An overview on the different types of studies

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Degree programmes, which are provided by both university-type and non-university higher education institutions, include first-cycle (Bachelor's degree) programmes, second-cycle (Master's degree) programmes and/or long-cycle (Master's degree) programmes. First-cycle programmes aim to provide knowledge and skills in a specific area of study, preparing students for work in a specific profession. Graduates of first-cycle programmes have access to second-cycle programmes. Second-cycle and long-cycle programmes aim to provide specialist knowledge in a specific area of study, preparing students for creative work in a specific profession.

General requirements for admission to degree programmes, which are provided by higher education institutions, are the same for both university-type and non-university higher education institutions. Access to first-cycle programmes, leading to a Bachelor's degree and long-cycle programmes, is open to holders of an upper secondary school leaving certificate (maturity certificate).

After the introduction of a new upper secondary-school leaving examination (Matura examination) in 2005, admission to first-cycle and long-cycle degree programmes must be based on the results of this examination. Thus, higher education institutions may not organize entrance examinations in the subjects taken by student applicants at the maturity examination.

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However, each higher education institutions may specify which results of the Matura examination provide the basis for admission to first-cycle and long-cycle programmes. Additional entrance examinations may be conducted by higher education institutions, upon the consent of the minister responsible for higher education, but only when it is necessary to assess knowledge or skills which are not assessed by the Matura examination or when an applicant holds an upper secondary school leaving certificate obtained abroad.

The duration of degree programmes in both university-type and non-university higher education institutions is as follows:

• first-cycle programmes (Bachelor's degree): 3 to 4 years when leading to licentiate title or 3.5 to 4 years when leading to engineer title, depending on the field of study;

• second-cycle programmes (Master's degree): 1.5 to 2 years, depending on the field of study;

• long-cycle programmes (Master's degree): 4.5 to 6 years, depending on the field of study.

The completion of both second-cycle and long-cycle programmes provides access to third-cycle (doctoral) programmes.

Doctoral (third-cycle) programmes, which are offered by university-type higher education institutions and research institutions, aim to provide advanced knowledge in a specific area or discipline of science, preparing students for independent research and creative activity and for the award of the academic degree of doctor. Holders of the academic degree of doctor may continue their research career to obtain firstly the academic degree of doctor habilitowany and subsequently the academic title of professor. Apart from the general legislation listed in the beginning the Regulation by the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 19 December 2006 on doctoral programmes provided by organizational units of higher education institutions is related in particular to the organization of doctoral programmes.

Doctoral programmes may be provided either by higher education institutions or by units of research institutions other than higher education institutions (Polish Academy of Sciences and research and development institutions) which are authorised to award the academic degree of doctor habilitowany. As in the case of higher education institutions, authorisations to award the academic degree of doctor habilitowany are granted by the State Commission for Academic Degrees on the basis of the quality of research and the number of staff (12) employed holding the academic title of professor or the academic degree of doctor habilitowany.

Doctoral programmes in both higher education institutions and research institutions other than higher education institutions last between 3 and 4 years, the predominant model being a four-year programme. The exact duration of a doctoral programme is determined in regulations establishing such a programme in a given unit of a higher education institution or other research institution.

Access to doctoral programmes, which are provided by university-type higher education institutions and research institutions other than higher education institutions, is open to applicants who hold a Master's degree (magister or an equivalent degree) and fulfill admission conditions laid down by a given institution. Detailed admission conditions are defined by the board of the organizational unit authorised to provide doctoral programmes in a given institution, and must be published not later than by 31 May of the year preceding the academic year to which they refer.

Number of students

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At the beginning of 2008/2009 academic year there were 456 universities in Poland (131 public and 325 non-public universities). Simultaneously, at the public universities studied around 2/3 of all students (1,27 million) [1] .

In accordance with Central Statistical Office classification, the majority of students (almost 30%) study at universities, with the remaining rest at technical colleges, medical schools etc. The average number of students at public universities and non-public universities amounts respectively to 9,7 thousand and around 2 thousand.

The highest average number of students is at universities - around 29,2 thousand, second place belongs to technical college (around 13,4 thousand) and then the agriculture college (11 thousand). Small non-public colleges are a majority in Polish higher education structure.

Despite the fact that since early 1990s polish higher education has been developing systematically, it is characterized by a poor internationalization indicator in comparison to the EU countries. The important activities concerning internationalization process concentrate mainly in universities, which participate in EU programs, conclude the international agreements with foreign universities, employ foreign academic lecturers (mainly from neighboring countries).

An important indicator measuring the level of internationalization of higher education is the number of foreign students (staying in Poland for the whole studies) in the total number of students at polish universities. In Poland this indicator amounts to 0,5% and at the same time this is the worst result among the 27 OECD countries. According to OECD specialist, the reason consists in the poor and unattractive didactic offer of polish universities. [2] Among the foreign students at polish universities the majority are Ukrainian (15%), Belarusian (10%), Norwegian (6%) and US (5%). [3] 

The ratio between numbers of polish students studying abroad and polish students in Poland amounts to 1,5% - this is still below the average ratio for EU countries.

Polish institutions of higher education are engaged in international student exchange programmes like SOCRATES/Erasmus, as well as in bilateral agreements and individual exchange programmes pursued by particular schools. The level of polish students going abroad to study is growing rapidly since the Socrates-Erasmus program introduction. The programme gives the polish students an opportunity to study in partner universities in the European countries, and at the same time, hosting their students in order to complete the study programme which can last from 3 month to one academic year. Students can participate in intensive courses (didactic lectures prepared and lead by international group of lecturers for international group of students). For the time being, over 250 of polish universities take part in Erasmus programme (they have an Erasmus Charter given by European Commission). In the academic year 2007/08, 12 854 polish students studied abroad within Erasmus programme - this is the triple of the number of foreign students coming to Poland (4 446). The number of Polish higher education institutions being a part of Erasmus University Charter is around 200, but still only the 1% of student population is going study abroad. The most popular country among polish students were: Germany (40% of the total number of polish students studying abroad), Great Britain (17,7%), France (8,9%) and US (7,5%). [4] 

Academic recognition of education in Poland

The academic recognition means the recognition of a foreign qualification to enable further studies. The procedure consists in establishing whether the applicant is able to continue studies in the chosen direction and at the chosen level.

Seeking for academic recognition of the credentials of previous studies is essential in the following cases:

holding a degree or diploma of the native country and seeking an admission to a next stage of studies abroad;

seeking an admission for further studies in native country after finishing the previous stage of studies in a foreign country;

moving from one foreign country to a different one in order to continue studies in the further stage of studies;

returning to homeland higher education institution after having finished a stage of studies abroad.

The body responsible for academic recognition in Poland is the Bureau for Academic Recognition and International Exchange, state institution subordinated to the Minister of National Education. Acting as the Polish ENIC centre the Bureau cooperates closely with the ENIC/NARIC Network as well as provides information on higher education institutions and diplomas. The procedures and institutions involved in the foreign diplomas recognition differ according to higher education diplomas and school certificates.

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On the basis of the Ordinance of the Minister of National Education on the Rules and Procedure for Nostrification of Certificates Obtained Abroad (October 15, 1997) all foreign school certificates have to be firstly legally recognised by the issuing country and later by the local educational authority in Poland.

The foreign credentials providing the access to the foreign higher education are recognised in Poland as well (similarly to other school certificates), but they must contain a clause that confirms holder's access to the higher education institutions in the home country. Otherwise the authorities of the institution that has issued the certificate might give a separate note confirming this fact.

As far as the recognition of foreign higher education diplomas is concerned relevant provisions of the Regulation of the Minister of National Education on the Rules and Procedure for Nostrification of Diplomas and Professional Titles Obtained Abroad (December 10, 1991) state that the holders of such diplomas must apply either to the council of faculty or to another organizational unit of a Polish higher education institution. However the chosen higher education institution has to be authorised to provide degree programmes and award the academic degree of doctor.