Higher Education in Poland


In Poland, higher education is offered by more than 100 higher education institutions. These institutions include 11 universities which offer courses in the humanities, science, the socio-political sciences, law, and teacher training; 14 technical universities; 4 higher schools of engineering which offer courses in science, the technical sciences, transportation, architecture, and construction; 8 agricultural academies which offer courses in agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, and veterinary medicine; 2 agricultural academies which offer technical courses; 1 college of agriculture and teacher training which trains veterinary technicians, agricultural workers, and teachers of the humanities and of science; 5 academies of economics which prepare economists of various specializations; and 10 teacher training colleges which prepare primary- and secondary-school teachers.

The above-mentioned institutions and two theological academies are under the authority of the Minister of National Education. Other institutions of higher education supervised by other ministries also operate. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare supervises 11 medical academies which train physicians, dentists, and pharmacists; the Ministry of Culture and Art supervises 15 academies of the fine arts, music, and drama; the Office of Physical Culture and Tourism supervises six academies of physical education; and the Ministry of Transportation and Water Management supervises two merchant navy colleges.

The Higher Education Act of 12 September 1990 provides a legal framework for the functioning of these state institutions. This Act, however, does not apply either to seminaries run by churches or religious congregations or to the military, the police, or the fire brigade academies.

Up to 1990, only one private university operated in Poland, namely, the Catholic University of Lublin. Since 1991, additional private institutions have been established. They offer courses in management, marketing, banking, and computer science. As of January 1993, 14 private institutions were operating in Poland offering training programmes of three to four years in duration leading to the professional licentiate (licencjat) title.

Higher education is financed from the state budget (through the relevant ministries or the State Committee for Scientific Research) and from the proceeds of contractual research and economic activities, public service, and tuition fees. According to the Act, only full-time course programmes are free of charge to students who complete their studies in the allotted time period. In most institutions, full-time students must pay fees if they must repeat a year because of academic failure. Extramural, evening, and correspondence students, as well as non-degree students, are charged fees for their studies. Private institutions charge fees for all forms of education.

The Central Council for Higher Education is a democratically elected body representing the academic community. It is composed of 50 members: 35 professors, 10 academic teachers and 5 students. The Minister of National Education supervises the activities of the higher education institutions, especially the use of funds allocated from the state budget. He must consult with the Council on the criteria for allocating these funds. The Council formulates opinions with regard to the directions to be given to the development of higher education and with regard to all proposed legislation concerning higher education. To a certain degree, it supervises the actions of the minister.


Polish institutions of higher learning may enjoy considerable autonomy depending upon their teaching and research capacities. Larger institutions with over 60 professors and in which more than half of the organizational units have the right to confer the degree of doktor habilitowany (senior doctorate) are totally independent with regard to their status, study regulations, and admission requirements. They have the right to establish and to dissolve faculties or institutes, and to introduce new fields of study if the latter meet the curriculum standards set by the Central Council of Higher Education. Smaller universities have to obtain the approval of the relevant minister for decisions as to the above matters.

The basic unit of each institution of higher education is the faculty. It consists of institutes and chairs which include the teaching and service staffs and the students in a given field of study. Each institution is governed by a rector and a university senate, and each faculty, by a dean and a faculty council. All governing bodies are elected for three-year periods. Rectors and deans are elected by a college of electors. The composition of the senate or faculty council is usually as follows: professors, 50-60 percent; other academic staff, 15-20 percent; other employees, 10 percent; representatives of student self-government, 15-20 percent.

The senate draws up the statutes of the institution and its study regulations; it approves all decisions concerning the economic activity of the institution and its development, its international co-operation, and the introduction of new fields of study. Faculty councils determine the directions of the activities of the given faculty, its curricula, and its course plans.

Primary- and secondary-school teachers are trained in universities, teacher-training higher schools, teacher-training colleges, and foreign language teacher-training colleges. They can attend vocational courses and those leading to a magister degree. Primary- school teachers may also graduate from teacher-training institutions which are considered institutions of higher education.

The basic form of higher education is full-time (day) studies. Institutions of higher education also conduct part-time, i.e., evening, extramural, and correspondence courses which are equivalent to full-time courses, have similar requirements, and lead to the same degrees and diplomas. During the last few years, these forms of study have become more common as they provide an opportunity to upgrade the qualifications of persons who are employed. They are more accessible because their admission criteria are not so restrictive. These forms of study are not free of charge.

Postgraduate studies are organized as extramural or evening courses.

In Poland, it is possible to study at the tertiary level in the so- called pomaturalne (post-secondary) schools. These schools do not have academic status. They offer courses of two-year duration which lead to a technician's diploma or its equivalent. Their students should have completed secondary school, but a secondary-school- leaving certificate is not required. Three-year teacher-training institutions which are not affiliated to universities do not have academic status either.

The language of instruction is Polish; however, students may often attend classes conducted in English, German, or French.

Access to higher education normally takes place after 12 or 13 years of primary (eight years) and secondary (four years, general or five years, vocational) education. A prerequisite is a secondary-school-leaving certificate (swiadectwo dojraloci). This prerequisite is not the only qualification for admission to universities and similar institutions which may impose their own conditions, especially in the case of full-time studies. The criteria are defined by the senates on the recommendation of the authorities of the faculties or institutes.

There are several criteria for and means of student selection. The most usual are: written or oral entrance examinations based on tests of knowledge; secondary-school-leaving certificates; and qualifying interviews which test the background knowledge of candidates or their general mental abilities. Sometimes candidates must give proof of their abilities to understand a university lecture or a scholarly text. Candidates for artistic and athletic studies must give proof of their abilities to meet the requirements of these course programmes. Winners and laureates of national competitions (olimpiada) in various subjects are usually exempt from the entrance examinations.

Scientific degrees

Universities and other institutions of equal rank offer uniform studies, professional studies, and complementary studies leading to a magister degree. Uniform studies last from 9 to 12 semesters depending on the field of study. Their graduates as well as graduates of complementary studies are awarded the title of magister: magister edukacji (teacher-training courses); magister inzynier (technical, agricultural, and in some cases, economics courses); magister sztuki (artistic studies), lekarz (medical studies), lekarz stomatolog (dental studies), lekarz weterynarii (veterinary surgery).

Higher professional studies last three to four years and lead to the award of the title of engineer (inzynier) in technical, in agricultural, and in some economics-oriented institutions; and to the title of licencjat, in the humanities, in the mathematical and natural sciences, in the social sciences, in economics, in medicine, in physical education, and in tourism and recreation.

Students may study according to a plan of study and curriculum determined by the authorities of the given institution, or they may follow an individual plan and curriculum. They may also follow courses in other than their basic fields of study. Attempts are being made to introduce a credit point system of studies.

A holder of the title of magister may continue studying to obtain the degree of doctor (doktor). The degree of doktor can be granted by institutions of higher education and other establishments such as the Polish Academy of Sciences or research institutes supervised by various ministries. The right to grant this degree is accorded to institutions employing at least eight professors representing the academic subject in which the institution is entitled to grant the degree. It is possible to prepare for the doctorate (doktorat) while pursuing doctoral studies (which last four years), while working in an institution of higher education, or while working in another place. Academics should have earned the doktor degree after eight years of employment.

The doctorat is awarded to persons who have passed the appropriate doctoral examination (in a discipline corresponding to the subject of the doctoral thesis, in an additional discipline, and in a modern language) and have submitted and successfully defended a thesis reviewed by at least two specialists. The thesis, written under the supervision of a professor, should present the author's original solution to an academic problem and demonstrate his general theoretical knowledge of the discipline and his ability to conduct independent research.

Holders of the degree of doktor with considerable scholarly achievement can obtain the degree of doktor habilitowany after submitting a thesis which contributes to the development of the chosen discipline. The thesis should be published or otherwise made known in the academic community. The assessment of these achievements should be supported by at least three specialists. Candidates for this degree must pass an oral examination. The right to confer this degree is given to those institutions of higher education and other scientific establishments which employ at least 12 professors, including 6 professors representing one given discipline.

Foreign students

Candidates of Polish origin living abroad and foreigners who wish to begin their higher education in Poland should possess a secondary-school-leaving certificate, prove their fluency in Polish, or complete an appropriate language course. Candidates for artistic and athletic studies must meet specific requirements as to success on aptitude tests.

Foreign candidates, including doctoral and postgraduate students and scholarly apprentices, should have earned a first university degree. Candidates for a doktor habilitowany degree should already heave earned an advanced degree equivalent to the doktor.

Foreign students must pay tuition fees. Generally the fees run from $3000 to $7000 (US currency) per year. In some individual, well- grounded cases, the authorities of an institution of higher education may reduce or waive the fee for a foreign student of Polish origin.

Academic degrees, diplomas, and professional titles obtained abroad must be evaluated by a faculty council or another unit entitled to grant scientific degrees in a given field.

Poland is a signatory of the UNESCO and the Prague Conventions on the recognition and equivalence of diplomas, degrees, and studies in higher education and has signed bilateral agreements on the mutual recognition of academic degrees and diplomas with Bulgaria, the former USSR, Hungary, the former Czechoslovakia, Romania, the former Yugoslavia, Cuba, and Mongolia. Agreements on the equivalence of degrees and diplomas have also been concluded with Libya, Syria, and the former Yugoslavia.


Bodies and institutions dealing with or providing information on the recognition of studies, degrees, and diplomas

Ministry of National Education, Department of International Cooperation

Al. J. Ch. Szucha 25, PL-00-918 Warszawa
Tel.: 48-22 6280461; 48-22 297241 ext. 530, 531
Telex: 816841
Fax: 48-22 6288561

© by Ministry of National Education