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Institutions, structure and academic credits in Polish higher education system

Posted by Damian Novitzky on 26/06/2019
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What is the difference between first-cycle, Bachelor’s degree courses and Master’s? What’s the Bologna Process in general, and how regular student can gain from it? Basically, what’s the structure and Institutions of higher education in Poland? How the examinations and the credits system look like? All that and more is right bellow. Let’s find out!

Basic information

The degree system basing on the three-cycle structure has been successfully implemented together with the ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). The European standard in higher education help students to obtain recognition of their qualifications in other countries. Because Poland participates in the Bologna Process, and therefore, the organization of studying looks like this:

First cycle studies – professional courses that are strictly career-oriented, will prepare you for working in a specific profession. Bachelor courses last 6 semesters, but Engineer courses (at technical universities) lasts 7. Both of them end with obtaining a degree. If you want to take up first-cycle studies, you must first graduate from secondary school and pass the secondary school-leaving examination. To accomplish this degree, students must get 180-240 ECTS credits.

Second cycle studies – vocational studies are ending in obtaining a Master’s degree, as well as a Master’s degree in engineering. Second-cycle courses last from 3 to 4 semesters. Completion of first cycle studies is required before starting a Master’s courses. To get the degree, students must earn 90-120 ECTS credits.

Uniform MA courses – lasts from 9 to 12 semesters (depending on the field of study) and ending with obtaining a Master’s degree or an equivalent of it. Recruitment requirements are the same as in the case of first-cycle studies. Majors included in the uniform Master’s degree system: law, medicine, pharmacy, psychology and some others. To obtain those degrees, students must earn up to 270-360 ECTS credits.

If you’re interested in serious researcher career, ending the first and second cycle will be a turning point for you. After that, you will have two additional opportunities to educate yourself even more:

Third-cycle studies – doctoral studies, allowing to acquire specialist knowledge from a specific scientific major field. These courses end with obtaining the first academic degree – PhD or more classic “doctor”. Although it’s precisely comfortable life degrees before. You will have to prepare and defend a doctoral dissertation in advance.

Postgraduate courses – those allow you to acquire specialist knowledge and broaden your knowledge and skills in a specific field of study. The duration depends on the chosen program – generally between 2 and 4 semesters. What’s essential: finishing postgraduate studies do not involve obtaining any degree, graduates receive only a certificate of completion of doctoral courses.

Majors on Polish universities

The number of majors and specialities offered by Polish universities is pretty overwhelming. It will either not help you with the decision, which determines how will you spend the next few years. Creating new majors, including existing ones or running interdisciplinary programs, is nothing extraordinary. Universities are adapting their educational offer to the requirements of the labour market. It will also benefit the candidates who will be able to choose a course that suits their interests and expectations.

ECTS credits

In addition to the grading scale, within the Bologna Process, there is the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). The idea is that under a certain number of academic credits are allocated to a given subject, independently of the grade awarded. To complete a year, a student has to collect 60 credits (30 per semester). The ECTS is the standard adopted in the process of convergence between Europe’s higher education systems. Since 2007, all Polish higher education institutions are using ECTS for both credit transfer and accumulation within their degree programmes. Thanks to the ECTS credits, foreign students’ periods of study can be recognized in Poland.

Decision itself

If you came so far, that means you are really considering doing it. Well, we will definitely encourage you, but also it’s not precisely a natural choice to make. The pressure of “making the responsible decision” in case of the field of study is unbearable. What’s not always helping, it’s an influence of your environment. Surrounded by the expectations of your family or friends can be really annoying. However, you must be guided solely by your predispositions, interests and expectations of the labour market. You have plenty to choose from, but most importantly: most universities do not conduct entrance examinations for the candidates! There are exceptions in Artistic Universities or artistic majors like music. In the last academic year, there were 453 universities in Poland, including 19 universities, 26 art universities, 25 universities with a professional profile, 17 pedagogy colleges, 9 medical universities and record-breaking amount of 76 economy universities.

The recruitment process

It seems like complicates procedure, but we can summarize it as below:
– the schedule is always available on the university’s website (as well as other, vital information),
– the recruitment form is filled in online through a unique registration system for candidates (each university has its own system),
– the cost of the registration fee is regulated annually by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education,
– after receiving the results of the secondary school-leaving exam, you need to complete your online profile in the registration system (in case of first-cycle and Master’s degree courses),
– when you finish all the above, you just wait patiently for positive results!

After admitted, it is necessary to go to the university recruitment office personally to sign the contract and physically provide all the missing documents. People who do not succeed in the first stage of recruitment should not give up and try to the very end. Almost all of the candidates submit applications for more than one primary or university. As soon as they find out where they are about to be enrolled, they resign from other ones. Also, universities with available places often announce supplementary recruitment. So keep on looking!

Graduation and Diploma

To be able to graduate, every student is required to pass a performance assessment for all subjects, integrated placements together with practical work sessions. Also pass all of the examinations covered by the study programme set for a given field of study. At an appointed date, student have to present a diploma project and attain a pass mark for that project. After that, he have to pass the diploma examination.

During graduation, students receives a diploma of completion of studies in a specific field of study. Together with an official document, a student gets a Diploma Supplement, which is a copy of the original diploma but translated into a foreign language. It’s also describing the degree, its level and specialization.

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