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Higher Education Institutions

Higher education in Poland

Poland’s traditions of academic education go back to 1364 when King Casimirthe Great established the Cracow Academy, known today as the Jagiellonian University. The Cracow Academy, one of the oldest in the world, based itself on academies in Bologna and Padua, and, after the school in Prague, was the second university in Central Europe. About two centuries later, in 1579, King Stefan Batory transformed the existing Jesuit College in Vilnius into the Vilnius Academy and in1661 John Casimir, King of Poland, transformed the Jesuit College into the Lviv Academy. Thus, by the end of the 17th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had three flourishing universities providing academic education to both national and international students.

Today, the Polish higher education system is developing dynamically. Poland holds fourth place in Europe (after the United Kingdom, Germany and France) in terms of the number of people enrolled in higher education. The total student population numbers almost 2 million, and they are enrolled at over 450 higher education institutions. Each year almost half a million young people begin their education at universities and colleges. Polish universities offer more than 200 high quality study programmes as an integral part of the European Higher Education Area. Most schools offer some of their courses also in foreign languages.

Poland plays an active part in the Bologna Process. Owing to the introduction of three-stage education as well as the European Credit Transfer System, both Polish students and foreigners studying in Poland remain fully mobile and can continue education else where in the European Union without any problems. Within the Erasmus Programme alone, which has been running for over 20 years now, almost 30 thousand foreign students have come to study in Poland while almost 100 thousand students from Poland have taken part of their educationin another country within the European Union. Foreign students coming to Poland can expect an attractive and diversified education offer meeting the high European standards. They can study medicine, biotechnology or engineering, but also art and business. The diploma awarded to them upon graduation is recognized not only any where in Europe, but also in most countries of the world.

Higher education institutions

The Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Poland are divided into state (public) and private (non-public) institutions. There are two main categories of higher education institutions: university-type and non-university institutions. In the university-type HEIs, at least one unit is authorised to confer the academic degree of Doctor (PhD), i.e. offers at least one doctoral programme.

Structure of studies in Poland

The higher education institutions run full-time, extramural, evening and external courses. The full-time courses are defined as the basic typeof studies.

Poland conforms to the guidelines from the Bologna Process in European higher education. The degree system based on the three-cycle structure has been successfully implemented together with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). The European standard in higher education makes it easier for students to obtain recognition of their qualifications in other countries.

1st Cycle

First-cycle studies (3 to 4 years) leading to the academic degree of licencjat or inżynier (Bachelor of Engineering), available in the fields of engineering, agriculture or economics). This is the Polish equivalent of the Bachelor’s degree. It is focused on preparing students for future employment or for continued education within the Master’s degree programmes. To obtain this degree, students must earn 180-240 ECTS credits.

2nd Cycle

Second-cycle studies – Master’s degree programme (1.5 to 2 years) following the first cycle studies and leading to the professional title of Master (magister, or an equivalent degree depending on the study course profile). It is focused on theoretical  knowledge as well as application and development of creative skills. In artistic disciplines, the focus is on the development of creativity and talents. Master’s degree holders may enter a doctoral programme (third-cycle studies). To obtain the degree, students must earn 90-120 ECTS credits.

Long-cycle studies

An exception to the general, two-cycle structure. 11 fields of study is offered as long-cycle programmes only: these include acting, art conservation and restoration, canon law, dentistry, law, medical analysis, medicine, production and photography, pharmacy, psychology and veterinary medicine.

Long-cycle studies (4.5 to 6 years) can be (much like first-cycle studies) started directly after secondary education, but they lead to the academic degree of Master (magister, or an equivalent degree depending on the study course profile). To obtain this degree, students must earn 270-360 ECTS credits. Such single long-cycle studies are based on an integrated study programme which contains both basic studies and in-depth specialisation. Completion of this degree will provide a qualification corresponding to the Master’s degree at the second-cycle studies.

3rd Cycle

Third-cycle studies – Doctoral degree programmes (usually 3 to 4 years) accessible for graduates of Master’s degree programme, leading to a PhD degree, offered by the university type schools as well as some research institutions (departments of the Polish Academy of Sciencesas well as research and development institutions). The PhD degree is awarded to candidates who submit and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation before the thesis committee and pass the doctoral examination.