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.