For a country of just over two million inhabitants, Latvia has a wealth of both public and private higher education opportunities 59 universities and colleges offer a total of over 1000 different degree programmes. Programmes taught in foreign languages (mainly English and Russian with a few German and Scandinavian language programmes) cover a wide range of fields, from architecture to social sciences. In particular, medical studies and qualifications in the aviation industry have a long history of quality. A searchable database of programmes for foreign students is available at Studyinlatvia.lv.
Fees depend on the higher education institution and the programme being followed. They range from 1000 EUR per year for Teacher training (4 years of studies) to 10,000 EUR per year for a Dental Surgeon's degree (5 years) to 22,000 EUR for Executive Master of Business Administration studies (20 months, part time). Detailed information on tuition fees is provided with each study programme description in the Studyinlatvia.lv database of higher education programmes for foreign students.
Based on data provided by the diploma recognition network ENIC/NARIC, the Academic Information Centre of Latvia determines whether a certificate/diploma or an academic degree awarded in a foreign country can be equated to a document of education or an academic degree in Latvia. In cases when the foreign document does not satisfy Latvian standards, the assessment report states what additional requirements must be met. Based on the assessment report, the institution of higher education to which the student has applied can take a decision about enrolment.
For EU students generally, school leaving certificates which are eligible for entry into higher education in the home country will be recognized in Latvia.
Arrival at the university
Upon arrival at the university, the student meets with university representatives in order to become acquainted with the programme and to receive answers to any questions. The wellbeing of students is important to each university, thus universities take care to inform foreign students about university life and to involve them in social activities. Often it is the student councils which organize student activities and social life. Membership in these student organizations is open to foreign students as well.
It is mandatory to be covered by health insurance for the entire planned period of stay in the Republic of Latvia. The health insurance policy should guarantee coverage of expenses associated with health care provision in the Republic of Latvia, including expenses associated with return travel to one's country of origin in case of serious health problems. The minimum coverage limit indicated in the policy cannot be less than 30 000 LVL over the insurance period.
Citizens of the European Union Member States, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Switzerland can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
More practical tips can be found at the online guide to higher education in Latvia at Studydinlatvia.lv.
Research in Latvia is advanced in the fields of chemistry, medicine and materials science, with new developments in renewable energy, computer programming, engineering and agriculture. Research activities take place within universities, university hospitals and scientific institutes. Research is a mandatory component of doctoral studies.
The Latvian labour market was very hard hit by the global economic crisis, with the unemployment rate almost tripling between 2008 and 2010, arriving at a peak of 17.3% in March of 2010. Since that time the economy has been gradually recovering, however employment rates have increased at a comparatively slower pace, since recovery has been linked to increased productivity.
The Ministry of Economics labour forecast indicates that almost 2/3 of the increased demand for labour in the period up to 2020 will come from three main sectors: the processing industry, sales and commercial services. Since economic growth is expected to rely heavily on ever increasing productivity, transfer of manufacturing technologies, research and innovation, employment prospects for researchers and applied scientists look promising.
Swimming, track and field, basketball, volleyball and fitness are activities you can do at practically every university. Many universities sponsor student sports teams that compete in national, regional or even European championships. Bowling and golf are rapidly gaining popularity with facilities opening around the country. Hockey, football and basketball are the most popular spectator sports. By popular demand, bars set up large screen TVs during championships. When Latvian teams reach international play-offs people may even skip work to watch
For lovers of culture, universities have music, dance and drama clubs, many of which participate in national or international competitions. Professional interest clubs include both local organizations and chapters of international organizations such as AIESEC and IFMSA. Socially active students can participate in student council or student union activities.
More information on living in Latvia can be found at the online guide to higher education in Latvia at Studyinlatvia.lv.
Finding a place to live
Some universities have their own student dormitories, others provide assistance with housing search (the database provides information on accommodation arrangements offered by each university). You should ask the foreign student advisor at your chosen university for advice, since the housing market in Latvia is not very easy to navigate even for locals.
Visa and Residence Permit
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 applicants 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.
Brief history of Latvia
The present-day territory of Latvia and ancestors of the Latvian people have been subjects of various European powers over the centuries. In the 13th century to 1561, it was the German religious orders. Then Poland conquered the territory in 1562 and occupied it until Sweden took over the land in 1629, ruling until 1721. Then the land passed to Imperial Russia. From 1721 until 1918, the Latvians remained subjects of the Russian Tsar, although they preserved their language, customs, and folklore.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave Latvians their opportunity for freedom, and the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed on Nov. 18, 1918. The Republic lasted little more than 20 years. It was occupied by Russian troops in and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940. German armies occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944. In 1944, Russia again took control of Latvia until 1990 when the Soviet Union started to collapse.
The Republic of Latvia has been continuously recognised as a state by other countries since 1920 despite occupations by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. On August 21, 1991 Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence. Latvia has been an official EU Member State since 2004.
Latvia is a parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary elections take place every four years. The Parliament elects the President and the President appoints a Prime Minister who forms the Cabinet of Ministers or government