Higher Education in Poland
The modern Polish higher education system uses the standard three stages of degrees: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. Master’s degrees are awarded as Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), or Magister. There are also several equivalent master’s degrees, including Master of Art, Master Engineer, and Master Engineer Architect. All institutions of higher education in Poland use the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
Higher education institutes in Poland are divided into university-type and non-university-type. University-type courses at the master’s level are more theoretical, and graduates are awarded a “diploma of completion of uniform master-level studies.” Non-university-type courses are considered “complementary” courses that have more practical application, and graduates receive a “diploma of completion of complementary magister-level studies.”
Why Study in Poland?
Institutions of higher education in Poland offer more than 200 master’s degree programs in English. Programs are available in a wide range of academic disciplines, including agricultural science, art, engineering, business, languages, natural sciences and social sciences. The most popular disciplines are engineering (nearly 70 programs) and business (nearly 50 programs). Some programs are available in German as well.
Polish institutions are well regarded throughout the world for both education and research. Two Polish institutions, Jagiellonian University and the University of Warsaw, are among the top 400 world universities as rated by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Poland has approximately 500 universities and other institutions of higher education. About one-third of the higher education institutes are public and the remaining two-thirds are private. Poland welcomes international students and has significantly increased the number of foreign students in recent years. In 2012, the country hosted more than 24,000 international students from 141 countries, with the largest number coming from Ukraine, Belarus, Norway, and the US. Most foreign students in Poland study economics, business, medicine and technology.
Higher education institutions in Poland tend to specialize and are broken into a wide variety of categories, including: university, technical university, academy of agriculture, academy of economics and so on. Altogether, there are 15 different types of institutes.
Tuition and Program Duration
Polish students attending full-time programs receive free tuition at state institutions. Some foreign students may also study at no cost; however, all others must pay tuition of €2,000 per year for master’s programs.
Master’s programs normally last for 1.5 to 2 years; however, MSc degrees may require 2.5 years of studies beyond the bachelor’s degree. In addition to courses, students in most disciplines must complete a thesis or project and defend it before receiving the master’s degree.
The academic year has two semesters, each concluding with an examination period. The fall semester runs from October through mid-February and the spring semester runs from mid-February through June.
EU citizens can work for any company in Poland after graduation without a work permit. Non-EU students may seek employment and, once they are offered a job, may apply for a work permit. Three categories of employment do not require a work permit: university teacher, CEO of a Polish unit of a multinational company, and press correspondent.
Graduates of master’s programs in Poland may also remain for doctoral programs and research if they are admitted to an academic program.
Students from EU/EEA member countries do not require a visa, but they need a temporary residence permit. Non-EU/EEA students must have a student visa, which can be obtained from the Polish Embassy or Consulate in their home country. However, this visa is only good for three months, so students requiring a longer stay must apply for a residence permit that covers the length of their studies. Students should contact the International Relations Office at their university for assistance in obtaining the residence permit.
Health insurance is required for all students. EU students can use their European Health Insurance Card to obtain medical services. Poland also has bilateral agreements with the United Kingdom, Sweden and Slovakia, which entitles those citizens to obtain free medical care.
Students from non-EU/EEA countries should buy health insurance in their home country or immediately after arriving in Poland. If students do not have health insurance, they will have to pay for medical services.
Poland takes great pride in the Polish language, and courses to study Polish in the country abound. Students who are not already proficient in Polish should consider supplementing their studies with language instruction, especially if they are considering employment opportunities in Poland after they graduate. Many courses in Poland are targeted at beginners and are taught during the summer months or even online. Specialized classes focused on Polish for business are also available.
Poland is located in north-central Europe. Most of the country is a plain with no natural boundaries except the Carpathian Mountains in the south and the Oder and Neisse rivers in the west. Other major rivers, which are important to commerce, are the Vistula, Warta, and Bug. Poland has a high-income economy and is considered to be one of the healthiest of the post-Communist countries, being one of the fastest growing within the EU. Having a strong domestic market, low private debt, flexible currency, and not being dependent on a single export sector, Poland is the only European economy to have avoided the late-2000s recession.
Poland is located in the center of Europe and has borders with the Baltic Sea, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia. Most of the country is flat, but two mountain ranges are located in the south. Poland is home to spectacular natural scenery and beautiful architecture that includes castles, palaces, wooden churches and modern sports arenas. Polish currency uses the zloty, abbreviated PLN.
Climate in Poland
Due to its central location, Poland has warm summers and very cold winters that include heavy snow. Summer temperatures in most of the country range from 20 to 30 degrees C. Average winter temperatures range from 3 degrees C in the northwest to -8 degrees C in the northeast.
The majority of the Polish population lives in urban areas, and Polish customs and traditions are a blend of both eastern and western culture. Nearly 300 arts festivals take place in the country each year including theater, film and music, especially jazz music. Polish people are very friendly and meals are considered celebrations. Polish meals feature a wide variety of vegetables, potatoes and meats.
Cost of Living
The cost to live in Poland is relatively low, about 1200-2500 PLN (about €300-600) per month, excluding tuition. Student dormitories cost about 400-600 PLN and shared apartments run 1000-1600 PLN per month.
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