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Higher education


7.Higher education

Last update: 28 March 2024

Higher education in the Republic of Croatia is provided through university and professional study programmes. The university studies educate students in the fields of science, art and higher education, in the business world, the public sector and society in general, and train them to develop and apply scientific, artistic and professional achievements. Professional studies train students to perform professional work in the business world, the public sector and society in general. The development of the binary system of higher education initiated the polycentric development of professional studies in Croatia, which enables access to higher education for potential students who live outside large city centres.

The system of higher education in Croatia underwent a comprehensive reform within the framework of the Bologna process. According to the provisions of the Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education from 2003, all study programmes were restructured in accordance with the principles of the Bologna process, in such a way that three educational levels were introduced along with the transfer of ECTS credits and a diploma supplement. In the academic year 2005/2006, the reformed study programmes were introduced and students could no longer enrol in pre-Bologna programmes. In addition, this Act increased the level of university autonomy. Pursuant to the provisions of the Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education (OG 119/22), the university's autonomy includes: arranging the internal organisation in accordance with the Act, determining educational, scientific, artistic and professional programmes, deciding on the acceptance of projects and international cooperation, and financial autonomy as part of the programme agreement.

Educational criteria for enrolment in study programmes are determined by higher education institutions. Since 2010, most Croatian universities have used national exams that are taken at the end of secondary school (state graduation exam). The national information system for applications to higher education institutions has become the central service for enrolment in the higher education system in Croatia.

The academic year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the following year. Classes can start before the beginning of the academic year, but not earlier than September 1, if so determined by the curriculum.

The study is carried out according to the curriculum, which defines the structure and method of conducting the study in full or adjusted lecture timetable, and it is adopted by the higher education institution before the beginning of the academic year.

Main administrative bodies

The Ministry of Science and Education (MSE) is a state administration body responsible for administrative and other tasks related to: 

  • development of higher education
  • implementation of national strategies and programmes for higher education 
  • ensuring and monitoring the financial and material conditions for the work of higher education institutions
  • drafting and proposing reports on the work and evaluation of higher education institutions and study programmes
  • subsidising study costs, student standards, monitoring the study performance and other higher education processes
  • managing the implementation of the Croatian Qualifications Framework
  • managing the register of higher education institutions and the register of study programmes
  • managing databases on higher education
  • encouraging lifelong learning and higher education of adults
  • administrative supervision over higher education institutions. 

The Rectors' Conference includes all rectors of public and private universities in the Republic of Croatia. The Rectors' Conference considers issues of common interest for the work and development of universities, faculties and art academies in the Republic of Croatia. 

The Croatian Conference of Universities of Applied Sciences is a body in the Croatian system of higher education that consists of the deans of all universities of applied sciences operating in the Republic of Croatia and conducting professional studies. The Conference of Universities of Applied Sciences discusses the issues of common interest for the work and development of universities of applied sciences.

The Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) is the body responsible for all types of quality evaluation in higher education and science in accordance with Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). The agency was founded by the Republic of Croatia, and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) regularly accredits and periodically evaluates it, and it is registered in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). The agency also evaluates foreign educational qualifications and serves as a contact point for all information on foreign educational and professional qualifications (ENIC/NARIC office), administers centralised applications to higher education institutions and performs other professional tasks in higher education. 

The Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (AMEUP) is a national agency that implements decentralised activities of European Union programmes and other international programmes in the field of education and training, youth, science and sports, the largest of which is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport – Erasmus+. 

The National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development (NCSHETD) proposes and encourages the adoption of measures for the improvement of higher education, scientific and artistic activities and technological development, gives an opinion on strategic planning acts of the Republic of Croatia, on the need to establish a new public higher education institution and on other issues important for the development of the higher education system. Administrative and professional tasks for the National Council are performed by the Ministry of Science and Education.

Legislation in the field of higher education

Higher education in Croatia is regulated by the Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education (OG 119/22). The Act treats private and public higher education institutions equally.

The new Act on Academic and Professional Titles and Academic Degrees (OG 123/23) was adopted in October 2023, which regulated the use of academic titles, professional titles and academic degrees and their acquisition, use and standardisation in the Republic of Croatia.

The Act on Student Councils and Other Student Organisations (OG 71/07) was adopted in 2007, which reformed the system of student representation in Croatia. It enables stronger supervision of students over their own representatives and introduces the position of a mandatory student ombudsman at all higher education institutions.

The Act on Quality Assurance in Higher Education and Science from 2022 (OG 151/22) regulates external and internal quality assurance in higher education and science, as well as the scope and structure of the Agency for Science and Higher Education, which is responsible for external evaluation procedures. The Act guarantees the autonomy of the Agency in its work and especially in external quality assurance procedures. 

The Croatian Qualifications Framework Act (OG 22/1341/1664/1847/2020/21) regulates the entire system of qualifications at all educational levels in the Republic of Croatia and ensures their compliance with the needs of the labour market, the individual and society as a whole, as well as comparability and connectivity with the levels of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Qualifications Framework in the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA). More information on the Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF) is available on the CROQF official website.

The recognition of foreign educational qualifications is regulated by the Act on Recognition and Evaluation of Foreign Educational Qualifications (OG 69/22). The Act regulates the method and procedures for evaluating foreign educational qualifications for the purpose of accessing the labour market in professions that are not included in the database of regulated professions in the Republic of Croatia and the method and procedures for recognising foreign educational qualifications and study periods with the purpose of continuing education.