In 1995, the Prime Minister’s Decree establishes the National University of Laos (NUOL) by merging existing HEIs at the time and is now considered the country’s largest university with over 25,000 students enrolled of which 749 are foreign. Before that, students that wishes to continue their studies did so only in Soviet bloc countries. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Laos started to mobilize and consolidate their higher education. There are currently 5 public universities – 4 of which are managed by the Ministry of Education and Sports and 1 by the Ministry of Health. Moreover, there are 206 colleges, out of which 73 are private. In the academic year of 2014/2015, approximately 130,000 students were studying at such institutions. Currently in place is the SSHEP II 2017-2021 which wishes to improve the infrastructure of HEIs, introduce scholarships for postgraduate students and exchange programs, provide a research fund, and develop new courses. For further information on Laos’ higher education, you can access the Ministry of Education’s website at http://www.moes.edu.la/.
In Laos, you can study at all three cycles: Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD. Bachelor’s degrees take between 4-7 years to complete, depending on the course. Subjects like Medicine or Architecture are designed as integrated courses. Master’s degrees take between 1 to 2 years while Doctorates need at least 3 years to be awarded the diploma. Shorter or preparatory courses are also available for students who wish to enter the work force quicker. There is no centralized system for admission to tertiary education, so students need to apply themselves at institutions. The general requirement for getting into an undergraduate course is evidence of a secondary school certificate, while for postgraduate studies is evidence of previous relevant higher education. Lao is the official language of the country, but Thai, English or French are understood by the majority of people. Foreign students need evidence of language proficiency.
Tuition costs vary between institutions, so students are advised to check them personally. Nevertheless, at a public university, students are expected to pay between $203 to $446 per year, whereas at a private college, students need to pay between $1,418 to $4,322 per year. These costs only reflect the tuition fees; therefore, books or other expenses are not included. Information for scholarships can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website.
Information for International Students
International students will be required to apply for a Student Visa (ST-B2) which is available for a period of 12 months and should be extended every year. You need to have been accepted into a place before you can start the application process. For further details about this, please check with your embassy. In terms of living costs, the average monthly living expenses for a person is around $340. It might be more expensive than the average world prices to rent an apartment in the country. However, students have the opportunity to live in single or double-occupancy rooms in a guesthouse, which is considerably more affordable.