Education system of Latvia

ducation system of Latvia

Description for use with diploma supplements of the year 2001.[1]
(to this description in Latvian - skat šo aprakstu arī latviski)


Secondary education (duration -12 years)

School year. The regular school year (excluding examination periods at grades nine and twelve) lasts 36 weeks, from the beginning of September through to the end of May. The minimum number of 40-minute lessons per week is 20 at grade one, 29 at grade five, 34 at grade nine and 36 at grade twelve.

Basic education (pamatizglītība) begins at six or seven years of age and lasts a total of 9 years. Graduates receive a nine-year basic school certificate (apliecība par pamatizglītību).

General upper secondary education (vispārējā vidējā izglītība includes studies of at least 12 subjects, of which 5 (Latvian language and literature, mathematics, foreign language, history, physical education) are compulsory. No less than seven elective subjects are chosen out of the following: physics, chemistry, biology, computer science and information technology, economic geography, basics of business, technical drawing, visual arts, housekeeping, second and third foreign language; human, nature and society; music, history of culture, history of religion, amateur performances; or other subjects proposed by the school and approved by the Ministry of Education and Science. Certificate of general secondary education (atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību) is awarded upon completion of the courses of at least twelve elective subjects and successful passing of five final examinations (two set nationally, three upon choice of the candidate). Since 1999 in general secondary education a transition is being carried out from choice of subjects to choice among four different programmes of general secondary education. However, the higher education graduates of 2002 still have completed their general secondary education as described above.

Higher education

Access to higher education. All holders of general secondary education certificates have access to higher education. The 4-year vocational secondary education programmes (but not the 2- and 3-year ones) also meet the standard of general secondary education.  Thus, graduates of general secondary education and 4-year vocational programmes meet the general admission requirements. However, the universities are free to set specific requirements, e.g. to determine a list of elective subjects that should have been taken at the secondary school level to qualify for admission to a particular programme.

Admission procedures may vary depending upon the competition level to a particular programme. The admission procedures range from 1 to 4 competitive entrance examinations to a ranking of applicants according to secondary school final marks or results of centralised national school-leaving examinations in subjects relevant to the programme in question, the latter may be combined with an interview by the admissions board.

Higher education system

The Law on Higher Education Establishments stipulates that HEIs can deliver academic and professional higher education programmes. Some of the professional HE programmes however include the Bachelor’s standard and are therefore regarded to as university-type programmes the diagram below. These programmes that do not include Bachelor’s standard are regarded to as non-university type professional HE programmes.



Academic higher education (ISCED-97 level 5A). Academic higher education programmes are research-based; they comprise a thesis at the end of each stage.

Bakalaurs degree is awarded after completion of the first stage of academic studies, duration of programmes being  6-8 semesters of full-time studies. The total workload of bakalaurs programmes is 120-160 Latvian (180-240 ECTS) credits. These programmes invlude: compulsory part – no less than 50 (75 ECTS) credits, elective part ≥20 (30 ECTS) credits, thesis  ≥10 (15 ECTS) credits, the rest is student’s free choice. The compulsory part includes basics, principles, structure and methodology of the particular branch of science - ≥25 (37.5 ECTS) credits, its history and contemporary problems ≥10 credits (15 ECTS), its state of the art and interdisciplinary aspects ≥15 (22.5 ECTS) credits.


Maģistrs degree is awarded after the second stage of academic education and requires total duration of university studies no less than 5 years[2].

Degrees in medicine and dentistry (6 and 5 years of studies respectively), are considered equal to Maģistrs.


Professional higher education. There are two types of professional higher education in Latvia:

·       University-type professional studies, ISCED-97 level 5A.This type of professional studies includes the compulsory part of bakalaurs studies (apart from thesis) ≥ 70 (105 ECTS) credits. Graduates of these programmes are admitted to Master’s studies without additional requirements.

Such professional programmes which provide a professional qualification to holders of bakalaurs degree, also belong to the university-type.

·       Non-university type professional studies, ISCED-97 level 5B. These programmes are mainly aimed at acquiring of professional skills and they don’t comprise a standard for an academic degree. This group of professional higher education programmes in some fields may be organised in two cycles with award of a first-level professional higher education diploma (also called college diploma) and a Level IV professional qualification (according to CEDUC classification) after the first cycle.

At the end of the second cycle (or at the end of the one-tier programme) a second-level professional higher education diploma and a Level-V professional qualification is awarded (see diagram).

Since December 2000 the Law on Higher educational establishments provides for award of professional bachelor and Master degrees to the graduates of professional study programmes. Contents of the respective programmes are determined by the State standard of professional higher education (Cabinet regulation No 481 of 2001) and the standard of the profession in question.


Doctoral studies. From January 1, 2000 onwards a single type of doctoral degree Doktors is being awarded in Latvia.

The degree of Maģistrs (or the equivalent) is required for admission to doctoral studies. The degree Doktors can be achieved at public defence of a doctoral thesis which may be a result of three to four years of full-time doctoral studies at an university or an equivalent amount of independent research while working at a university, research institution, etc.

Latvian Council of Science appoints promotion councils and sets the procedures for award of doctoral degrees.


Grading system. The new State standards for higher education set the following ten-point grading system.  

Grade Meaning Approx. ECTS equivalent
10 izcili (with distinction) A
9 teicami (excellent) A
8 ļoti labi (very good) B
7 labi (good) C
6 gandrīz labi
( almost good)
5 viduvēji (satisfactory) E

 At present some higher education institutions may still use a different pass mark or attach a different meaning to the grades. In some cases the grades 9 and 10 can only be reached upon completion of additional requirements.

Credit point system. Latvian credit point system is different from yet compatible to ECTS. Latvian credit point is defined as a one-week full-time study workload. Thus, an average workload of a full-time study year in most cases is 40 credit points. Transfer of Latvian credit points into ECTS credit points requires multiplication by a factor of 1.5.


Quality assurance. According to the Declaration on Co-operation in Quality Assurance of Higher Education in the Baltic States of October 25, 1994, the quality assessment in all the three Baltic States is carried out using international experts from the three Baltic States and beyond. In 2001 the first accreditation round in Latvia was completed. Repeated assessments should take place no later than after six years.

Institutions of higher education

Since all the institutions of higher education in Latvia offer both academic and professional programmes, they can rather be classified according to the level of degrees they offer than clearly divided into university and non-university type institutions.

Universities cover one or several significant fields completely and they are entitled to confer doctoral degrees. According to decision of Latvian Council of Higher Education the following institutions of higher education have university status:

  • University of Latvia;

  • Riga Technical University (with Riga Business Institute)

  • Latvia University of Agriculture;

  • Daugavpils University;

  • Medical Academy of Latvia.

All the other institutions of higher education, which have no university status, are usually specialised in one or several specific fields.

 Institutions granting doctoral degrees:

  • Latvian Academy of Arts;

  • Latvia Academy of Culture;

  • Latvian Academy of Music;

  • Liepāja Pedagogical Academy,

  • Latvian Academy of Sports Education;

  • Police Academy of Latvia.

 State institutions granting degrees below doctoral level:

  • Banking Institution of Higher Education;

  • Latvian Maritime Academy;

  • National Academy of Defence;

  • Rēzekne Higher Education Institution;

  • Riga Graduate School of Law;

  • Riga Higher School of Pedagogy and School Management;

  • Stockholm School of Economics in Riga;

  • The Ventspils College;

  • Vidzeme College of Higher Education.

Private institutions. The following private institutions of higher education in Latvia run accredited programmes:

  • Baltic Russian Institute;

  • Business Institute RIMPAK Livonia;

  • Business School Turība;

  • Economics and Culture Higher School;

  • Higher School of Psychology.

  • Higher School of Social Work and Social Pedagogy “Attīstība”;

  • Information System Management Institute;

  • Institute of Social Technologies;

  • International Institute of Practical Psychology;

  • Latvian Evangelic Lutheran Christian Academy;

  • Riga Aeronautical Institute;

  • Riga International College of Economics and Business Administration;

  • Transport and Telecommunications’ Institute

 Student statistics. A sharp increase of student number over the last years brought total enrolment in academic year 2001/2002 up to 110,500 students. The most popular fields are social sciences 51% of student population, teacher training 16 % and engineering 10%. Humanities attracted and natural sciences each have 7% of students, services 3%, health care 4%, agriculture 2%. 12395 students (11.2%) studied in Master degree programmes and 1301 students (1.2%) in doctoral programmes. 

[1] The description of secondary education does not include the changes introduced in 1999/2000 since no graduates have followed the new curricula

[2] State standards of academic and professional higher education (Cabinet regulations No 2 of 2002 and No 481 of 2001 respectively) stipulate that form 2002 onwards no less than 80 (120 ECTS) credits are required to award an academic master’s degree and no less than 40 (60 ECTS) credits to award a professional one.