Higher Education in Poland Study orientation

by Michal Piotrowski

As surprising as it is, Poland has 470 institutes of higher education, 130 of which are universities and academies subsidised by the government (or government-own, if you will). What it means is that the country has a considerable number of educational institutions. Even more interestingly, education in Poland is basically free (well, citizens pay the tax, so the fees for schools are indirect). This in turn shows the variety of choice that an average student have – one can choose either a state or a public school (having the meaning of British public school).

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The structure

Poland adopted in 1999 the Bologna process, which means that the usual 5 year MA studies were divided into a three-year Bachelor’s programme (the first cycle qualification) and a two-year Master’s programme (the second cycle qualification). Naturally, not all specialisations can be taught in the Bologna process, so in some cases, the length of studying varies between courses and universities – an engineer has to study for three and a half years in order to graduate. Medical studies are an exception and offer a six-year Master’s programme.

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Turning to types of institutions, you will mostly find uniwersytet (a university), politechnika (a polytechnic) and academia (an academy). The difference lies in the number of academic degrees that a particular institute can confer on its employees and the kind of the degree they can award. It means that a university will not grant a degree of inynier (engineer) which is the domain of a polytechnic, etc.

As regards the degrees themselves, there are fewer academic degrees than in Britain. You can obtain either licencjat or inynier as the counterparts of the Bachelor’s degree. Magister is the title awarded to Polish graduates of the Master’s degree. After six years, medical students obtain a diploma along with the title of a physician (lekarz), which is equal to magister.

lodz_university.jpgHow much does it cost?

I said earlier that education in Poland is free, so it’s also free for every citizen of the European Union, but the situation is a bit more complicated when we take into consideration foreign students. Unfortunately, the majority of courses are conducted in Polish. In order to attend such courses, a foreign student is expected to learn Polish for at least a year, or in some cases, a certificate is required. The situation is of course different when all classes are taught in a foreign language – then the only required thing is any proof of knowledge of the medium of instruction.

My university, that is University of Lodz, offers a number of such courses – Faculty of Law an Administration offers BA and MA in French law (so for speakers of French), Faculty of Philology runs English studies (which I personally study). The important thing is to look out for programmes that require a fee even for Polish students. At my uni, this is the case of Business Management, so always ask if the given institute charges any fee for the programme of your choice. The same procedure applies to PhD studies. Generally, I have a feeling that finding PhD course in English is quite challenging. My Alma Mater does not offer any, which for some of the students is confusing - although we prepare our thesis in English, all the seminars and lectures are provided in Polish. In contrast, University of Warsaw has a few PhD courses in English, and so has Adam Mickiewiecz University in Pozna´n.

I deliberately use the term ‘PhD course’ instead of ‘postgraduate course’. In Poland, postgraduate courses are thought to be those extending one’s knowledge, but they do not end in an academic degree. You usually have to pay for them. However, there’re more and more of such programmes that are financed in cooperation with the EU which in turn makes the courses free of charge.

What documents do I need?

There’s quite a lot of paper work I must say. The process may vary between institutions. In short, you will definitely need school certificates and diplomas alongside transcript of records with explanation of particular grades, e.g. 6 = excellent, 5 = very good, etc. It might be the case that the documents


must have an apostille, a certificate proving that the document was legally issued in your country. It comes in handy when the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education does not recognize a diploma from your country (sadly, it happens frequently). Apart from that, an entrance interview with a dean is common practice, so be prepared for it!

The information in the article is very basic, but it should be sufficient for someone who feels at a loss when following Polish educational system (I find it excessively complicated myself) and browsing through all the courses. If you’re still not convinced to studying in Poland, let me add that there are a number of government and university scholarships that students can apply for, and what’s better than studying for free and being paid for that?!

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