Latvia offers an educational system on part with the rest of Europe in the full range with pre-school, a nine year basic education, as well as secondary and university level education.
Universities and other institutions of higher education award graduates with bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctoral degrees.
Both academic and professional programmes are available at the post-secondary level, including courses for lawyers, teachers, engineers, doctors, and almost any conceivable field. In higher education, Latvia has a national system of credit points. One Latvian national credit point is defined as a one-week full-time student’s study workload. The average full-time workload of an academic year in most higher education programmes is 40 credits. The Latvian credit point system is compatible with ECTS (The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). The number of ECTS credits is found by multiplying the number of Latvian credit points by 1.5
Graduates of first level professional higher education programmes (college education) receive 120 ECTS credits. Such study programmes are geared to prepare their graduates for specific parts of the labour market. Graduates of the first level professional higher education programmes can continue their studies in related second level professional higher education programmes or professional bachelor programmes.
Second level professional higher education programmes can result in at least 60 ECTS for holders of the bachelor's degree or at least 240 ECTS for graduates of secondary school.
Degrees in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy (5 and 6 year courses of study are available) are equivalent to a master's degree and graduates of these programmes can continue their studies at the doctoral level.
A master’s degree or its equivalent is required for admission to doctoral studies and a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent is required for admission to studies for the master’s degree. A doctoral degree is awarded after successfully presenting a doctoral thesis and passing exams in the specific discipline, and this will take three to four years. The doctoral thesis must be the product of original research.
The admission process to institutions of higher education involves filling out the application and provide proof of having completed their secondary education, entrance exams, registration and matriculation.
To study in an institution of higher education in Latvia, one must be a resident of Latvia or possess a permanent residence permit if they are non-European. Citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area need only present a valid passport or identity card to study in Latvia.
In Latvia both the Atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību (a certificate of general secondary education) and Diploms par profesionālo vidējo izglītību (diploma of secondary vocational education) are considered as equivalent to a full secondary education.
Admission procedures and requirements vary depending on the university, as well as on the level of competition to enter a particular programme.
Specific provisions for foreign students
Foreign students can be admitted to Latvian institutions of higher education if their secondary education qualifications correspond to the Latvian standard. The overall procedure of evaluation and recognition of foreign credentials is stated in Article 111 of Latvia’s Law on Education.
The evaluation of academic degrees and other qualifications acquired abroad, as well as the evaluation of secondary education diplomas and certificates is carried out by the Academic Information Centre. The respective institution of higher education takes a decision based on the statement of comparability issued by the Academic Information Centre on recognition of the academic degree or qualification acquired abroad.
The recognition of partial studies in higher education acquired in another country is carried out by that institution of higher education where the student continues his/her education. The university determines to which study programme the partial studies abroad correspond, in what mode the student can continue the studies in the respective study programme and, if necessary, what additional requirements must be met in order to continue studies in the respective study programme in Latvia.
There are no separate requirements and selection procedures specifically aimed at foreign students. Higher education institutions in Latvia do ask all students for grades obtained in secondary school in subjects that are relevant to the studies to which they are applying. For example, for studying medicine, the courses taken during secondary education must include biology and chemistry. Additional entrance exams may also be required. The knowledge of the foreign students is tested according to general regulations applying to all students, and it must correspond to entrance requirements of the respective school of higher education. There must also be sufficient competence in the language of instruction.
There are no unified language requirements aimed at foreign students in Latvia. Usually study programmes are offered in either Latvian, English, or Russian, or a combination of these languages. The higher education institutions do not strictly define the need for internationally recognized language tests (some schools do ask for IELTS or TOEFEL tests). Students need a certain fluency in the language in which they plan to study. Language skills are usually checked in discussions with the student. An institution of higher education may also organise its own formal testing for language skills.
Foreign students who meet the following requirements may be enrolled in institutions of higher education of Latvia when:
- the students’ certificate of secondary education meets Latvian education standards;
- the students’ level of knowledge corresponds to the level required for admission to the respective institution and programme of higher education;
- the students have a sufficient level of proficiency in the language(s) of instruction.
The registration of applicants and the closing dates for applications vary in different higher education institutions. Students wishing to study in Latvia should be in direct contact with the universities to which they are applying.
See detailed information in Entrance Requirements.
The academic year in most of the higher educational institutions starts at the beginning of September, there are 40 weeks divided into 2 semesters.
lectures: September to December
exams: December / January
lectures: February to the end of May
exams: May / June
The cost of studies depends on the institution and the course of study. The costs range from 1,300 EUR per year in training for social work (4 years of study) to 13,000 EUR per year for a degree in Dentistry (5 years) and up to 22,000 EUR for Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Detailed information on tuition fees is provided with each study programme description in the studyinlatvia.eu database.
Average food prices:
- sausages - EUR 5/kg;
- chicken - EUR 4.5/kg;
- milk - EUR 0.8/litre;
- bread - EUR 0.5-1;
- potatoes - EUR 0.5/kg;
The cost of a meal in a restaurant begins at EUR 7
The ERASMUS+ grant set by the European Commission for European Voluntary Service participants on exchanges to Latvia is set at 550 EUR per month (more about the cost of living in different cities).
Visas and residence permits
Visas (if needed) and residence permits for persons interested in studying in Latvia are acquired as part of the application and enrolment process. Based on a positive assessment of the applicant’s education documents provided by the Academic Information Centre, and a successful enrolment application, the university contacts the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA) to apply for a 3-month entry visa for citizens of countries who require a visa. EU citizens can spend up to 90 days a year in Latvia without a visa if they have a valid passport or identity card (for a full list of countries whose citizens do not require a visa to enter Latvia see the OCMA website). When the student has arrived, a residence permit is applied for by the university on behalf of the student for the period of studies in which the student is enrolled.
Some universities have their own student dormitories, others provide assistance in the search for housing (studyinlatvia.lv database provides information on accommodation arrangements offered by each university in the section on Provider Information). To save time, be sure to ask the foreign student advisor at your chosen university for advice in finding an apartment.