In Latvia, there are a number of higher education programs with English-language courses, especially among the health sciences. If you go to a vocational education, you can get an internship in Latvia.
Latvia is the middle of the three Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, bordering Belarus and Russia. Latvia was established as an independent republic in 1918, but was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940. In 1991, the country seceded from the Soviet Union and became an independent democratic republic, and in May 2004, Latvia became a full member of both the EU and NATO.
Since independence, major reforms have taken place in a number of areas. One of the first reforms was adopted in the education sector, where in 1995 a new law on higher education was implemented, which, among other things, meant greater independence for the individual institutions.
In Riga, there is a high school that specializes in Nordic languages, where all students must choose Swedish, Norwegian or Danish as a foreign language in addition to English.
The largest part of Latvia’s population lives in the capital Riga, which is increasingly a popular tourist destination.
Vocational training in Latvia
There are two types of vocational education in Latvia. Both types are based on primary school:
- Arodizglītība (vocational education) lasts two to three years and trains for skilled work. They take place at arodskolas (vocational schools). These courses do not provide access to higher education in Latvia, but one must supplement with an additional one year of training at a vidējā profesionālā izglītība to get this opportunity. Students are typically between 16 and 19 years old.
- Vidējā profesionālā izglītība (combined vocational and upper secondary education) lasts 4 years or 1 to 2 years if taken as an extension of a vocational education. The educations take place at arodvidusskolas (technical schools). You learn not only to perform, but also to plan skilled work. The programs also provide access to higher education in Latvia. Students are typically between 16 and 20 years old.
If you are thinking of taking all or part of your own internship abroad, read the section on internships abroad for vocational education under the section Primary school and upper secondary education.
Higher education in Latvia
The higher education institutions can be both public and private. The private educational institutions and their educations must be approved by the Latvian authorities in order to be publicly recognized.
The higher education institutions include universitãtes, akademijas and instituts as well as augstskolas. While Latvijas Universitãte offers classical university programs, other universities offer programs in specific areas such as agronomy (Latvijas Lauksaimniecības universitãte) or engineering work (Daugavpils universitãte).
The other higher education institutions are located within e.g. business economics, law, banking, art, sports and pedagogy, etc. In addition, there is koledza, which offers short higher vocational educations.
The Latvian Accreditation Council for Higher Education – publishes a list of educational institutions and their approved programs on its website.
In Latvia you can take the following types of higher education:
- Koledza’s diploma is 2- to 3-year higher education- oriented educations. These educations can also give merit to a profesionalaisbakalaurs, the Latvian professionsbachelor education. These are typically educations within e.g. banking, business, IT, law (legal secretary) and technician.
- Bakalaurs, the Latvian bachelor’s program, lasts 3 to 4 years.
- Profesionalais bakalaurs, the Latvian professional bachelor program, lasts 4 years.
- Magistrs and profesionalais magistrs, the Latvian master’s program, last 1 to 2 years after a bachelor’s degree, however, a minimum of a total of 5 years.
- Doctoral, the Latvian PhD program is 3- to 4-year research programs.
Both the academic and professionally oriented bachelors can provide access to relevant academic and professionally oriented magistrates. They all end with an assignment or dissertation.
The 4- to 5-year vocational higher education programs, which can also be taken as short 1- to 2-year programs in continuation of a bachelor’s degree, are being phased out in these years.
The 5- to 6-year educations for dentist and doctor and others. is not covered by the bachelor / magistrs structure.
1 year of education in Latvia equals 40 points. Ie. 1 Latvian point is converted into 1.5 ECTS points.
The academic year runs from the beginning of September to the end of June and is divided into two semesters. You usually go to exams in January and June, but you can also complete a subject in the middle of a semester at some educational institutions.
Application for higher education
You must send your application directly to the educational institution.
Language requirements and tests
You must master Latvian if you are studying an education in Latvian. The universities offer various language courses, including for students who come as exchange students under the Erasmus program.
In addition, there are private language courses, most of which are offered in Riga.
Virtually all universities offer English-language master’s programs. Here is the requirement that one must have passed a TOEFL test or equivalent.
You must contact the individual institutions for information on application deadlines. Typically, foreign students must have completed the enrollment procedure by May 15 for admission to the fall semester and by November 15 for admission to the spring semester.
A Danish upper secondary education can be admissible. There is an entry restriction in Latvia, and educational establishments must publish their access conditions in the form of e.g. subject-specific requirements at least 5 months before the application deadline. You may be met with entrance exams, and in some cases you will also need to be interviewed.
You will usually need to send an official copy of your diploma and transcript, copy of passport and a photo along with the application form. Your proof must be translated into Latvian or English, possibly. German or Russian, by a state-authorized translator.
You can get more information about admission requirements and application procedures at the individual educational institution.
In addition, you must have a valid passport, which is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the period of residence in Latvia. All students under the age of 18 must have an authorization from their parents. A residence permit is required for a stay beyond 90 days.
Recognition of foreign educations
If you have completed a publicly recognized education abroad, you can have it assessed by the Danish Agency for Research and Education. See the application procedure.
Ziemelvalstu gymnazija (The Nordic Gymnasium) in Riga specializes in Nordic languages, where you can choose Danish, Swedish or Norwegian as a foreign language alongside English (Latvian website).
Economics and education
The individual educational institution has a quota for the number of educational places that the institution can offer without charging a fee.
Other students who are not admitted to a free place pay for the education.
Work in Latvia
The weekly working time in Latvia is 40 hours. In December 2012, unemployment in Latvia was 14.3% of the total workforce.
You can receive unemployment benefits for 3 months while you apply for a job. See more about this in the article Job search abroad in the folder Paid work. You can get information about working in Latvia from the EURES Advisers at the country’s Job Centers.
Work-and residence permit
As an EU citizen, you are free to stay in Latvia for 3 months. If the stay extends beyond 3 months, you must apply for a residence permit.
If you are going to work in Latvia, you must apply for both a work and residence permit, no matter how long you have to stay in the country. As a student in Latvia, you only need a residence permit. Work and residence permits can only be applied for in Latvia. You apply for a permit from the Latvian Immigration Office OCMA (Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs). You can get more information about staying in Latvia on the Danish Embassy’s website.
See also the article Visas, work and residence permits.
As an EU citizen, you are free to work in Latvia. It may be difficult for foreigners to find work in Latvia, but it is possible to find jobs as a teacher of Western languages, either privately or in schools.
There is a tradition for students to share either a large room or a smaller apartment. Usually you can also get a dorm room, which is a lot cheaper.
Facts about Latvia
Population: 2.02 million
Language: Latvian (many Russian speakers).
Employment: Unemployment was 12.4% in March 2013 (EUROSTAT).
Residence permit: Stays of more than 3 months require a residence permit. A work permit is required for work stays.