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Higher education

Czechia

7.Higher education

Last update: 29 February 2024

 

Overview

The tertiary education sector is divided into higher education (ISCED 645, 7, and 8) and tertiary professional education (ISCED 655). The term tertiary education is not defined in the present legislation but is used in official documents. Higher education and tertiary professional education applicants qualify for entry if they have completed secondary education with a Maturita examination (maturitní zkouška, ISCED 344 or 354) and meet the admission requirements stipulated by a relevant institution.

 

Higher education institutions

Higher education is realised at higher education institutions (vysoké školy), which form the highest level of the Czech education system. Higher education consists of three types of degree programmes:

  • Bachelor's degree programme (ISCED 645), lasting 3–4 years
  • Master's degree programme (ISCED 7), lasting 1–3 years (ISCED 747), or 4–6 years in the case of programmes not following bachelor's programmes – non-structured study programme (ISCED 746)
  • Doctoral degree programme (ISCED 844) lasting 3–4 years

Higher education institutions are public, state, and private. Under the Higher Education Act, they are classified as either university type (24 public, 2 state, and 3 private) which offer study programmes at all three levels linked with scholarly, research, developmental, artistic and other creative activities, or non-university type (2 public and 23 private) which mainly offer Bachelor's programmes but may also provide Master's programmes. (Source: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports)

Completed secondary education with a Maturita examination is the basic prerequisite for entry into Bachelor's and non-structured Master's programmes. Detailed admission requirements are set by a relevant higher education institution and usually include an entrance examination. Higher education can take forms of on-site courses, distance learning courses or a combination of both.

Students have to follow a study plan within an accredited degree programme; accreditation is awarded by the National Accreditation Bureau for Higher Education (Accreditation Bureau). Accreditation is either institutional, which means that the higher education institution obtains the right to approve and manage its study programmes in the accredited areas of education, or each study programme is accredited by the Accreditation Bureau. The Education Act sets 37 educational areas. Within one educational area, the programmes of close or similar specialisation as to its content are prepared, approved and implemented, reflecting the common theoretical and methodological basis of the given area. Each study programme is assigned to one or more educational areas (the latter is a combined study programme). Creation and provision of study programmes is one of the recognised academic rights and freedoms of higher education institutions, so their number and prevailing orientation changes in time.

Studies are duly completed if students obtain their qualification through:

  • a Bachelor's degree programme which ends with the final state examination (státní závěrečná zkouška), part of which is usually the defence of a thesis, graduates are awarded the academic title Bachelor (Bc.) or Bachelor of Arts (BcA.) in the field of art,
  • a Master's degree programme which ends with the final state examination, part of which is the defence of a thesis, graduates mostly obtain the academic title Master (Mgr.) or Engineer (Ing.). Graduates who gained a Master's degree (academic title Mgr.) obtain another academic title if they fulfil additional advanced study examination (rigorózní zkouška) in the same study area, 
  • a Doctoral degree programme which ends with the state doctoral examination (státní doktorská zkouška), part of which is the defence of a thesis, graduates mostly obtain the academic title Doctor (Ph.D.)

As of 31 December 2022, the overall number of higher education students was more than 304 thousand. There were 184 thousand of students (60 %) in Bachelor's degree programmes, 69 thousand (23 %) in the follow-up Master's degree programmes, 33 thousand (11 %) in Long-cycle Master's degree programmes and more than 20 thousand (7 %) in Doctoral degree programmes (on-site courses, distance learning courses or a combination of both is the basis for calculating the number of students). The sum of the number of Bachelor's, Master's, Long-cycle Master's, and Doctoral degree students is higher than the total number of head counts. This is caused by the fact that some students are enrolled in several degree programmes. (Source: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.)

 

Tertiary professional schools

Tertiary professional education (ISCED 655) is provided at tertiary professional schools (vyšší odborné školy). Tertiary professional schools are public, state, private or denominational. They are regulated by the Education Act.

Upper secondary education with a Maturita examination is the prerequisite for admission. Admission procedure details are set by the school head and can include an entrance examination. The courses usually include both a theoretical and a practical part. They can take a form of day form, evening, distance, or combined studies The number of students in a study group is between 10 and 40 students. Educational programme is subject to accreditation from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports that is awarded on the basis of a recommendation of the Accreditation Commission for Tertiary Professional Education.

Education ends with a graduate examination (absolutorium), an examination consisting of a theoretical part in vocational subjects, an exam in a foreign language and a defence of a thesis. Graduates obtain graduate examination certificates, a diploma and the title “specialist with a diploma“ (DiS.).

School-leavers from tertiary professional education do not have access to Master's degree programmes (following Bachelor's programmes). Some higher education institutions, however, offer the possibility to acknowledge the subjects studied within a tertiary professional school programme and thus enabling the school-leavers to complete a Bachelor's degree programme in a shorter period of time.

Tertiary professional education in conservatoire (ISCED 554) is acquired through successful completion of a six-year or eight-year educational programme. The studies proceed continuously involving also secondary level of education. Pupils can also receive upper secondary education with a Maturita examination (ISCED 354).

Compared to the higher education, the above education has significantly fewer students. In the school year 2022/23, more than 20 thousand of students studied at tertiary professional schools, and less than 4 thousand of students at conservatories. 151 tertiary professional schools and 18 conservatoires operated in this school year. (Source: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

Individual types of higher education programmes are described in following parts: Bachelor's Degree Programmes, Second Cycle Programmes (Master's degree programmes), Master' s non-structured study programmes and Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes (Doctoral degree programmes).

Education at tertiary professional schools is described in Chapter 7 on Tertiary professional schools, education at conservatoires due to the nature of the study in Chapter 6 on Upper Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education.

Administration and governance of tertiary education at national, regional, local and institutional level is provided separately in Chapter 2 on Organisation and Governance. Section Organisation of Private Education of Chapter 2 deals with information on private higher education institutions and tertiary professional schools.

 

General objectives

 

Higher education institutions

Higher education institutions (vysoké školy) are supreme centres of education, independent knowledge and creative activity. The general goal of higher education is to provide students with adequate professional qualifications, prepare them for engagement in research and participating in lifelong learning, make them contribute to the development of civic society and international, particularly European cooperation. They attain this goal by linking instruction with scholarly, research, developmental, artistic and other creative activities.

The Higher Education Act obliges the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to issue, annually update and publish the Strategic Plan of the Ministry. Currently valid document is the Strategic Plan of the Ministry for Higher Education for the Period from 2021. The priority goals of the higher education policy are the following:

  • Develop competencies directly relevant to life and practice in the 21st century.
  • Improve the availability and relevance of flexible forms of education.
  • Improve the efficiency and quality of doctoral studies.
  • Strengthen strategic management and the effective use of capacities in research and development at higher education institutions.
  • Build capacity for the strategic management of higher education.
  • Reduce the administrative burden on the staff of higher education institutions so that they can fully pursue their mission.

 

Tertiary professional schools

Tertiary professional education (vyšší odborná škola) develops and promotes knowledge and skills students acquired in secondary education and provides general education and vocational training for them to perform demanding professional activities. It is understood to be professional training.

In line with the Education Act, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports issues the Long-term Plan for Education and the Development of the Education System of the Czech Republic. The long-term plan sets plans, goals and criteria for the education policy at the education levels from the pre-primary up to the tertiary professional level. For the period 2023-2027, it is based on the Long-Term Plan for Education and the Development of the Education System of the Czech Republic (2019-2023) and is aimed mainly at personal development and motivation for lifelong learning, ensuring modern education and preparation of teachers, and creating sustainable and effective system based on responsibility for education outcomes. In 2020 the government approved the Strategy for Education Policy of the Czech Republic 2030+. It is aimed at acquiring competencies for active life and equal opportunities in education. The content of the Strategy 2030+ is based on the partial goals and measures of the long-term plan for the period 2019-2023. The main tasks for the area of tertiary professional education in the period 2019–2023 were:

  • To innovate in the new accredited higher education programmes with regard to the changing labour market
  • To widen the range of higher vocational education programmes and continue the professional discussion leading to better permeability between tertiary professional education and higher education
  • To link the process of accreditation of the tertiary professional education programme with entry in the School Register

See also Current strategies in the area of education in Chapter 2.

 

Legislative framework

Tertiary education field is regulated by two laws:

 

Higher education institutions

The Higher Education Act of 1998 (with more than thirty amendments) sets forth the mission of higher education institutions (vysoké školy), the academic community and academic freedom. It defines the position of public, state and private higher education institutions, their bodies or structure; for public schools it sets out rules for asset management. It establishes basic framework for the funding of higher education institutions, describes conditions under which an institution applying for the status of a private higher education institution can gain state approval, regulates the relationship between higher education institutions and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, mentions the body representing higher education institutions and and describes the information systems of higher education institutions.

It further:

  • describes the types of study programmes, rules and bodies for their accreditation,
  • regulates admission to a study programme, its course and completion, sets out the rules and duties for students and the policy for awarding academic titles, 
  • regulates the position of academic staff,
  • regulates recognition of qualifications and their parts acquired abroad. 

In a supplement to this Act, public and state higher education institutions are listed in detail as well as educational areas for which the higher education institution can acquire an institutional accreditation. Since 2019, the Act regulates the working hours of academic staff, specifies the activities that the academic staff member must perform (i.e. direct educational activities and activities related, and scientific, research and development activities), and the place where these activities are carried out. 

During 2020 the activities of higher education institutions were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This was taken into account by Act No. 188/2020 Coll., which set special rules concerning studies at higher education institutions and the activities of higher education authorities for the calendar year 2020. For example, the law reflects restrictions on study programmes during the pandemic, their impact on admission procedures, graduation, including hybrid and distance forms, or on the course of study and the academic year schedule. The impact of the pandemic was also manifested in the following year, when the amendment to the Higher Education Act No. 495/2020 came into force in January 2021. Sections of the law describe what the higher education institution is entitled to in emergency situations.

Activities of higher education institutions are also governed by their internal regulations that follow on from the Higher Education Act and are subject of registration to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. For each higher education institution, ten internal regulations are mandatory and further regulations may be required by the school's statutes.

Some aspects of higher education are regulated in more detail by implementing rules:

 

Tertiary professional schools

The Education Act defines the goal and the level of tertiary professional education, its organisation and admission requirements, course and completion of study programmes, attained qualification and the manner in which accreditation of study programmes is granted. The amendment of 2020 introduced the obligation of schools to provide education to students in a distance form, the obligation of students to participate in this education respectively.

Further particulars about types of tertiary professional schools (vyšší odborné školy), organisation of study, course of study and its completion, tuition and accreditation of study programmes are specified by a Decree on Tertiary Professional Education. The system of education courses is governed by the Government Regulation on the System of Fields of Studies in Basic, Upper Secondary and Tertiary Professional Education.

 

Organisation of the school and academic year

Organisation of studies differs between tertiary professional schools (vyšší odborné školy) and higher education institutions (vysoké školy).

 

Higher education institutions

According to the Higher Education Act, the higher education can take forms of on-site courses, distance learning courses or a combination of both. The academic year lasts 12 months; the beginning is set by the Rector (rektor) usually for September or October. Studies are usually split into semesters, years or teaching blocks which cover periods of teaching activity, examinations and holidays. Most commonly, the academic year is split into semesters which have 14 weeks of teaching activity followed by a period of examinations. Summer holidays are in July and August, usually followed by an extended period of examinations. Details are stipulated in internal regulations of a relevant institution. For the year 2020 (incl. the winter semester of the academic year 2020/21), the Act No. 188/2020 Coll. took into account the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic and the academic year schedule.

 

Tertiary professional schools

According to the Education Act, the school year starts on 1 September and ends on 31 August covering the period of instruction and a summer holiday. The Decree on Tertiary Professional Education stipulates that the teaching activity period lasts 40 weeks (32 hours of instruction, 6 hours of self-study and assessment and 2 weeks of time reserve) and is split into a winter term (1 September to 31 January) and a summer term (1 February to 31 August). The last period of the educational programme instruction lasts at least 14 weeks. During a summer holiday, schools can offer compulsory courses, professional practice, or examinations, however, students should have at least 4 weeks of free time. Details on organisation of the school year are set by the school head in accordance with the accredited programme of study.