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Higher education in Poland - basic information

Higher education can be carried out at public and non-public universities, i.e. at universities, technical universities, academies and colleges. As a rule, public universities are subsidized from the state budget and do not charge fees for full-time studies. Studies at a private university are payable.

A list of universities and contact details of Polish universities are available here

Studies can be conducted in a full-time or part-time mode. Generally, full-time (also known as day studies) classes are held every day except Saturdays and Sundays. However, in part-time (extramural) studies, the so-called meetings are held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays several times during each semester. The term "evening studies" refers to a system of part-time studies where classes are held from Monday to Friday from afternoon to evening. Part time and evening studies are payable even at public universities.

The academic year begins on October 1 and ends around mid-June. The studies are divided into semesters: winter and summer. One semester lasts approximately 4– 5 months. Students are accounted for each subject in a semester - during the so-called exam session they must pass exams or obtain credits. The condition for continuing education is passing a semester, i.e. receiving a positive grade in all the subjects that the student attended in a given semester. After graduation, graduation without submitting a diploma thesis (i.e. obtaining an entry confirming passing all exams and passing the subjects required by the study program), submitting a diploma thesis (bachelor's, engineering, master's) and passing the final exam, the university grants the student a professional title (bachelor's, engineer's, master's).

The organization and course of studies as well as the related rights and obligations of the student are specified in the study regulations. The study regulations of each university are one of the basic documents a student should read. The regulations contain rules ensuring the correct course of the education process, as well as general rules for the organization of studies. Regulations of studies are available on the websites of universities. You can also get acquainted with them by contacting the chosen university directly.

 

TYPES OF STUDIES AND PROFESSIONAL TITLES AND ACADEMIC DEGREES IN POLAND

There are several types of studies in Poland. They differ in terms of the conditions that a student must meet in order to be admitted, the length of studies and the professional degrees that the student can receive upon completion.

  • First-cycle studies - professional studies that prepare for work in a specific profession and end with obtaining a bachelor's or engineer's degree. First-cycle studies last from 6 to 7 semesters. In order to undertake such studies, one must graduate from high school and get a high school diploma (in Poland or abroad).
  • Second-cycle studies - they are professional studies that end with obtaining the title of Master, Master's degree in engineering or an equivalent title (e.g. the title of doctor, dentist, veterinarian). Second-cycle studies last 3– 4 semesters. Second-cycle studies require completion of first-cycle studies (in Poland or abroad).
  • Uniform Master's degree studies - studies which end with obtaining the title of Master, Master of Science or an equivalent title. Studying at uniform Master's studies lasts from 9 to 12 semesters and requires a high school diploma obtained in Poland or abroad. The uniform master's degree studies are available in such fields as, inter alia, pharmacy, law, psychology, medicine.

After obtaining such a professional title, you can continue your education at:

  • third-cycle studies,e. doctoral studies that enable obtaining advanced knowledge in a specific field or discipline. The studies prepare for obtaining a doctoral degree, a student may receive it after defending a doctoral dissertation. A master's degree obtained in Poland or abroad is a prerequisite for undertaking these studies;
  • postgraduate studies, i.e. studies aimed at deepening knowledge in a given field or discipline of science. Postgraduate studies last from 2 to 4 semesters. Upon graduation, students receive a postgraduate certificate (not a diploma), but do not obtain any professional or academic title.

Foreigners - provided they meet the requirements for admission and undergoing studies - can study at all the above-mentioned types of studies.

GENERAL CONDITIONS FOR ADMITTING FOREIGNERS TO STUDY IN POLAND

Full-time studies at state universities are free of charge for Polish citizens. From 2013, a fee for education in the second field of full-time studies was introduced. Evening and extramural studies at public universities are payable. The fees are determined by universities.

Day, evening and extramural studies at private universities are payable.

As a rule, all foreigners can study at Polish universities. However, the rules of their admission and the conditions of studying at public universities differ depending on the legal status of a foreigner in Poland. Some groups of foreigners may undertake studies in Polish at public universities on the same terms as Polish citizens (and therefore also free of charge). The groups include:

  • - foreigners with a permanent residence permit in Poland
  • - foreigners holding a valid Pole's Card
  • - foreigners who received decisions on the determination of Polish origin;
  • - foreigners with the refugee status granted by Poland;
  • - foreigners granted temporary protection in Poland;
  • - foreigners granted subsidiary protection in Poland;
  • - Foreigners with a certificate confirming the knowledge of the Polish language as a foreign language at the level of at least C1, issued bythe State Commission for the Certification of Proficiency in Polish as a Foreign Language
  • - foreigners with a long-term EU resident's residence permit granted in Poland – what is a long-term EU resident's residence permit?;
  • - foreigners who are spouses, ascendants or descendants of a Polish citizen, living on the territory of the Republic of Poland
  • - citizens of the EU and EFTA Member States and members of their families living on the territory of Poland;
  • - foreigners who have been granted a temporary residence permit for the purpose of conducting scientific research or for the purpose of long-term mobility of a scientist, or staying on the territory of the Republic of Poland in connection with the use of short-term mobility of a scientist or holding a national visa for the purpose of conducting research or development work;
  • - foreigners who have been granted a temporary residence permit for the purpose of family reunification;

foreigners who have a permit for temporary residence due to the so-called other circumstances: they will be people who have a long-term EU resident's residence permit granted by another Member State and want to work or study in Poland, or if there are other circumstances justifying their stay in Poland. Their family members, if accompanying them, can also undertake free studies. Other foreigners may study in Poland on a paid basis, unless they benefit from scholarships exempting them from the fees (more information on this type of scholarships is available below).

At a justified request of the foreigner, the rector of a university may reduce the fee or exempt it completely.

 

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR FOREIGNERS

Foreign students may apply for access to material aid from the state budget, i.e. for a social scholarship and for a student loan if they:

  1. have a permanent residence permit or are long-term EU residents,
  2. have a temporary residence permit for the purpose of family reunification
  3. foreigners and their family members who have a permit for temporary residence due to the so-called other circumstances: they will be people who have a long-term EU resident's residence permit granted by another Member State and want to work or study in Poland, or if there are other circumstances justifying their stay in Poland
  4. have the refugee status granted in Poland or are granted temporary protection or subsidiary protection on the territory of Poland,
  5. have a certificate confirming the knowledge of Polish as a foreign language at least at the C1 language proficiency level,
  6. have the Pole's Card or a decision confirming Polish origin,
  7. are the spouse, ascendant or descendant of a Polish citizen, living on the territory of the Republic of Poland.

On the other hand, all foreign students who start education in the 2019- 2020 academic year are entitled to apply for other financial aid benefits, i.e. for:

  1. a rector's scholarship,
  2. a scholarship for disabled people,
  3. an allowance,
  4. a scholarship financed by a local government unit,
  5. a scholarship for academic or sports results financed by a natural or legal person other than a state or local government legal entity,
  6. a minister's scholarship

Government scholarships of the Republic of Poland

The Polish government awards scholarships to students and trainees on the basis of bilateral agreements. Government scholarship holders are exempt from tuition fees. Every year, international agreements set limits on numbers of them. Persons applying for a scholarship to study in Poland should report to Polish diplomatic and consular posts abroad (consulates).

Such scholarships are paid to scholarship holders directly by the host university.

Foreign government scholarship holders (sending party)

Such scholarships are awarded to foreigners who undertake studies on the basis of international agreements, by the ministries or institutions of their country responsible for academic exchange with foreign countries. Foreign government scholarship holders do not pay tuition fees.

Without payment and scholarship benefits

Foreigners may apply for admission to studies on such conditions under international agreements or aid programs offered to certain countries by the Polish government. Persons applying for studies in Poland without payment and scholarship benefits should apply to Polish diplomatic and consular posts. A foreigner does not pay tuition fees, but does not receive a Polish government scholarship. They cover the costs of living in Poland on their own.

Individual universities in Poland have the right to establish their own rules for awarding scholarships to foreigners and the rules of exemption from fees.

 

WHAT DOES RECRUITMENT FOR STUDIES LOOK LIKE?

Individual universities in Poland set their own conditions and rules for admitting students.

Recruitment for higher education may take place on the basis of a competition of the total of points obtained at the matura exam in subjects required by a given university faculty. Persons who have passed the equivalent of the Polish matriculation exam abroad may be required to take an entrance examination if total points for the subjects on their matura exam is different than in Poland and cannot be converted. Some universities enrol only on the basis of an entrance examination, sometimes a matura certificate and passing an entrance examination are required. For detailed information on recruitment, please contact the department of your choice at the given university.

Recruitment for studies is carried out by recruitment committees appointed by the head of a university or other body indicated in the statute. The recruitment committees make decisions on admission to studies. The recruitment principle is non-discriminatory, which means that recruitment should be based on an objective assessment of the knowledge and / or skills of candidates, and the chances of admission should be equal for everyone - regardless of age, sex or origin.

Knowledge of the language and taking up studies

Studies conducted in Polish may be undertaken by those foreigners whose knowledge of Polish at a level sufficient to undertake studies is certified by:

  • - a certificate of completion of an appropriate course (e.g. a one-year preparatory course to study in Polish in units designated by the minister of science and higher education; the duration of such a course is included in the period of education for which the foreigner was admitted, and at that time they have the rights of a person undergoing higher education);
  • - a certificate of knowledge of Polish issued by the State Commission for the Certification of Knowledge of Polish as a Foreign Language;
  • - the host university.

Foreigners may also be admitted to studies conducted in foreign languages (except for doctoral studies at medical universities in the field of clinical disciplines) if they have a document confirming knowledge of a foreign language (e.g. a secondary school leaving certificate from a school in which classes were conducted in the rlevant language).

What are ECTS credits

ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer System) are a measure of the average workload of a learner necessary to achieve the assumed learning outcomes. Each subject attended by a student during their studies has a predetermined number of ECTS credits.

In order to obtain a diploma of completion:

  • - undergraduate studies the student must obtain at least 180 ECTS credits;
  • - second-cycle studies - at least 90 ECTS credits;
  • - uniform Master's studies in the five-year study system - at least 300 ECTS points, and in the six-year study system - 360 ECTS points.

In addition to the classes held to obtain the above-mentioned full-time study points at a public university students have the right to use additional classes not included in the study program for free, for them they may obtain additional no more than 30 ECTS points, and students pursuing education under individual inter-faculty studies - no more than 90 ECTS points.

More information on scoring is available here.

 

HOW TO LEGALIZE YOUR STAY IN POLAND ON THE BASIS OF STUDIES

You can read about the procedure for obtaining a residence card on the basis of studies here

You can read about the visa procedure here

If a foreigner, after completing their studies in Poland and after the expiry of a visa or residence card, want to continue living in Poland, they must legalize their stay. You can read about the legalization of stay and the methods of obtaining a residence card here

 

HEALTH INSURANCE WHILE STUDYING

Foreign students have the right to use medical care in Poland, provided that they are insured with the National Health Fund - more information on public health insurance in Poland is available here

Health insurance for people of Polish origin is paid for by the university where they study. Such people should prove to the university that they are of Polish origin.

People who do not have Polish origin must pay for their health insurance from their own funds.

 

ACCOMMODATION WHILE STUDYING

Students, including foreign ones, may be granted places in dormitories (student dormitories). In order to obtain a place in a dormitory, an appropriate application must be submitted. Each university with dormitories has its own deadline for submitting such applications. Before choosing a university, check whether the university has dormitories, their location and the price of accommodation. Also, if a student has already been granted a place in a dormitory in a given year and wants to use it in the following academic year, they must submit an application before the end of the academic year with a request for a reallocation in the dormitory.

Note: it should be remembered that due to the large number of applicants and the limited number of places in student dormitories, such applications are not always considered positively.

Places in dormitories are payable, and the fees are determined by the dormitory. The price of a place in a dormitory varies in different cities, but usually it costs from 400 to 800 PLN per month. Rooms in the dormitories are usually double or triple. Single rooms are the most expensive.

 

RIGHT TO WORK FOR STUDENTS

It is worth remembering that foreign students do not need a work permit if:

  • - they stay in Poland or come to Poland for the purpose of taking up or continuing full-time higher education or full-time doctoral studies, and the basis for their stay in Poland is a residence card issued for the purpose of undertaking or continuing studies. Foreigners are also exempt from having such a permit if they undertook studies on the territory of another EU Member State, and they intend to continue or supplement it in Poland;
  • - they are full-time students studying in Poland on the basis of a visa
  • - they are students who work as part of professional internships, for which they are directed by organizations that are members of international student associations (for example, the International Association of Medicine Students sends foreign students to Poland for professional internships);
  • - they are students who perform work under the cooperation of public employment services and their foreign partners, if the need to entrust work to a foreigner is confirmed by the competent employment authority;
  • - they are students of higher education institutions assigned to work internships for a period not exceeding six months in a calendar year (under an agreement between a foreign university or vocational school and the employer, registered at the poviat labor office competent for the place of residence or registered office of the employer);
  • - they are students of higher education institutions or students of vocational schools in the EU or EFTA Member States who perform work within the framework of apprenticeships provided for in the regulations of study or in the curriculum, provided that they have been referred for such an apprenticeship from a university or vocational school.

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