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Higher Education System in Poland. Bologna Process, Fees, Best Universities, and Academic Calendar

Why should you consider studying in Poland?

  1. It’s free (sort of)!
  2. Living in Poland is relatively cheap for foreigners.
  3. Poland is a great base to explore Europe!
  4. The university summer break lasts 3 months…
  5. ….and the weekend starts on Thursday!

Interested to know more? Here are some basic things you should know to be well-prepared to study here.

The higher education system in Poland

In Poland, we have a 2-step Bologna process: first you can get a bachelor’s degree in 3 years and that’s called licencjat, or an engineer’s degree in 3,5 years and it’s called inżynier. At this stage most Poles consider their university education incomplete and pursue a master’s degree – magister. This second step takes 2 years. Then, you can get a PhD degree called doktorat– it usually lasts another 2 years (or more).

Importantly, the master degree can be in another, related field – and this gives you cool opportunities to gain additional knowledge. 

Degrees for doctors, Dentists, Veterinarians, Pharmacists, and Lawyers require the full 5 years of studies. 

If you want to specialize in a certain field or gain additional knowledge, you can do a postgraduate course. They last 2 or 4 semesters, and you learn something more specialized. But you don’t get an additional university degree.For most majors there are no entrance exams. University admission is based on the result of the high school graduation exam, MATURA. So when choosing the optional subjects for the exam you need to know what you want to study at university and what subjects are required.

Full-time and part-time students

When choosing a degree program, you can decide whether you want to study full or part-time. Full-time studies, studia dzienne, usually last from Monday to Friday. Sometimes you manage to arrange your schedule so that you have a day off. Part-time studies, studia zaoczne, are held on weekends – Saturday and Sunday.

We used to think that the part-time option was usually chosen by those who already had a job and wanted to be independent while still pursuing a degree, and the full-time option by those who preferred to party for a few more years. We have to admit there’s some truth in this 🙂

University fees in Poland

We have to admit – we misled you a little bit in the very beginning of this article. Yes, studying in Poland is free of charge but… only at public universities and only for full-time students

Do you, as a foreigner, have to pay for university in Poland? It depends. You won’t pay if you are an EU citizen or European Economic Area citizen, you have a valid Pole’s Card, or you have a permanent residence permit or a long-term EU-residence permit. Another condition is a Polish-language proficiency certificate. 

If you don’t comply with these requirements, you’ll have to pay around 1-2k euros per year. Or… you can come with a scholarship or an international exchange programme. We’ll tell you more about them later on.

The best universities in Poland

Whether you plan to come to Poland for your entire studies or just for one or two semesters, the choice is always difficult.

We Poles tend to choose the university based on their reputation or for the city itself. 

There are 2 Polish universities long considered to be the best:

  1. The University of Warsaw
  2. Jagiellonian University in Cracow

Also, the cities of Warsaw and Kraków compete with each other to be the most attractive cities in Poland.

Every June, the Polish educational foundation “Perspektywy” announces a ranking of the best universities in Poland. This year the results are as follows:

1. UW
2. UJ
3. Politechnika Warszawska
4. Uniwersytet Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu / AGH w Krakowie
6. Politechnika Gdańska
7. Gdański Uniwersytet Medyczny / Politechnika Wrocławska
9. Uniwersytet Medyczny w Łodzi
10. Uniwersytet Wrocławski / Politechnika Łódzka

Full ranking from June 2022 is available here.

The best student cities in Poland

If you wonder which cities are the most student-friendly, go back to the previous list. You’ll see already mentioned Kraków and Warszawa, but also: Wrocław, Gdańsk, Poznań, and Łódź. These cities offer not only a high level of education, but also great architecture, history, tourist attractions, and free-time activities. And that’s just as important as the university itself. Or even more 🙂

If big city life is your thing, we recommend Wrocław and Gdańsk. They have charm! And if you’re open to something less obvious, check the industrial city of Łódz or our city of Katowice. Katowice is constantly changing and – along with the entire region – has a lot to offer. It’s also a great base to explore this part of Europe.

Where to study in Katowice?

The most respected universities are: Silesian University, Silesian University of Technology, The University of Economics, The Medical University of Silesia, and The Krzysztof Kieślowski Film School. The current offer is available on their websites.

The Erasmus program and foreigners in Poland

If not for the entire degree, then at least come for one or two semesters. For example on Erasmus!

Poland loves the Erasmus scholarship – both hosting students here and going abroad. Our country has been a member of the Erasmus program for more than 20 years now. Since then, more than 200 thousand Polish students have gone to study abroad and more than 120 thousand students came to us!

The nationalities that come most often to Poland are the Spanish, the Turks, The Germans, The French, and The Portuguese. Would you like to be the next?

Foreigners in Poland are not only Erasmus students. There are several more scholarships. We recommend the website study.gov.pl to search for your perfect match and learn more about the requirements. 

What do foreigners study in Poland most often? Medicine, law, economics, and management.

A fun fact: during the academic year 20/21 we had 85k foreigners from 189 countries studying in Poland. What a mix!

What does an academic year look like in Poland?

  • An academic year consists of two semesters. The winter semester is from October to January. In February there’s a break and an exam session. This is the 2-week time when you have to pass all your exams. March-June is the summer semester that ends with a summer exam session at the end of June. If you pass you’ll have 3 months of vacation! If not, the make-up exam session falls in September. 
  • The grading system is a 2-5 point system. The best grade you can get is 5- very good, and the worst – 2, unsatisfactory. The minimum passing grade is 3 and that’s enough for students to be completely happy 😀
  • In an exam session you usually have 2 chances to pass. You didn’t? Then you have to retake it. Didn’t pass it either? Sorry, you’re out. 
  • Every major has specific subjects each semester to be passed. All of them! In Poland, you don’t choose your subjects, each is compulsory. Even P.E. for full-timers.
  • There are theoretical and practical classes. The theoretical class is usually a 1,5 h monologue by the lecturer. Practical ones are usually more interesting – there are discussions and exercises. 
  • You get the schedule shortly before the beginning of the year and it can change. 
  • You can miss practical classes 2 times in a semester, theoretical classes are not mandatory. If you hit a day with only theoretical classes, sometimes you can take a day off… But of course only in justified cases, for example, when going on a trip around Poland!

There’s a belief that most of the subjects are boring and what you have  to do is to learn, pass, and forget. Well, there’s a lot of truth in this.. Many classes are just a waste of time… Even if your major is interesting, there’s always at least one boring class to pass.At the end of your 3 or 2 years, and you’ve passed all your exams, you must pass a final exam or you write a thesis and then you have a thesis defense – a famous obrona. It depends on the major.

A student’s reality and some fun facts

  • Remember who’s the boss. If going to the dean’s office, always be polite, smile, and don’t ask too many questions. You just want to get your things done, right? 
  • A student record book is a sacred thing. In the past it was only in paper form and the worst thing that could happen to you was to lose it. Now more and more universities have it in e-form, which is obviously more convenient, but we kinda miss the paper one.
  • There’s no free food. Sometimes there’s a small shop where you can grab a coffee or something to eat, but most often we bring our own sandwiches.
    We have lots of jokes about poor Polish students that have no money, eat mostly frozen crap, and spend all their money on cheap beer. 
  • And speaking of beer… in bigger cities there are bars that offer discounts for students and organize student parties, yep, most often on Thursdays. That’s why the weekend starts on Thursday. 
  • One of the best things about being a student in Poland are reduced tickets for public transport. It’s half the regular price. Also, there are some discounts at cinemas, museums, and pools. 

And after all, being a student is just a great adventure! 

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