Latvia, the "heart of the Baltics," has made a successful and fascinating transition from Soviet Republic to a member of NATO and the European Union. The university is located in the historical capital of Riga (founded in 1201), which boasts medieval architecture and cobblestone streets, extravagant Art Nouveau buildings and manicured 19th century parks.
HIGHER EDUCATION OVERVIEW
The first institution of higher education, the Riga Polytechnical Institute, was founded in 1862. Before this, Latvian intelligentsia was educated primarily at the University of Tartu in Estonia, or the University of St. Petersburg in Russia. Using the facilities and staff of the Riga Polytechnical Institute, the University of Latvia was established in 1919. In 2004, there were 34 accredited higher education institutions in Latvia, most of which belong to the state, the rest having been founded by other legal entities or private individuals. A positive tendency is the rapid rise in student numbers seen in recent years. The number of registered students at the beginning of the 2001/2002 teaching year was over 110,000, most of whom (almost 90,000) attended public institutions. About a third of these study at state expense, while the rest pay fees. The regulation of tuition fees is under discussion.
Institutions of higher education provide academic or professional instruction. Professional education offers one- or two-year programs, but some institutions offer four-year programs leading to both the academic Bakalaurs (bachelor's) degree and a professional qualification in fields such as agronomy, pharmacy, engineering, performing arts, social work, teaching, dentistry, technology and veterinarian science.
The academic higher education programs are based on fundamental or applied science. It is divided into two stages; at the end of each stage, students must present a thesis based on their own research. The first stage, which normally takes four years, leads to a Bakalaurs (bachelor's) diploma. The degree of Magistrs (master's) is conferred after the second stage which takes one and a half to two years. Doctoral studies can be undertaken after a master's degree, and lead to a Doktors degree (the equivalent of a Ph.D.).
The academic year begins in September and ends late June or mid-July. As a general rule, it is comprised of 40 weeks of lectures, seminars and practical work and is usually divided into two semesters. In some faculties, students also do practical training in the summer.
STUDYING IN LATVIA
Credits and Grading
The Latvian credit refers to an average of 40 hours (one week's study workload), leading to 40 credits per year. One Latvian credit equals 1.5 ECTS.
|10 (izcili)||With Distinction: knowledge of student is substantially higher than an estimated normal level||A++|
|9 (teicami)||Excellent: knowledge of student is higher than an estimated normal level||A+|
|8 (loti labi)||Very Good: Knowledge corresponds to the highest expected level||A|
|7 (labi)||Good: The student has good subject understanding, and is progressing within the expected limits, but makes minor errors||B|
|6 (gandriz labi)||Almost Good: The student has generally achieved the necessary knowledge and understanding of the subject, but either is reproducing the knowledge rather than actively applying it, or makes more substantial errors||C|
|5 (viduveji)||Satisfactory: Student is progressing within the limits of their general ability, but make substantial errors and memorize rather than analyze the data||D|
|4 (gandriz viduveji)||Almost Satisfactory: The lowest passing grade. Awarded to students who do their best, but make serious errors and are only reproducing the necessary material; little understanding demonstrated.||E|
|1-3 (neapmierinosi)||Unsatisfactory: Student performs well below the expected level||F|
Number of classes typical student takes per term: 3-4
Number of hours per week typical student spends in class: 20-25
Number of weeks per term: 15-16
Registration will take place on campus; check with your host coordinator to see if there is anything you should do ahead of arrival on campus.
The student should make sure that he/she has cleared all financial arrangements with the host institution in order for the academic transcript to be sent to ISEP Global. The student should also make sure that results have been registered before returning home. An official copy can be sent within one month. ISEP Central will forward the official transcript to the student via the home university coordinator.
Visa and Residency
COVID-19 Update: Visa and Residency guidelines are subject to change and may be updated without warning a result of COVID-19 governmental regulations. Students should review the Special Conditions of Placement in their ISEP Acceptance Package for the most current information.
Please note that students should ALWAYS check the website of the embassy/consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence first, as the information in this handbook regarding visa application instructions is subject to change without warning.
Type of visa for Semester or Full Year: Residence Permit (also sometimes called a Long-stay Type D visa)
Visa fee: EUR 60
Expected processing time: 15-90 days, pending requests for additional documentation
When to apply: after you receive your acceptance letter and any admission documents from your host university with the invitation number for your visa, and no earlier than 3 months prior to your program start date
APPLYING FOR A VISA
• All ISEP students will be required to register or apply for a visa, as all studies will exced 90 days in a period of 180 days:
- For students from EU countries, you will be required to register at the Migration Office upon arrival
- For students from non-EU countries who are on the list of visa-free countries (countries whose citizens do not require an entry visa for Latvia), you may apply for a Residence Permit after arrival at the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA) in Riga
- You will be asked to submit documents from the list indicated here: Document List for Students from Visa-Free Countries.
- For students from non-EU countries who are NOT on the list above, you will be required to obtain a Residence Permit visa prior to arrival
- You will be asked to submit documents from the list indicated here: Document List for Students from Visa Countries.
• All students will need the invitation number provided by the International Mobility Unit (IMU) for appointments at the OCMA or Embassy
• ALWAYS USE THE MIGRATION WEBSITES FIRST. The information located in this guide may not be as up to date as the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Citizenship and Migration Affairs websites.
• Latvia is a member of the Schengen area. Students should review the important regulations that dictate travel and visas within the Schengen area.
- University of Latvia Immigration Requirements
- Citizenship and Migration Affairs: Types of Visas (Migration Department of Latvia)
- Visa Application Processing Time
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs: List of Diplomatic Missions Abroad
Updated April 2021
Health and Safety
COVID-19 Note: ISEP expects changes to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for 2021 and 2022 programs. If the student's host country, host university, home university, home country, or travel provider require a COVID-19 vaccination, students must comply with that requirement. ISEP will notify students if we become aware of changes in the terms of participation for their program.
Prescription Medications: If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here, and please contact your Student Services Coordinator and ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions.
General Health Guidelines: Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference our Guides and Tips section for general information regarding health and safety abroad.
Detailed information about Latvia can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and Security, Local Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections.
Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State. Non-U.S. nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections.
The Latvian lats (Ls) has been the legal currency in Latvia since 1993 when it replaced the transitional Latvian rouble. Units of lats are called santimi (1 lat = 100 santimi). Lats come in banknote denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Coins come in denominations of 1 and 2 lats as well as in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 santimis. Money can easily be changed at numerous exchange bureaus, hotels and banks. It is best to bring cash (crisp, clean, newer bills) in small denominations to exchange for Latvian currency.
Most banks are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday; some banks are also open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
International credit cards are accepted at all major hotels, restaurants and shops. Traveler's checks are not accepted in restaurants or shops, but most banks will exchange them. Banks will also give cash advances on most credit cards. ATMs are available in Riga and other major cities.
Sources of Information
Embassy of Latvia
The Latvian Institute
Welcome to Latvia
The Baltic Times: English Language newspaper
Riga This Week: The official city guide.
In Your Pocket: Latvia guide.
BIBLIOGRAPHY*All links below will take you to the Amazon.com Web site for content and purchasing information.
Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania
Lonely Planet Baltic Phrasebook (Lonely Planet Phrasebook: Baltic)
O'Brien, John (editor). The Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring 1998): New Latvian Fiction
Rainis, Janis (real name: Janis Plieksans, 1865-1929). Distinguished Latvian poet and playwrite. Read any works that you are able to locate.
Culture, History, and Politics
Asmus, Ronald D. Opening NATO's Door
Doub, Siri Lise, et al. A Taste of Latvia (Hippocrene International Cookbooks)
Dreifelds, Juris. Latvia in Transition
Eksteins, Modris. Walking Since Daybreak : A Story of Eastern Europe, World War II, and the Heart of Our Century
Lieven, Anatol. The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence
Mazzarins, Laimdota (translator). The Murder of the Jews in Latvia 1941-1945 (Jewish Lives)
Michelson, Max. City of Life, City of Death: Memories of Riga
Ratz, Jack. Endless Miracles.
Skultans, Vieda. The Testimony of Lives: narrative and memory in post-soviet Latvia
Wilson, Edmund. To the Finland Station (New York Review Books Classics)
Wyman, Mark. Dps: Europe's Displaced Persons, 1945-1951
International Travel Health Guide