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Main providers


8.Adult education and training

8.3Main providers

Last update: 6 June 2024

A reform of education (which has been underway since 2017) has introduced and continues to introduce changes in the structure of the school education system, its organisation and the core curricula and, consequently, in school curricula. A number of reform measures have been taken to develop adult education and adapt provision to the needs of adults. For example, forms of provision such as vocational qualification courses or vocational skills courses have replaced education and training in vocational schools for adults. The new structure of the school system (see the description below) includes the following types of schools for adults:

  • 8-year primary schools (in place since 1 September 2017);
  • post-primary schools: 4-year general secondary schools (in place since 1 September 2019).

Changes in general secondary education were initiated in the school year 2019/2020 and will be completed in the school year 2023/2024. Students in general secondary schools may take the maturity exam, which, if passed, provides access to higher education. Changes have also been introduced in vocational exams. A vocational exam covers a specific qualification and is based on the requirements set out in the core curriculum for vocational education. It leads to a certificate or diploma conferring a qualification for a given occupation.

Primary schools for adults

  • Primary schools for adults take learners aged 18 and above or those who will reach the age of 18 in the calendar year in which they start primary school.
  • In September 2021, there were 61 primary schools for adults with 1,761 learners (including 615 females). Although formal education has eliminated illiteracy among adults, the quality of learning outcomes achieved remains low, as demonstrated by results of the PIAAC Survey (Central Statistical Office, 2022, Education in the school year 2022/2023 (preliminary data) (publication in Polish, with key data in English), Table 3.1) (Accessed August 2023)



Secondary schools for adults

General secondary school for adults

  • General secondary schools for learners aged 18 and above who have finished a pre-reform lower secondary school (replaced by 8-year primary school: single structure education) or a post-reform primary school. Learners can:
    • complete secondary education and obtain a school leaving certificate, which provides access to post-secondary schools;
    • obtain a maturity certificate upon passing the maturity exam, which provides access to higher education institutions.  
  • In the school year 2021/2022, there were 835 general secondary schools for adults, with 87,488 learners, and females representing 45.7%. In 2020/2021, 33,768 learners, with females representing 49.4%, finished general secondary schools (Central Statistical Office, 2022, Education in the school year 2022/2023 (preliminary data) (publication in Polish, with key data in English), Tables 1.12 and 1.13) (Accessed August 2023).

Post-secondary schools (post-secondary non-tertiary education)

  • Post-secondary schools take adults holding a secondary education qualification and lead to a vocational diploma if learners pass vocational exams for a given occupation;
  • A maturity certificate is not required for admission; a secondary school leaving certificate confirms completion of secondary education.
  • In the school year 2021/2022, there were 1,357 post-secondary schools attended by 232,696 learners. In 2020/2021 55,930 learners finished a post-secondary school. Most post-secondary schools (84.5%) were non-public institutions. (Central Statistical Office, 2022, Education in the school year 2022/2023 (preliminary data) (publication in Polish, with key data in English), Table 1.11). (Accessed August 2023)


Public institutions providing continuing education to adults

Public institutions providing continuing education to adults are governed by the following legislation:

The table below shows the range of activities of the main types of institutions.

Public institutions providing continuing education to adults
Type of institution Activities Forms of continuing education for adults
Vocational Education and Training Centre (VETC) 595 VETCs (source: Register of Schools and Educational Institutions, School Education Information System; August 2023)

Vocational qualification courses

Vocational skills courses

General competences courses

Other courses

Non-public continuing education and practical training centre (CEPTC) 25 non-public CEPTCs (source: Register of Schools and Educational Institutions, School Education Information System; August 2023) See above
Continuing education centre (CEC) not including (a) school(s) 3,079 institutions (source: Register of Schools and Educational Institutions, School Education Information System; August 2023) See above
Continuing education centre combined with schools 135 institutions (source: Register of Schools and Educational Institutions, School Education Information System; August 2023) See above

Source: Author’s own elaboration based on the Register of Schools and Educational Institutions, School Education Information System (Rejestr Szkół i Placówek Oświatowych, System Informacji Oświatowej, RSPO SIO) (information in Polish only); data for August 2023.

Vocational qualification courses may be provided by schools and other public and non-public educational institutions. They have extended the range of institutions involved in education and training activities.

Training institutions

Institutions providing training to unemployed people and job seekers

The Register of Training Institutions (RTI) (Rejestr Instytucji Szkoleniowych), operating under the Act of 20 April 2014 on the Promotion of Employment and Labour Market Institutions (ustawa z dnia 20 kwietnia 2004 r. o promocji zatrudnienia i instytucjach rynku pracy), is the biggest directory of institutions which provide training to unemployed people and job seekers in Poland. Each institution interested to provide such training in cooperation with the public employment services (as a commissioned and publicly funded activity) should be entered into the RTI by the relevant Regional Labour Office. With the requirement to register and update identification data, the register is the most comprehensive and reliable source of information on training institutions which offer courses to unemployed people and job seekers.

In 2023, the Register included 13,659 training institutions. Based on the available data, 1,364 vocational training courses for adults (mostly apprentice training and practical vocational training) and 83,251 training courses ending with an exam were included in the Register in 2023 (RTI data in Polish).  

Other training institutions

The market of institutions and companies providing training is very diverse and extends beyond those included in the RTI. Some institutions offer consultancy services in addition to training services. There is, however, no single register or database of all entities offering training services to adults, except for unemployed people and job seekers. Some educational institutions, such as schools or higher education institutions, may be included in the RTI.

Higher education

Non-degree postgraduate programmes, as another type of continuing education, are provided by public and non-public higher education institutions (HEIs), research institutions and institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The Law on Higher Education and Science (ustawa Prawo o szkolnictwie wyższym i nauce) does not use the term ‘continuing education’. However, in view of the so-called third mission of higher education (see Chapter 8.1, Table 1 and Chapter 7 ‘Higher Education’), this type of programme can be considered as part of continuing education. In addition to non-degree postgraduate programmes, HEIs and research institutions offer specialist programmes and courses in other settings such as third-age universities and open universities.

Students in non-degree postgraduate programmes and specialist programmes

The Law on Higher Education and Science defines non-degree postgraduate programmes as the type of programme provided by HEIs, research institutions and institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences which is open to applicants who hold a full qualification at least at Level 6 of the Polish Qualifications Framework (PQF), obtained in the higher education and science system. As part of a programme of at least a 2-years’ duration, students are awarded partial qualifications at Levels 6, 7 or 8 of the PQF.

According to the POLON system (Integrated System of Information on Science and Higher Education) (information in Polish only), there were 362 public and non-public HEIs in Poland in the academic year 2021/2022.

 In the academic year 2021/2022, 166,200 students, with females representing 69.3%, were enrolled on non-degree postgraduate programmes in HEIs.(Central Statistical Office, 2022, Higher Education and Its Finances in 2021, accessed August 2023) .

As defined in the Law on Higher Education, specialist programmes are offered by HEIs and research institutions, last for at least 3 semesters and lead to a full qualification at Level 5 of the PQF.

Open universities and third-age universities

Open universities (OU) (uniwersytet otwarty) are a type of commercial activity carried out by HEIs in the area of non-formal education for target groups outside the academic community. OUs offer opportunities for people from outside the academic community (regardless of their age, educational attainment and vocational or professional qualifications) to attend lectures, courses and workshops conducted by academic staff. ‘Openness’ is reflected, for example, in the minimum formal requirements for participation (at least 16 years of age) and no admission barriers (no entrance exams, and flexibility in provision). UO learners can improve their competences, fulfil their professional aspirations and pursue their passions. UOs also cooperate with research centres, other educational institutions, cultural institutions, enterprises and non-governmental organisations working in a given region. Additionally, UOs conduct educational and cultural activities, organising debates, open lectures, outdoor cinema shows or concerts.

In their missions and aims, Polish UOs highlight the need to promote and put into action the idea of lifelong learning, support the development of local communities, and to provide equal educational opportunities and employment prospects for people of various backgrounds through the adaptation of education programmes to their needs.

Third-age universities (TAU) (uniwersytet trzeciego wieku) are entities (not only educational institutions) which aim primarily to provide education, but also to facilitate the integration and encourage engagement of seniors and, thus, to improve the quality of their lives and increase their participation in social life.

In organisational and legal terms, the following types of entities operate as TAUs:

  1. Associations and foundations for which TAU is the main type of activity
  2. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (for example, associations and foundations) for which TAU is one of many types of activity
  3. HEIs
  4. Continuing education centres
  5. Culture centres / establishments, libraries
  6. Social welfare institutions
  7. Other institutions established by the municipal / commune office
  8. Other entities

Based on the data published by the Central Statistical Office, 640 TAUs operated in Poland in 2018. In total, they had 113,200 learners, with women representing the overwhelming majority (95.4%). People aged 61-75 years represented nearly 72% of all learners.

More than half (56%) of the TAUs operate within the structures of NGOs, more than one-fifth (21.5%) at HEIs and 17.7% at culture centres or establishments. Nearly 90% of the TAUs organise various seminars and lectures for their learners, and 82% offer courses or workshops on a regular basis. Activities / classes include mainly sporting and physical activities (88%), language courses (81%), artistic activities (73%) and ICT classes (70%) (Central Statistical Office, 2019c. Uniwersytety Trzeciego Wieku w Polsce w 2018 r. / Third-Age Universities in Poland in 2018; data in Polish only; accessed August 2023).

The organisation bringing together the TAUs in Poland is the TAU Federation (Federacja UTW) (website in Polish), which regularly publishes studies (in Polish) on the activities of its member institutions.