondary vocational education, retraining of unemployed persons, re-qualification, etc.)


  1. The department of Higher Education and Science at the Ministry of Education and Science has worked out the regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers to guarantee the realisation of college level education programmes at the universities (the Law of Higher Education Establishments permits to organise college level programmes but does not regulate them).

  3. The future co-operation with European and other countries is necessary :
  • for the exchange of information of TPVE development and reform tendencies;
  • for comparison of Latvian national TPVE with the similar education in EU and CEEC and;
  • to organise teachers and students exchange.


  1. In the coming 10 years the TPVE could be developed in the following way:
  • to develop the tertiary professional / vocational education institutional network,
  • to increase the number of profiles and study programmes;
  • to increase the number of students and graduates;
  • to offer more educational possibilities which coincide with the increase the demands of the labour market;
  • to develop the network of supporting institutions which would assist educators in organising, realising and assessing tertiary professional / vocational education.


Annex. I