Branches of study
The first cycle of study, leading to a bachelor’s degree, includes university and professional undergraduate studies. Undergraduate studies are available in all areas of science: biomedical and health science, biotechnology, social sciences, humanities, natural science, technical science, interdisciplinary and artistic areas.
Undergraduate university studies are delivered by universities only and they take from three to four years. Their completion will earn a student from 180 to 240 ECTS credit points and an academic bachelor’s degree or baccalaureate including a field of specialization. It corresponds to level 6 of the European and the Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF).
Undergraduate professional studies are delivered by polytechnics, colleges, and universities and they last from three to four years. Their completion earns a student 180 to 240 ECTS credit points and a professional bachelor’s degree including a field of specialization. They correspond to level 6 of the CROQF.
University colleges announce their terms of enrolment in public calls that are published at least six months prior to the beginning of the academic year. They stipulate the terms of enrolment, enrolment capacity, the application procedure, the information and documentation required, and the application and enrolment deadlines. Applicants’ previous achievements and current level of knowledge are graded in line with colleges’ internal regulations on degree credit.
State graduation exam at the end of the four-year secondary education was introduced into the Croatian education system in 2010, along with the electronic applications procedure in higher education institutions that includes the results of state graduation exam in the ranking procedure for applicants. In most cases, this new system of admission has replaced previous entrance exams, although some higher education institutions still require applicants to take additional exams. Applicants for undergraduate and integrated undergraduate and graduate studies apply via the National Information System for Applications to Higher Education Institutions (NISpVU) at www.postani-student.hr. This website provides information on the application procedure and level of interest in specific study programmes, enables applications for state graduation exam and access to exam results, enables applications for study programmes and access to results per selected study programme, as well as access to feedback on eligibility for enrolment. This system is managed by the Central Applications Office of the Agency for Science and Higher Education and the central information point is at www.studij.hr.
Higher education institutions are free to define their own criteria for the grading and selection of applicants, which may include previous education record, the type of completed secondary education, results from the entrance or some other exam, specific knowledge, skills or capabilities, and so on.
In certain exceptional cases, specified by a higher education institution itself, it is possible to enrol in a study programme even without the required level of previous education if a student is exceptionally talented and believed to have the capacity to master a study programme successfully despite the lacking previous education.
Terms of enrolment for foreign nationals are identical to the terms of enrolment for Croatian citizens, but they may be required to cover the cost of their study partially or in full, in accordance with relevant regulations (relating to students from outside the EU and the EEA).
Numbers of applicants who will be enrolled are determined by higher education institutions themselves.
There are two admission and enrolment periods for higher education institutions in Croatia – the first one is in the summer (July) and the second one, in case of under-enrolment, in September (unless the institution makes a different decision).
Every higher education institution needs to adopt its study programme on which a course will be founded. A study programme contains the name of academic or professional degree obtained by its completion; terms of enrolment for the course and every next semester or trimester; intended learning outcomes per each individual obligation during a course, the course model, and the overall study programme; ECTS credit points for each obligation in the course of study; the course model; methods for the assessment of learning outcomes and finalisation of the study. A study programme will also define the terms under which a student who interrupts or withdraws from their study may re-enrol.
Higher education institutions also need to adopt their curricula.
The curriculum is published before the beginning of lectures and higher education institutions are obligated to post their curricula on their official webpages. The adoption of a curriculum is also a prerequisite for beginning a course at the start of the academic year.
The curriculum defines the lecturers and associate lecturers for courses, specifies the place, time and module of each course (lecture, seminar, tutorial, practical, consultation, formative test, etc.), the ways in which exams are taken, examination periods, lists the required reading, states the possibility of taking a course in a foreign language, and contains other important course-related information.
When a study programme is open for enrolment to part-time students, the curriculum also states how a course will be structured for them and what their obligations will be.
Studying in Croatia is possible in the form of distance learning as well (online courses), following a special approval by the National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development. Based on the records kept by the Ministry of Science and Education in 2019, there are 12 online study programmes in Croatia.
The form that a course will take (lecture, seminar, practical, etc.) is defined by the higher education institution responsible for it, more precisely its academic staff, and it is contained in the curriculum that needs to be made publicly available before the beginning of the next academic year.
In most cases, courses are performed as lectures, seminars, and practicals, depending on the nature of a study programme. In line with the Bologna Process goals, small student groups and student-centred learning approach are preferred. During the re-accreditation process that every higher education institution in Croatia is subject to once in five years, reviewers assess ratio between students and their teaching staff, the appropriateness of study groups, the appropriateness of teaching methods for achieving the intended learning outcomes, the levels of interactivity, and the inclusion of students in decision-making processes, and they look at practical work done by students and the support given to them in the course of study.
Apart from reference publications in print (textbooks, manuals, science journals, etc.) that are available from higher education institutions’ libraries, students also have access to electronic resources for studying, databases, and online scientific periodicals. Practical sessions are held in spaces designated for conducting scientific research and experiments and for implementing knowledge in practice – laboratories, experiment stations, practical teaching bases, skill labs; spaces equipped with digital technology are also provided.
Progression of students
A progress that a student is making in acquiring the learning outcomes during a specific course is monitored throughout the year in ways stipulated by the study programme and curriculum.
Each course will end with examination-taking that earns the student a certain number of ECTS credits. The number of ECTS credit points is awarded in line with individual student’s total workload. The decision on how many times an exam can be taken is up to each higher education institution, but the number is usually limited to four. The fourth time the oral exam takes place before a commission and those students who fail their exam this last time are required to re-enrol at the beginning of the next academic year.
Student advancement through the course of study is affirmed with their progress to the next course level (academic year), provided they have earned the required number of ECTS credit points.
With the aim of furthering the employability of students, higher education institutions make so-called career centres available to them at the undergraduate level. Other career counselling services for supporting students have been developing in recent years as well. In those institutions that offer this kind of service, students are provided with information about ways to contact potential employers, about career fairs, they can attend workshops for enhancing their transferable skills, for writing resumes, practising self-introduction in job interviews, and so on. Not all higher education institutions in Croatia have career development centres, but the effort is being made to raise awareness about their importance and eventually increase their number.
The first round of reaccreditation (2010-2015) that was conducted in all the higher education institutions in Croatia has identified the problem of a mismatch between the education system and the labour market and the need to connect bachelor’s degree holders with employers. Most students enrol in graduate studies because the undergraduate level of education does not guarantee them a job in the Croatian labour market.
Practical training is part of study programmes for a certain number of undergraduate studies, but other study programmes do not require it. However, it is evident from a study based on student experience survey and released in 2019 that students consider the lack of practical training during their studies as a shortcoming of study programmes.
Systematic collection of information about the employability of graduates on the national level is a responsibility of the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education. In 2018, the Ministry appointed the National Group for Development of System for Tracking Qualified Persons, tasked with the implementation of activities based on the goals stipulated by the Education, Science and Technology Strategy (Official Gazette 124/2014) and the Council of EU’s Recommendation on Tracking Graduates (COM (2017) 249 final). Furthermore, the Agency for Science and Higher Education also collects periodically certain employability information in cooperation with higher education institutions and makes sure through external quality assurance procedures that every individual institution of higher education keeps a record of the employability of its former students.
Students’ performance is graded after they had taken all the lectures and fulfilled all their student obligations, following a written or oral examination or assessment. In the case of written exams, students are most frequently required to take essay-type, objective-type, and problem-solving exams.
During a course, the taking of one of more midterm exams may be required as a condition for the final exam. Another option is to arrive at a final grade that is the average of attained midterm grades.
Students’ performance in exams and other knowledge assessments is graded one to five, with one ("insufficient") as the lowest grade and the equivalent of "F" (fail). Only passing grades (2, 3, 4, 5) are entered into the student record book (indeks) and other relevant documentation for recording student performance.
The curriculum may stipulate that a certain type of course is performed without grading, or that evaluation is descriptive only.
A student has the right to complain about how their performance has been graded.
Upon the completion of undergraduate university studies, higher education institutions issue diplomas to students to confirm that they have completed their studies and obtained a bachelor’s degree or baccalaureate. In accordance with the Bologna Process, each student is also issued a diploma supplement in Croatian and English languages, listing the exams they had passed and the grades attained for them, and including other information necessary for a complete understanding of their qualifications. The content of diplomas and diploma supplements is prescribed by the minister responsible for higher education, whereas every higher education institution determines the document formatting and its final design.