Latvia offers two types of approach in higher education – academic courses and professional courses. In 2009/10 there were just over 112,000 students enrolled on over 900 programmes in Latvia (Ministry of Education, 2011) with 94,000 on Bachelors programmes, 16,000 on Masters programmes and 2,000 taking Doctorates. In addition to state-run institutions, higher education is also offered by private education institutions, the latter mainly offering study programmes in areas such as law, management and finance.
The Latvian Government signed up to the Bologna Agreement in 1999 and operates a three cycle system of higher education. One further outcome of the Bologna process was that Latvian institutions are now able to offer professional degrees alongside academic degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Universities in Latvia are autonomous although they are overseen by the government. The system is split into two parts – state run and privately financed institutions established by legal bodies. Higher education is offered by 6 universities, 26 state institutions of higher education and 26 colleges. In total there are 58 higher education institutions – 37 are public and 21 are higher education institutions established by legal bodies.
There is no centralised admissions system for universities, so each institution is responsible for its own admissions. There are two routes into higher education from secondary school: students should hold either an Atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību (comprehensive general secondary education certificate) or a Diploms par profesionālo vidējo izglītību (vocational qualification) However, many institutions also require an entrance examination to be taken and passed before entry can occur.
The State Academic Higher Education Standard determines the scope and content of degrees offered in the higher education sector. Grades in first degrees are usually awarded on a 10 point scale with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest with a pass mark set at 4.
In the first cycle, Bachelors programmes have a nominal duration of between 6 to 8 semesters (3-4 years), representing 120-160 Latvian credits. One Latvian credit corresponds with 1.5 ECTS. After completion of the programme students obtain a Bakalaura Diploms degree.
The second cycle of study for a Masters programme has an average duration of 1 to 2 years so the minimum study period required for a Bachelors and then a Masters is five year in total but could last as long as seven years. When the Masters programme is completed, which includes writing a Dissertation, students obtain a Mağistra Diploms degree.
The third cycle is the Doctoral level and this requires entrants to have completed a Masters degree first. The majority of third cycle programmes last between 3 and 4 years. The doctorate degree programme leads to the award of the Doktora grāds degree.
In addition there are also: