Branches of study
The second cycle of higher education in Croatia – the graduate level of studies – may be either professional or academic. Studies at this level are available in the areas of biomedical and health sciences, biotechnology, social sciences, humanities, interdisciplinary, natural and technical sciences, and in arts.
They are either university graduate studies or specialist professional graduate studies.
University graduate studies last one to two years. Their completion earns 60 to 120 ECTS credit points and the academic master’s degree, or a doctoral degree in the case of study programmes in medical science. This degree corresponds to level 7 of the CROQF. According to the Ministry of Science and Education’s Directory of Study Programmes (accessed on 10 December 2019), total of 475 study programmes were available at the university degree level in Croatia in 2019.
Specialist professional graduate studies last one to two years. Their completion earns 60 to 120 ECTS credit points and the title of a professional specialist, including a specialization, which corresponds to level 7 of the CROQF. According to the Ministry of Science and Education’s Directory of Study Programmes (accessed on 10 December 2019), total of 99 study programmes for specialist professional degrees at graduate level were available in Croatia in 2019.
Completed undergraduate studies and a certain number of ECTS credit points are prerequisites for enrolling in a graduate-level university course or a specialist professional graduate course. The terms of enrolment and the type of completed undergraduate course required for enrolling in a specific graduate course is determined by each higher education institution independently. Academic credit for all previously accomplished achievements and acquired knowledge is awarded in accordance with each institution’s internal regulations.
Applicants with degrees in undergraduate professional studies may apply for enrolment in graduate university courses in accordance with the general act of the university providing them. Higher education institutions may require testing of competencies and/or supplementary examination in case of cross-listed courses at the initiation of a study programme.
Higher education institutions admit students on the basis of a public call, which they normally publish three months before the beginning of lectures and in which they are obligated to state the terms of enrolment and enrolment capacity, explain the procedure, list the required application documentation, and specify application and enrolment deadlines.
Electronic applications for graduate studies were first made possible in Croatia in 2015 via the National Information System for Applications to Graduate Studies. Since higher education institutions are not obligated to conduct the application procedure electronically, only some of them accept online applications for now; they are listed at Studij.hr. Taking into consideration academic credit from the previous level of study (undergraduate), results of additional assessments (special knowledge, skills, capabilities), and other achievements, this system ranks candidates for enrolment in graduate study programmes.
The plan is to gradually introduce the electronic application system to remaining institutions of higher education in Croatia as well since this will lower the cost of applications, reduce the burden on administrative staff, and increase the transparency of enrolment procedure and the availability of statistical data and other information pertaining to application and enrolment procedures for graduate studies.
Numbers of applicants who will be enrolled in graduate courses in Croatia are determined by higher education institutions themselves.
Terms of enrolment for foreign nationals and stateless people are identical to the terms of enrolment for Croatian citizens and fees for studying are defined by higher education institutions independently.
Higher education institutions also need to adopt curricula for graduate studies.
The curriculum defines the lecturers and associate lecturers for courses, specifies the place, time and module of each course (lecture, seminar, tutorial, practical, consultation, examination, etc.), the ways in which exams are taken, examination periods, it lists the required reading, states the possibility to take a course in a foreign language, and contains other important course-related information.
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, 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 their 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
The 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 exam takes place before a commission and those students who fail their exam this last time are required to re-enrol again 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 completed all their obligations and earned the required number of ECTS credit points.
Most students in Croatia opt for graduate studies in order to acquire competencies for jobs with a higher degree of complexity and responsibility, to advance professionally, or as part of a career change.
With the aim of furthering the employability of students, higher education institutions make so-called career centres and other kinds of support service available to them at the graduate level. Although this kind of support is provided only by a small number of higher education institutions, they offer students information about ways to contact potential employers, information about career fairs, hold workshops for enhancing their transferable skills, for writing resumes, practising self-introduction in job interviews, and so on. The effort has been made in the past few years to raise awareness about the importance of this kind of support centres and to eventually increase their number.
Professional training during graduate studies in Croatia is generally considered lacking, both after the second round of re-accreditation of institutions and by students, who say it should be mandatory and given more time. Also, the recommendation after the first round of accreditation was to involve employers in the process of defining curricula with the aim of reducing the mismatch between the education system and the labour market. Accordingly, the Ministry of Science and Education has secured financing from the European Social Fund to increase the volume and improve the quality of professional training in 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 can be assessed based on their activities throughout the course and/or in an exam if it had been included in the curriculum, either in written or oral form. In the case of written exams, students are most frequently required to take essay-type, objective-type, and problem-solving exams. Curricula also define the extent to which a student’s active involvement (participation in debates, field research, writing of essays, involvement in some specific project, for example) during the course will contribute to their final grade.
During a course, the taking 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.
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.
Graduate studies are completed by fulfilling all obligations that are required, by passing all exams, and by writing a thesis, or creating/performing a work of art in accordance with a study programme. Students’ theses are published in the national DABAR database, which is available on the website of the National and University Library.
Specialist professional graduate studies are completed by fulfilling all obligations that are required, by passing all exams, and by writing a thesis or taking a final exam in accordance with the relevant study programme.
Upon the completion of university graduate and specialist professional graduate studies, higher education institutions issue diplomas to students and award them master’s degrees or the title of specialist, including a specialization.
In accordance with the Bologna Process, each student is also issued a diploma supplement in Croatian and English languages with his/her personal data, specifying the named award and qualification details, including information about the possibilities of employment or inclusion in further study programmes, information about the higher education system in Croatia and other information.
The content of diplomas and diploma supplements is prescribed by the minister responsible for higher education, whereas every higher education institution determines independently the document formatting and its final design.