Studies structure in the Latvia
The right to enter a higher education institution is held by all those who have completed the general secondary education program and graduates from the four-year vocational program and from all the specialized secondary education programs. If a certificate of secondary education has been obtained abroad, it must first be submitted for analysis to the Academic Information Centre, where it is evaluated, passing a conclusion on the validity of the foreign certificate in Latvia.
In Latvia, there is both state-financed and fee-paying higher education. In order to single out the most able students, whose studies are publicly financed, higher education institutions carry out a procedure of student selection. This usually depends on the number of candidates for study places at the particular institution (both state-financed and fee-paying). In certain cases, such as art, music or sports studies, the procedure must also guarantee that the students possess particular abilities or skills that are not directly reflected in the general secondary education documents. The selection procedure usually involves one or more entry examinations or assessment of secondary school certificates, which may attribute particular significance to grades obtained in particular subjects. In certain cases, an interview with members of the admissions committee is also part of the selection procedure. Entry examinations are only a means of selecting entrants from among candidates who all hold a secondary education certificate entitling them to enter higher education. For this reason, the selection procedure need not always include an entry examination.
In 2007, there were 60 higher education institutions in Latvia (26 colleges – 18 are state and 8 private, and 34 other higher education institutions – 19 are state and 15 private), most of which belong to the state, the rest having been founded by other legal entities or private. A positive tendency is the rapid rise in student numbers seen in recent years. The number of registered students in the 2007/2008 teaching year was over 127 thousand, most of whom (almost 90 thousand) attended public institutions. About a third of them study at state expense, while the rest pay fees. Under discussion is the regulation of tuition fees. In Latvia there are 552 students per 10 000 people, which is the second highest indicator in the world. The highest indicator has Canada with 580 students per 10 000 people.
Latvia has two sorts of higher education programs – academic and professional (for example translators, bank staff, business lawyers, pilots etc.). University-type higher education institutions offer both academic and professional education, while the "non-university type" institutions provide only professional education. Such a division in higher education allows the student to choose either research or professional activity in the future.
Academic higher education programs include bachelor's and master's degree programs. A bachelor's degree is awarded after three or four years of study, while a master's degree is obtained on successful completion of a second phase of academic higher education, lasting one or two years. Bachelor's or master's degrees are not awarded in medicine or dentistry, but a degree in medicine or dentistry is equated to a master's degree.
At the end of each academic study program, the student usually has to defend a diploma thesis (a bachelor's or master's thesis).
Only graduates holding a master's degree or equivalent higher education diploma may take up doctoral studies. These last three to four years, involving advanced studies, examinations and the preparation and defense of a doctoral thesis. Before defending the doctoral dissertation, the student must publish articles on the chosen subject in internationally reviewed publications.
Up to the end of 1999, habilitated doctor's degrees were also awarded, at a higher level than the doctoral degree. Such a degree was required by candidates to professorships, but now the doctoral degree is the highest scientific degree in Latvia.
The rights to award the doctoral degree are delegated by decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to Promotion councils established at the universities. The procedure for awarding the doctoral degree is controlled by the Commission of the Scientific Qualification.
Higher education institutions mostly run both academic and professional programs. Academic higher education programs are based upon fundamental and applied science; they usually comprise a thesis at the end of each stage and lead to a Bachelor’s or master’s degree. Professional higher education – the first level professional higher education or college education leading to professional qualification Level 4, and second level of professional higher education leading to qualification Level 5. Having mastered a program of second level of professional higher education, students are awarded a professional qualification or professional Bachelor’s degree that can be followed by a further professional master’s studies.
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