Croatia's national legislation and national education, science and technology strategy recognise higher education as an area of special interest to the country. Its strategic goals include quality higher education that is accessible to everyone on identical terms and science, expanding the global corpus of knowledge while contributing to the general well-being of society in Croatia. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy; openness to public access and community; student social responsibility and the social responsibility of other members of the academic community; inseparability of teaching and scientific and artistic research and creation; humanist and democratic tradition; honouring of human rights; compliance with the European system of higher education; training for special professional knowledge and skills, and lifelong learning are principles at the foundation of higher education in Croatia.
Croatia joined the Bologna Process in 2001 by initiating reforms to integrate the national system of higher education with the European Higher Education Area. In accordance with the Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education of 2003, all university programmes were restructured in line with the principles of the Bologna Process. As a result, three cycles of higher education, the ECTS system, and diploma supplement were introduced, among other changes. From the academic year of 2005/2006, Croatian students have been able to enrol only in those university programmes that had been reformed through the Bologna Process.
Modern higher education in Croatia is provided at universities and their constituents (faculties, academies of arts, departments), polytechnics, and colleges, through university and professional study programmes at different qualification levels (5, 6, 7, and 8) that correspond to the European Qualifications Framework.
University studies provide competencies for pursuing careers in science, arts, higher education, business, the public sector, and society in general, preparing students for the development and implementation of scientific, artistic and professional achievements. These studies can be attended in three cycles: undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate (doctoral or specialist). In certain exceptional cases, study programmes may integrate undergraduate and graduate studies, rather than be delivered as either of the two (integrated undergraduate and graduate studies).
Professional studies equip students with the skills necessary for their immediate inclusion in the labour market. They are provided by colleges, polytechnics, and universities. Professional studies include the short-cycle professional undergraduate programme and undergraduate and specialist graduate professional studies.
Based on data in the Directory of Study Programmes (accessed on 10 December 2019) of the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education, there are total 1,682 accredited study programmes in Croatia.
Most important laws and regulations for higher education in Croatia:
- Science and Higher Education Act as the basic national document regulating the systems of scientific activity and higher education in Croatia;
- Quality Assurance in Science and Higher Education Act that regulates the ways in which quality in science and higher education is ensured and improved, as well as the operation and organisation of the Agency for Science and Higher Education, which oversees external quality assurance procedures;
- Recognition of International Education Qualifications Act that regulates the recognition of international education qualifications and periods of study;
- Regulated Professions and Recognition of Professional Qualifications Act that defines the minimum degree requirements in Croatia necessary to access and work in the professions of doctor of medicine, specialist medical doctor, specialist doctor of dental medicine, nurse, midwife, pharmacist, veterinary surgeon, and architect; it also defines the recognition of international professional qualifications;
- Academic and Professional Titles and Academic Degree Act that defines academic and professional titles and academic degrees, and regulates their awarding and usage;
- Ordinance on the Content of Licence and Conditions for Issuing Licence for Performing Higher Education Activity, Carrying out a Study Programme and Re-accreditation of Higher Education Institutions, which defines the conditions for performing activities in higher education and for delivering study programmes, as well as the rules of accreditation procedure;
- Ordinance on Areas, Fields and Branches in Science and Arts that defines scientific areas, fields and branches, along with artistic areas, fields and branches, and interdisciplinary areas of science and arts with their corresponding fields;
- Rules on applying and taking exams for study programmes and on the grading of candidates, which determine the terms and procedures of applying and taking exams for study programmes, as well as how the candidates for them are ranked by higher education institutions in Croatia;
- Ordinance on State Graduation Exam that regulates the content, terms, method, and procedure of taking the state graduation exam (državna matura);
- Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF) Act, whereby the CROQF is being introduced and its implementation regulated;
- Ordinance on the Content of Higher Education Diplomas and Diploma Supplements, which defines the content of diplomas and diploma supplements issued to students by higher education institutions in Croatia upon the completion of studies.
The academic year is divided into semesters or trimesters, depending on individual higher education institution’s rules, with lectures beginning on 1 October of the current year and ending on 30 September of the next calendar year.
Quality assurance in Croatia’s higher education system is a responsibility of higher education institutions, the Agency for Science and Higher Education, and the Ministry of Science and Education. In accordance with national regulations and Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area, the Agency is partly responsible for external quality assessment in the process of formation of higher education institutions, namely private universities, polytechnics, and colleges, while in the case of initiation of study programmes at public universities the responsibility lies on university senates. Reaccreditation of all study programmes and institutions is also the Agency’s responsibility. The Ministry issues licences/certificates for study programmes and institutions on the basis of results of external assessment carried out in public universities or in the Agency, then it enters them into the official directory of study programmes and higher education institutions, and secures support to their operation (by financing the activities of public institutions, covering a portion of costs of studying for full-time students attending undergraduate and graduate study programmes in public institutions of higher education, with the “student standard” support, scholarships, etc.). For more on higher education quality assurance, go to Quality Assurance in Higher Education.
References for chapter Higher Education:
Legal provisions, official publications:
- European Commission, 2015. ECTS User's Guide 2015 (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Ministry of Science, Education and Sport of the Republic of Croatia, 2015. Strategija obrazovanja, znanosti i tehnologije Nove boje znanja. Zagreb: Ministry of Science, Education and Sport (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Pravila o uvjetima, postupku prijave, provedbi ispita za upis i rangiranju kandidata na studijske programe(accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Pravilnik o sadržaju diploma i dopunskih isprava o studiju, Official Gazette (NN), 77/08, 149/11(accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Zakon o osiguravanju kvalitete u znanosti i visokom obrazovanju, Official Gazette (NN), 45/09 (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Zakon o znanstvenoj djelatnosti i visokom obrazovanju, Official Gazette (NN) 123/03, 198/03, 105/04, 174/04, 02/07, 46/07, 45/09, 63/11, 94/13, 139/13, 101/14, 60/15, 131/17) (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia. Directory of Study Programmes. Zagreb: Ministry of Science and Education (accessed on 10/12/2019)
Studies, reports, academic publications
- Agency for Science and Higher Education, 2014. Izvješće o tematskom vrednovanju doktorskih studija u Republici Hrvatskoj. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Bezjak S., Matešić M., Herold D., Dragojević Đ., Plužarić Ž., Vrgoč S., 2018. Visoko obrazovanje u RH – Vodič za članove stručnih povjerenstava u postupcima vrednovanja visokih učilišta i znanstvenih organizacija. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Đorđević, M., 2017. Izvješće o istraživanju aktualnog stanja i izazova u pogledu djelovanja centara karijera i profesionalnog usmjeravanja na visokim učilištima. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Đorđević, M., Dubroja, M., Plužarić, Ž., Bezjak, S., 2019., Studirati u Hrvatskoj - Rezultati istraživanja studentskog iskustva u generaciji studenata upisanih ak. god. 2012./2013. na preddiplomske, diplomske i integrirane studijske programe. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Havranek, J., Petrušić, I., 2017. Analiza petogodišnjeg ciklusa reakreditacije 2010.-2015., Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Matešić M., Dragojević Đ., Briški M., Plužarić Ž., 2017. Osiguravanje kvalitete doktorskih studija u Hrvatskoj – preporuke i primjeri dobre prakse. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Pažur Aničić K., Šimić D., Divjak B., 2018., Što nakon diplome? Rezultati istraživanja o zapošljivosti studenata koji su diplomirali akademske godine 2015./2016., Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Agency for Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Croatia (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Croatian Qualifications Framework (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia (accessed on 10/12/2019)
- Postani student (accessed on 18/09/2019)
- Studij.hr (accessed on 18/09/2019)