Polish higher education system

The institutions of higher education in Poland operate the following types of courses of study:

  • professional higher studies (3-4 years) - the graduates obtain a professional degree of licentiate or engineer;
  • master’s studies (5-6 years) - the graduate obtains, depending on the study course profile, a professional master’s degree [magister] or an equivalent degree;
  • postgraduate master’s studies (2-2.5 years) for graduates of professional higher studies - the graduate obtains a professional master’s degree or an equivalent degree;
  • doctoral studies (3-4 years) - eligible candidates will be graduates of higher studies with a professional master’s degree, working for an academic degree of doctor;
  • postgraduate studies (1-2 years) – for graduates of all types of HEI.

Institutions of higher education run full-time courses, extramural courses, evening courses and extern courses. The full-time mode is the basic system of studies.

There are two types of higher education institution:

  • university-type HEIs offering studies in the humanities, sciences, medical sciences, economics, pedagogy, the arts, and military studies;
  • professional HEIs which educate students in specific professional areas and prepare them for practicing a profession.

Professional Degrees Awarded to HEI Graduates in Poland

In Poland the graduates of institutions of higher education receive following degrees:

  • licentiate [licencjat] – a degree obtained on completion of a professional higher education course lasting 3-3.5 years;
  • engineer [inżynier] - a degree obtained on completion of a professional higher education course in a field of engineering, agriculture or economics, lasting 3.5 – 4 years;
  • master [magister] and equivalent degrees: master of arts, master of engineering, master of engineering – architect, physician, dentist-physician, veterinary physician – awarded on completion of 5-6 years’ continuous master’s studies. Another way? to obtain a master’s degree is to complete a 2-2.5- year postgraduate master’s course for holders of a higher professional education diploma.

To obtain these professional degrees a student must pass performance assessment for each of the subjects and practical training assignments on his or her curriculum, present and defend his or her diploma dissertation and pass the diploma examination.

A HEI graduate receives a diploma of completion of studies in a given field of study, three copies of the diploma and – at his or her request – a copy of the diploma translated into a foreign language.

Graduates who continue education at doctoral courses or pursue research can work for the following academic degrees:

  • doctor [doktor] - a degree awarded to one who passed doctoral examinations and proposed and successfully defended a doctoral dissertation [project?]. Those wishing to work for the academic degree of doctor must hold a professional degree of master or an equivalent degree;
  • habilitated doctor [doktor habiliowany] - this degree is awarded to candidates who hold a doctor's degree, have important academic or artistic achievements, have proposed a habilitation dissertation and successfully completed the habilitation procedure.
  • professor [profesor] is an academic degree awarded by the President of the Republic of Poland.

Study Course Structure and the Academic Year

The academic year consists of thirty weeks of study, with about thirty hours of tuition per week, and is structured into two semesters:

  • the winter semester (from around October 1st to around February 15th of the next calendar year) covers fifteen weeks of study and the winter examination period;
  • the summer semester (from around February 16th to September 30th) covers fifteen weeks of study and the summer examination period;
  • as a rule, one month of the summer holidays is set aside for integrated student placements.

Each HEI sets its own schedule of academic year. Tuition is conducted in the form of lectures, classes, seminars, laboratory classes and roundtable sessions. The student’s rights and duties with regard to the course of study are laid down in a given HEI’s Study Rules.

Areas of Study

Every higher school publishes on its web site information about the areas of study in which it offers education.

Examinations
Students sit examinations separately in each subject. A performance assessment period covers either one semester or one academic year. To successfully complete a semester (or a year) a student must receive passing (i.e. at least “satisfactory”) marks for all assessments and examinations in the subjects covered by his or her curriculum and to obtain performance assessment credits for all integrated placements on his or her curriculum.


Each HEI identifies its grading scale in its Study Rules. The most common scale comprises the following marks:

  1. very good (5)
  2. good plus (4+ or 4.5)
  3. good (4)
  4. satisfactory plus (3+ or 3.5)
  5. satisfactory (3)
  6. failing (2).

In addition to this grading scale Polish HEIs have been phasing in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) under which a certain number of credits is allocated to a given subject, independently of marks awarded. Depending on a subject, passing a performance assessment can earn the student from 2 to 12-14 ECTS credits. On passing an examination the student should request that this be put on his or her record together with the credits awarded. To complete successfully a year or a semester a student must collect, respectively, 30 or 60 credits. With the ECTS system in place, more and more Polish students can do part of their studies at foreign higher education institutions. Also, ECTS credits allow foreign students’ periods of study at Polish HEIs to be recognized.

Diploma Projects and Diploma Examinations

To obtain a diploma of completion of higher education a student must:

  • pass a performance assessment for all subjects, integrated placements and practical work sessions and pass all examinations covered by the study programme set for a given field of study;
  • present, at an appointed date, a diploma project and obtain a passing mark for it;
  • pass the diploma examination.
© Ministry of Science and Higher Education (with slight amendments)

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