The system of Polish higher education is very similar to that of Dutch higher education. Higher education in Poland is also either research-oriented (academic) or focused on professional practice. The difference is that a study programme at a Polish academic institution can sometimes be profession-oriented.

In Polish higher education, students can obtain the following diplomas:

  • bachelor’s degrees, 1st cycle: licencjat and inżynier;
  • master’s degrees, 2nd cycle: magister, magister inżynier and lekarz;
  • doctoral degree, 3rd cycle: dyplom doktor.

Bachelor’s degrees: 1st cycle

There are several types of bachelor’s degrees in Poland:

  • licencjat: the general bachelor’s degree that students can obtain in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and many medical sciences;
  • bachelor’s degrees with a specific name, such as a licencjatin nursing or midwifery;
  • inżynier: the technical bachelor’s degree in engineering and agricultural sciences;
  • inżynier architekt: the bachelor’s degree in architectural studies.

Licencjat and inżynier

The licencjat and inżynier study programmes focus on professional practice or research. They prepare students for work, science or a follow-up study programme.

  • Duration: 3 years (180 ECTS) for a licencjat and 3.5 years (210 ECTS) for an inżynier .
  • Content: research-oriented or profession-oriented (practical). Students always write a thesis and have to take a final exam (egzamin dyplomowy). In the case of profession-oriented programmes, students do a 6-month internship.
  • Admission requirements: świadectwo dojrzałości (maturity certificate), see also Admission to higher education.
  • Diploma: dyplom ukończenia studiów pierwszego stopnia (diploma of completion of a 1st-cycle programme). In popular speech the diploma is called dyplom licencjat or dyplom inżynier.

We compare the dyplom licencjat to an HBO or a WO bachelor's degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

We compare the dyplom inżynier to an HBO or a WO bachelor's degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

Short-cycle programmes

There are also 3-year professionally oriented study programmes in Polish higher education. These programmes are called short-cycle programmes. Students do not obtain a licencjat but a diploma (dyplom). These programmes are for social work only and students take them at a kolegium pracowników służb społecznych (college for social work). In the old system, there were also short-cycle programmes for certain teacher training programmes.

  • Duration: 3 years.
  • Content: higher professional education for social work.
  • Admission requirements: the diploma of completion of a 4-year liceum or a 5-year technikum.
  • Diploma: dyplom ukończenia kolegium (diploma of completion of a college).

We compare the dyplom ukończenia kolegium to 3 years of higher professional education (HBO).

Master’s degrees: 2nd cycle

There are several types of master’s degrees:

  • magister: the general master’s degree that students can obtain in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and many medical sciences;
  • master’s degrees with a specific name, such as a magister in nursing or midwifery;
  • magister inżynier: the technical master’s degree in engineering and agricultural sciences;
  • magister inżynier architekt: the master’s degree in architectural studies.

Magister and magister inżynier

The magister and magister inżynier study programmes focus on professional practice or on research. They prepare students for work, scientific research or a PhD.

  • Duration: 2 years (120 ECTS) for a magister and 1.5 years (90 ECTS) for a magister inżynier.
  • Content: research-oriented or profession-oriented (practical). Students write a thesis or do a project. They also have to take a final exam (egzamin dyplomowy). In the case of profession-oriented programmes, students do a 3-month internship.
  • Admission requirements: a licencjat or inżynier.
  • Diploma: dyplom ukończenia studiów drugiego stopnia (diploma of completion of a second-cycle programme). In popular speech the diploma is called dyplom magister or dyplom magister inżynier.

We compare the dyplom magister to an HBO or a WO master's degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

We compare the dyplom magister inżynier to an HBO or a WO master's degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

Long-cycle programmes

In some fields, they combine the 1st cycle (bachelor’s degree) and 2nd cycle (master’s degree). In Polish, these integrated master’s programmes are called long-cycle programmes, since the bachelor’s and master’s phases are not split up. Students obtain a master’s degree after successfully completing a long-cycle programme.

Long-cycle programmes include medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, veterinary medicine, law, pre-primary and early childhood education, and special education.

In addition, other fields of study may also offer this type of integrated programme. This is the case, for instance, with architecture, psychology, theology and art.

  • Duration: 4.5 to 6 years. Most long-cycle programmes take 5 years. However, medicine takes 6 years, veterinary medicine 5.5 years and the acting programme takes 4.5 years.
  • Content: academic education and often an internship, research or a project. Students write a thesis and take a final exam.
  • Diploma: dyplom ukonczenia jednolitych studiów magisterskich (diploma of completion of an integrated master's programme). In popular speech it is called dyplom magister or dyplom magister inżynier.

Other names for diplomas of integrated master's programmes are:

  • dyplom lekarz (doctor) after studying medicine;
  • dyplom lekarz dentysta (dentist) after studying dentistry; and
  • dyplom lekarz weterynarii (veterinarian) after having studied veterinary medicine.

We compare the dyplom ukonczenia jednolitych studiów magisterskich (diploma of completion of an integrated master's programme) to an HBO master's degree or a WO master's degree. This depends on the content of the study programme.

We compare the dyplom lekarz/dyplom lekarz dentysta/dyplom lekarz weterynarii (diploma doctor/dentist/veterinarian) to a WO master's degree.

Dyplom doktor: 3rd cycle

There are changes in the 3rd cycle. First, students could only obtain a PhD at universities. Now, students can only obtain the title of doctor at doctoral schools. These doctoral schools can be a part of a university, but they can also be part of a research institute or the Polish Academy of Sciences, for example.

The establishment of these doctoral schools runs until 2022. Students who started a PhD before that time can finish their education in the old way. In terms of content, there are no major changes.

  • Duration: 3 to 4 years.
  • Content: academic education and a personal research plan. PhD students must publish a number of articles in scientific journals and write and defend a dissertation.
  • Admission requirements: a magister or magister inżynier. In a few cases a licencjat or inżynier is sufficient.
  • Diploma: dyplom doktor.

Postgraduate programmes

After completing a bachelor’s or master’s programme, students can also take postgraduate programmes (studia podyplomowe). However, these programmes do not award students with a degree like magister or dyplom doktor. They are often profession-oriented programmes for people with work experience. Anyone who wants to retrain can take part in this kind of education.

Types of higher education institutions

There are 2 types of higher education institutions in Poland:

  • academic institutions (uczelnia akademicka) with a focus on scientific research; and
  • profession-oriented institutions (uczelnia zawodowa) with a focus on professions and work.

Both types of higher education institutions often have a profile or specialisation such as economics, agriculture, health, technology, art or education.

Please note: the division into academic and profession-oriented programmes in Poland is not always the same as the Dutch system. It often is, but not always. A study programme at an academic institution can sometimes be profession-oriented too.

Of the approximately 360 higher education institutions, about 70% are academic institutions (uczelnia akademicka). There are public institutions and private institutions.

Academic institutions

Students in Poland can attend the following academic institutions:

  • university (uniwersytet);
  • academy (akademia);
  • technical university (politechnika).

These institutions offer bachelor’s, master’s and PhD programmes. Education is often focused on scientific research, but sometimes on specific professions and work.

Profession-oriented institutions

Institutions of higher professional education do not have fixed names. Often there is something like wyźsza skoła (college) or wyźsza skoła zawodowa (higher professional school) in the name. These educational institutions only offer bachelor’s and master’s programmes. These study programmes are almost always intended to prepare students for a specific profession or field of work.

Admission to higher education

Polish higher education institutions only admit students who have obtained the świadectwo dojrzałości (maturity certificate). It is irrelevant whether the institution is academic or profession-oriented.

For admission to Polish higher education, it is useful if students take more exams than the minimum number. Universities and other higher education institutions indicate on their websites in which additional subjects exams are required. The results of the exams are also important in determining who they admit.

Entrance exam

There are only entrance exams for certain fields, including art programmes and sports programmes.