General administration at local level
Administration at district level
The district (powiat) (established by the Act of 24 July 1998 on the Establishment of the Basic Three-tier Administrative Division of the Country (Ustawa z 24 lipca 1998 r. o wprowadzeniu zasadniczego trójstopniowego podziału terytorialnego państwa) is the level between the province (województwo) and the commune (gmina). Initially, there were 373 districts. On 1 January 2022, there were 380 districts, including 66 cities with the district status.
District authorities are responsible for establishing and administering the following types of schools: public special primary schools (szkoła podstawowa) and post-primary schools (including schools with integration classes, sports schools, sport championship schools and other educational institutions), except for those operating at regional and supra-regional levels. As explained above, the responsibilities of the district authorities do not include pedagogical supervision, which is exercised by the Head of the Regional Education Authorities (kurator oświaty). However, the relevant bodies at the district level (in particular, the board and head of a district) have various powers related to appointments to management positions in schools, the organisation of related competitions, and the adoption of local regulations on matters concerning schools and teachers.
As part of their responsibilities, districts may establish and administer public initial and in-service teacher training institutions and educational resources centres, thus extending the network of such institutions which is currently too limited at regional level.
Administration at commune level
The commune (gmina) is the lowest level of administrative division in Poland. On 1 January 2022, there were 2,477 communes, including 1,523 rural, 652 rural-urban and 302 urban communes.
The commune is responsible for establishing and administering public nursery schools (przedszkole), including those with integration classes, and special nursery schools; primary schools (szkoła podstawowa), including those with integration classes (except for special schools, art schools, and schools and schools at prisons, youth detention centres and hostels for underage young people). Pedagogical supervision over these types of institutions is the responsibility of the Head of the Regional Education Authorities (kurator oświaty). Like districts, communes may establish and administer public initial and in-service teacher training institutions and educational resources centres.
Administration and governance at institutional level (educational institutions)
The responsibility for administering a school or another educational institution in the Polish school education system rests with the head of a school (or a nursery school or another educational institution>) as a single-person authority. However, heads are supported in their management tasks by other individuals and bodies. The teaching council or teachers’ council is a collegial body of the school with extensive decision-making and advisory powers. Public schools also have so-called social participation bodies, composed only or partly of education stakeholders (parents and pupils): the school council, the parents’ council and the pupil self-government.
A candidate for a school head is selected through an open competition. The head is appointed by the school administering body for five school years. Where this is justified, in agreement with the Head of the Regional Education Authorities (kurator oświaty), the head may be appointed for a shorter period, but the minimum duration of the term is one school year.
Where the school has established the positions of deputy head or other management positions in accordance with the national legislation, management staff are appointed and dismissed by the school head after consultation with the school council, the teaching council and the school administering body.
In particular, the school head:
- manages the school and represents it externally;
- exercises pedagogical supervision;
- takes care of pupils and creates conditions for their harmonious psychological and physical development through various health promoting activities;
- implements resolutions of the school council and the teaching council;
- manages funds and takes responsibility for their use;
- ensures pupils’ and teachers’ safety during school hours;
- provides conditions in the school for activities of volunteers, associations and other organisations, including, in particular, scout organisations, which conduct educational activities or extend the range or enrich educational, childcare and innovative activities of the school as their statutory aim;
- cooperates with higher education institutions in the organisation of teaching internships for students;
- is responsible for the proper organisation and conduct of tests and exams;
- performs other tasks as set out in specific regulations.
As the head of the institution for teaching and non-teaching staff, the school head:
- employs and dismisses teaching and non-teaching staff;
- gives awards and administers disciplinary penalties;
- presents proposals for commendations, awards and other distinctions.
The school head is partially relieved from teaching duties. The weekly teaching load for the head depends on the size of the school.
A school (a nursery school or another educational institution) which employs at least 3 teachers should establish the teaching council. The teaching council is a collective body whose remit covers the school's statutory tasks related to education and care. Where less than 3 teachers are employed, teachers are members of the teaching council of the school that supervises the school campus in which they work. The teaching council is chaired by the school head and composed of all teachers employed in the school. Meetings of the teaching council can also be attended, in an advisory capacity, by individuals invited by the chair of the council and with the council's consent or at its request. They can be representatives of associations and other organisations, in particular scouting organisations which aim to provide education or extend the range of education and care activities in a school or institution.
The school head is required to present, at least twice in every school year, general conclusions from the pedagogical supervision exercised and information on the activities of the school.
The decision-making powers of the teaching council include in particular:
- approving school activity plans;
- adopting resolutions on the results of pupil assessment and promotion and on teaching innovations and experiments;
- adopting organisational arrangements for in-service training of teachers in the school;
- adopting resolutions to strike pupils from the register;
- determining how findings from pedagogical supervision, including supervision exercised by the pedagogical supervision body, will be used to improve the performance of the school.
The teaching council gives opinions on the following matters:
- the organisation of work in the school;
- draft financial plans of the school;
- the head's proposals concerning distinctions and awards for teachers;
- the head's proposals for regular tasks and classes to be assigned to teachers as part of their basic salary and activities for which they receive additional payment.
The teaching council drafts the statutes of a school and amendments to the statutes and presents them to the school council. The council can also submit a request to the school administering body to dismiss a teacher from the post of school head or any other management position in the school. In such a case, the body authorised to dismiss the head is required to conduct an enquiry and inform the teaching council about its findings within 14 days of the receipt of the request.
Resolutions of the teaching council are adopted by a simple majority of votes, with at least 50% of its members present.
Public schools (and nursery schools and other public institutions) may establish the school council. The council should include at least 6 members representing, in equal proportion, (1) teachers (elected by teachers); (2) pupils’ parents (elected by parents); and (3) pupils (elected by pupils; except in nursery and primary schools and special schools for pupils with intellectual disabilities and some other institutions referred to in relevant regulations).
The council actively participates in solving internal problems. Moreover, the council:
- adopts the school statutes;
- gives its opinion on the draft school financial plan;
- can make proposals to the body responsible for pedagogical supervision over the school to evaluate the activities of the school, the school head and teachers;
- gives opinion on school activity plan, proposals for educational innovations and experiments and other matters relevant to the school;
- may, on its own initiative, evaluate the activities of, or conditions in, the school and make proposals concerning, in particular, extra-curricular activities and optional school subjects to the school head, the school's teaching council, the school administering body or the regional school education council.
In order to support statutory activities of the school, the council can collect funds from voluntary donations and other sources.
Public schools (and nursery schools and other public institutions) also establish the parents' council which represents parents of all pupils in a given school. The parents' council can make proposals concerning all school matters to the school head and other school bodies, the school administering body or the body responsible for pedagogical supervision.
The powers of the parents' council include:
- adopting a school education and care programme and a problem prevention programme in consultation with the school's teaching council;
- giving its opinion on a programme and schedule of activities designed to improve school performance;
- giving its opinion on a draft financial plan submitted by the school head.
The parents’ council may raise funds to support the statutory activities of the school. Funds can come from voluntary contributions made by parents and other sources.
Another body operating within schools (and other educational institutions) is the pupil self-government established by all pupils in a given school. Its operational arrangements and the rules for electing its members are laid down in the regulations adopted by all pupils in an equal, secret and popular vote. The self-government bodies are the only bodies representing all pupils. Self-government regulations may not be contradictory to the statutes of the school. The self-government body can make proposals and give opinions on all school maters to the school council, the teaching council and the school head. In particular, these may concern the basic rights of pupils such as the right to:
- have access to the curriculum, its contents and aims, and the requirements set for pupils;
- have progress in their learning and conduct assessed in a transparent and justified way;
- organise school life in a way that ensures an appropriate balance between learning effort and opportunities for developing and pursuing pupils' own interests;
- edit and publish a school newspaper;
- organise cultural, educational, sports and entertainment activities in line with pupils' needs and organisational capacities, in cooperation with the school head;
- choose the teacher responsible for the pupil self-government.
Moreover, schools (and other educational institutions) may host activities of various associations and organisations, and, in particular, scouting organisations. These can be organisations whose statutory aims include conducting educational activities or extending the range of educational and care activities at a given school. No political parties or organisations can operate in schools. Non-political organisations obtain permission to conduct activities in a school from the school head, based on the terms and conditions agreed beforehand and a positive opinion of the school council and the parents’ council.
The reform implemented in 2018 introduced a number of changes concerning the types of governing bodies of a higher education institution (HEI), their remit, procedures for their election or appointment and their operational arrangements. Detailed information on institutional governing bodies is available in the Ministry of Science and Higher Education’s publication ‘The Guide to the Higher Education and Science System’ (Przewodnik po systemie szkolnictwa wyższego i nauki) (in Polish only).
The main collective governing bodies of a public HEI are the senate and the council. The senate is the collective governing body of a non-public HEI. Other bodies may be established in both types of institutions by their statutes.
The rector (rektor) and the heads of basic organisational units are single-person authorities. The statutes of a non-public HEI may provide for another single-person authority in addition to the rector.
The term of office of the senate and the rector is 4 years and begins on 1 September of the election year and ends on 31 August in the final year of the term. In a public HEI, the rector and a member of the senate may be re-appointed for the same position only for two successive terms.
Electoral colleges are the electoral bodies of a public HEI.
The council of an HEI is composed of 6 to 8 members elected by the senate; their exact number is specified in the statutes of an HEI. At least 50% of council members should be external stakeholders (coming from outside of the HEI’s community). In addition to the members elected by the senate, the council includes the chair of the student self-government body. The president of the council is elected by the senate from among external-stakeholder members of the council.
The term of office of council members is 4 years and begins in January following the starting year of the term of the senate. Council members may hold their function for a maximum of two successive terms.
As part of its responsibilities, the council gives its opinion on a draft institutional strategy of the HEI; gives its opinion on draft statutes of the HEI; monitors management, including financial management, of the HEI; puts forward candidates for the position of rector after consultation with the senate; and gives its opinions on reports on the implementation of the HEI’s institutional strategy. Additionally, the council may carry out other responsibilities specified in the statutes of a given HEI.
As part of financial management monitoring, the council gives its opinion on activity-and-finance plans, approves reports on the implementation of activity-and-finance plans, and approves financial reports / statements. Annual financial reports / statements of a public HEI are examined by an audit firm selected by the council.
The rector of a public HEI is elected by the electoral college, by an absolute majority vote. The rector of a non-public is appointed by its founder or elected either by the senate or by another body identified in the statutes. The function of rector may be performed by a person holding at least a doctoral degree, unless the statutes of an HEI lay down higher requirements in this respect. A prospective rector should be employed in a given HEI as the place of his / her primary employment.
The rector manages the HEI, represents it in external relations and is the head of an institution for staff, students and doctoral students of the HEI. The rector of a public HEI takes decisions on all matters relating to the HEI, except those reserved by the Law on Higher Education and Science (Ustawa – Prawo o szkolnictwie wyższym i nauce) or the statutes of the HEI for other governing bodies. In particular, the powers of the rector include:
- drafting the statutes and strategy of the institution;
- submitting a report on the implementation of the institution’s strategy
- performing responsibilities based on the labour law;
- appointing persons to management positions and dismissing them;
- designing and implementing a human resources policy of the institution;
- establishing first-, second- and long-cycle programmes;
- establishing doctoral schools;
- performing financial management;
- ensuring compliance with the regulations in force at the institution.
The rector of a public HEI is accountable for breach of the fiscal / public finance discipline at the institution, in accordance with the rules laid down by separate regulations.
The senate of a public university-type HEI is composed of: (1) professors and university professors, representing at least 50% of the senate membership; (2) students and doctoral students, representing at least 20% of the membership; (3) other academic staff and non-academic staff, representing at least 25% of the membership.
The senate of public non-university HEI is composed of: (1) academic staff holding at least a doctoral degree, representing at least 50% of the senate membership; (2) students, representing at least 20% of the membership; (3) other academic staff without a doctoral degree and non-academic staff, representing at least 25% of the membership.
As part of its powers, the senate:
- adopts the statutes;
- adopts study regulations and regulations for doctoral schools;
- adopts the strategy of the institution and approves reports on its implementation;
- appoints and dismisses members of the council;
- gives its opinions on candidates for the position of rector;
- evaluates the institution’s performance;
- formulates recommendations for the council and the rector relating to their responsibilities;
- awards doctoral degrees (unless otherwise stated in the statutes);
- confers the title of doctor honoris causa;
- lays down the conditions, procedures and start and end dates for the student admission process for first-, second- and long-cycle programmes and specialist programmes, and admission arrangements for doctoral schools;
- establishes curricula for first-, second- and long-cycle programmes;
- establishes curricula for non-degree postgraduate programmes and specialist programmes;
- establishes curricula for doctoral schools (which requires consultation with the doctoral student self-government body);
- lays down procedures for the validation of learning outcomes;
- puts forward candidates for representative institutions of the higher education and science community.
Federations of HEIs and their governing bodies
The reform of the higher education and science system, implemented in 2018, provides for the establishment of federations which are a more advanced form of associations / unions of HEIs previously in place. A federation of HEIs is a form of collaboration among university-type HEIs (public and non-public) or public HEIs and other entities operating in the higher education and science system.
As part of its tasks, a federation can conduct research activities, train doctoral students, confer doctoral and post-doctoral degrees, and commercialise results of research outputs and related know-how. A federation agreement can also include other tasks, except for other education or training tasks.
President of a federation
The president of a federation is the single-person authority whose remit is based on presumed powers (that is, powers which are not reserved for other bodies). As part of his / her responsibilities, the president represents the federation in external relations; manages the federation, including human resources management in relation to its employees (but not to employees of its member entities), and financial management; and ensures compliance of the federation’s activities with the law.
The first president of a federation of public entities is appointed by the minister responsible for higher education and science; successive presidents are appointed in accordance with the procedure laid down by the statutes of the federation.
The assembly is a collective governing body, and its tasks are to a large extent laid down by the statutes of a federation. Pursuant to the Law on Higher Education and Science (Ustawa – Prawo o szkolnictwie wyższym i nauce), the assembly adopts amendments to the statutes; monitors financial management of the federation (giving opinions on activity-and-finance plans; approving reports on the implementation of activity-and-finance plans; approving financial reports / statements); evaluates the federation’s performance; formulates recommendations for the president regarding his / her tasks; and awards doctoral and post-doctoral degrees.