Branches of study
In Poland, academic areas are specified in the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 20 September 2018 on the fields of science and disciplines of science and arts; Journal of Law 2018, item 1818 (Rozporządzenie Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego z dnia 20 września 2018 r. w sprawie dziedzin nauki i dyscyplin naukowych oraz dyscyplin artystycznych; Dziennik Ustaw 2018 poz. 1818). A previous list has been revised to reduce the number of disciplines; the new list is based on the OECD standards (8 knowledge fields and 102 disciplines on the previous list have been replaced by 48 disciplines).
Each long-cycle programme is provided in a specific area of study and at a specific level of study and has a specific orientation (‘profile’).
Pursuant to the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 27 September 2018 on degree programmes (Rozporządzenie Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego z dnia 27 września 2018 r. w sprawie studiów), programmes in the following areas of study are provided only as long-cycle programmes:
- Medical Analysis,
- Veterinary Medicine,
- Canon Law,
- Preschool and Early School Education,
- Special Education.
This reflects the specificity of curricula in these areas of study where a programme could not be divided into a first-cycle programme and a second-cycle programme.
Additionally, programmes in the following 12 areas of study can be provided as long-cycle programmes:
- Art Conservation and Restoration,
- Moving Image Production and Photography,
- Stage Design,
- Graphic Design,
- Programmes where only candidates for career soldiers are trained.
General requirements for admission to long-cycle programmes are the same for university-type and non-university type HEIs.
Access to long-cycle programmes is open to holders of a maturity certificate (świadectwo maturalne) obtained upon passing the maturity exam at the end of secondary education in specific types of schools. Following the introduction of the maturity examination (egzamin maturalny) as an external exam in 2005 (conducted earlier as an internal exam), admission to long-cycle programmes (and first-cycle programmes) is based on the results of this exam. Thus, HEIs do not conduct entrance exams in the subjects taken by student applicants in the maturity exam. However, each HEI may specify which results of the maturity exam provide the basis for admission. Additional entrance exams may be conducted by HEIs, with the consent of the minister responsible for higher education, only to assess knowledge and skills which are not assessed by the maturity exam or when an applicant holds a secondary school leaving certificate obtained abroad.
While respecting the general admission requirements set by law, each HEI may define its own additional requirements and procedures, including the number of places available to students, except in medical areas of study. Admission requirements and procedures may be similar across an HEI or may vary according to the area of study. Different conditions and procedures may be applied by different HEIs for the same areas of study. Admission requirements and procedures should be published by each HEI not later than by 31 May of the year preceding the academic year to which they refer.
The maximum number of students to be enrolled in each medical area of study (Medicine, Dentistry) by individual HEIs concerned is specified in a regulation by the Minister of Health, in consultation with the Minister of Education and Science. The maximum enrolment levels take into account the teaching capacity of the HEIs concerned and the demand for graduates in a given area of study.
Student enrolment in HEIs is the responsibility of admissions committees which take decisions in all matters related to enrolment. Applicants may appeal against decisions of an admissions committee to the institutional admissions committee and the rector; decisions taken by the rector are final.
University-type and non-university HEIs should meet the same requirements to provide programmes. The requirements are laid down in the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 27 September 2018 on degree programmes (Rozporządzenie Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego z dnia 27 września 2018 r. w sprawie studiów).
The Regulation defines:
- requirements to be fulfilled by a curriculum;
- the range of information to be provided in an application for a permit to establish a programme;
- areas of study in which long-cycle programmes are offered;
- requirements for courses / classes delivered using distance learning methods and techniques, and the maximum number of ECTS credits to be awarded for such courses / classes;
- requirements for documentation on student progression, identity cards and diplomas.
A curriculum should specify, among other things, the form or mode of study; number of semesters and ECTS credits necessary to complete each semester, and the degree awarded to graduates. It should also identify classes / courses (groups of classes), regardless of the form or mode in which they are conducted, together with the related learning outcomes (LOs) and curricular contents for achieving the LOs; the total number of class hours; methods for verification and assessment of the LOs achieved by students during the entire programme; and the total number of ECTS credits which students should earn as part of classes / activities directly involving teachers. Furthermore, a curriculum should specify the length and arrangements for practical placements and the number of ECTS credits which students are required to earn for such placements. As a rule, a curriculum should enable students to choose classes (courses) which are allocated at least 30% of the total number of ECTS credits.
A curriculum may not be changed during a given programme cycle.
A curriculum may provide for selected or all courses as part of a given programme to be taught in a language other than Polish.
National standards for initial training programmes for the professions of Doctor, Dentist, Pharmacist, Bio-medical Analyst and Physiotherapist are laid down in the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 26 July 2019 on the national standards for initial training programmes for the professions of Doctor, Dentist, Pharmacist, Nurse, Midwife, Bio-medical Analyst, Physiotherapist and Paramedic (Rozporządzenie Ministra Nauki I Szkolnictwa Wyższego z dnia 26 lipca 2019 r. w sprawie standardów kształcenia przygotowującego do wykonywania zawodu lekarza, lekarza dentysty, farmaceuty, pielęgniarki, położnej, diagnosty laboratoryjnego, fizjoterapeuty i ratownika medycznego). Similar regulations on national standards are in force for programmes where students are trained for other regulated professions.
There are no general national regulations or guidelines on teaching methods. Teaching is organised in the form of lectures, classes, workshops or seminars, projects and/or practical training / placements, depending on the content of the curriculum for a given area. Teachers use a wide variety of teaching methods and materials, ranging from traditional ones to those based on ICT, including multimedia tools.
Progression of students
Detailed arrangements for taking examinations, progressing to the next semester and year and repeating a year, and for admission to the final (diploma) examination are laid down in the study regulations by each HEI. However, all students can take a resit exam, including the final resit exam; if they fail a resit exam, they can take a so-called board resit exam which is conducted by an examination review board after an appeal made by a student to such a board. To be admitted to the final exam, students are required to complete all courses and practical placements included in the curriculum, obtain a specified number of ECTS credits and submit their final thesis, prepared independently, which should then receive a positive assessment. Where the curriculum does not provide for the final thesis and the final examination, students are required only to complete all courses and practical placements included in the curriculum.
A student may be struck from the register of students in case he / she has not taken up or has withdrawn from study, has not submitted the final thesis or has not taken the final exam within the timeframe specified in the study regulations. A student may also be struck from the register in case he / she has made no progress in learning or has failed to complete a semester or academic year within the timeframe specified in the study regulations.
Practical placements for students are an integral part of programmes in most areas of study.
Many HEIs have established careers services which provide, among other things, career guidance. Careers services provide information about available jobs and help students and graduates as prospective job applicants in the choice of career paths and further training.
Students and graduates can also obtain information and guidance from careers advisors in public employment services and private employment agencies on how to prepare a CV and a motivation letter, how to behave in an interview, etc. (such meetings are frequently organised as group training sessions by careers services).
HEIs are required to monitor graduate careers so as to adapt their programmes and curricula to the needs of the labour market. This should take place, in particular, 3 and 5 years after graduation.
Additionally, basic organisational units of HEIs should integrate into curricula findings from an analysis of labour-market relevance of learning outcomes and findings from graduate career monitoring.
Information on graduate careers is also publicly available through the Polish Graduate Tracking System (Ogólnopolski system monitorowania Ekonomicznych Losów Absolwentów szkół wyższych) managed by the Ministry of Education and Science.
In the Polish higher education system, learning outcomes achieved by students are usually verified within the home HEI by the academic teacher responsible for a given course. Assessment arrangements are laid down at the level of an HEI (basic organisational units) as part of its internal quality assurance system.
The most common internal assessment methods include:
- written (narrative) examination,
- oral examination,
- papers / midterm essays,
- research / laboratory class reports,
- students’ presentations,
- individual and group projects,
- active participation in classes,
- class attendance,
- peer assessment,
- short entry tests before the laboratory classes,
To verify the LOs achieved, teachers can use one or more of the above-mentioned methods (for example, active participation combined with a midterm paper and a final test).
As part of many programmes, students undertake a compulsory practical placement or internship. The final assessment is usually descriptive and covers not only the ‘knowledge’ group of LOs, but also ‘skills’ and ‘social competences’. Practical placements are particularly important for the assessment of the latter two groups of LOs. By performing their duties, students can demonstrate that they have specific professional skills which are verified in a practical way in a suitable working environment. The descriptive assessment often also includes the student’s personal characteristics such as teamwork skills, critical thinking skills, etc.
The final (diploma) examination has a specific role in the verification of LOs as it assesses competencies acquired during the entire programme. In particular, it should demonstrate whether students understand the knowledge imparted to them and are able to use the knowledge gained, for example, in various courses. Thus, aside from the acquired knowledge, the final exam also verifies to some extent students’ social competences. Detailed arrangements for the final exam are laid down at the level of an HEI and its basic organisational units. The final mark, which appears on the diploma, is determined by the mark for the final thesis, which is assessed by the supervisor and reviewer, the mark for the final exam (during which a student may be asked questions about the thesis or other questions), and the average mark for the entire programme. The review of the thesis is multifaceted and covers elements such as:
- relevance to the topic,
- arrangement of the contents,
- use of references, indexes, etc.,
- correctness in language,
- general assessment of the content,
- a new approach to the issues addressed,
- general assessment of the thesis based on the following grading scale: 2/ 3/ 3,5/ 4/ 4,5/ 5/ 5!.
The verification of LOs ends with an overall mark which can be a pass / fail or a numeric mark from a set of possible marks (for example, 2/ 3/ 3,5/ 4/ 4,5/ 5/ 5!).
In some cases, the procedure for the verification of LOs involves an external entity. This is the case, in particular, in the regulated professions (for example, the State Medical Examination) and foreign languages.
In some cases, LOs in a foreign language are verified externally, even though the learning process takes place within an HEI. It makes the assessment more objective. Moreover, if students fail to complete a semester or fail an exam, there are no grounds to claim that they have not been awarded credits for financial reasons (an additional fee to be charged from a student).
Like first- and second-cycle programmes, long-cycle programmes offered by both university-type and non-university HEIs end with the final (diploma) examination, except in medical areas of study. It is conducted by an examination board composed of academic teachers of the organisational unit of a HEI (for example, faculty or department) which provides the programme concerned.
Students who have passed the final exam are awarded a higher education diploma (dyplom ukończenia studiów wyższych) which confirms the completion of a given programme and the award of the relevant degree in a given area. If a programme does not provide for the final exam, students are only required to complete all courses and practical placements in order to obtain a diploma confirming the award of the relevant degree (the overall mark equals the average of the marks for the entire programme). The same diplomas and degrees are awarded by university-type and non-university HEIs. Diplomas are based on specimens established by a regulation of the minister responsible for higher education and are officially recognised documents. At the graduate's request, the HEI is required to issue a copy of the diploma in one of the following foreign languages: English, French, Spanish, German or Russian.
Long-cycle graduates are awarded a Master’s (magister) degree or one of the following degrees, corresponding to a given programme, which is equivalent to magister and magister inżynier:
- lekarz: where a student has achieved the LOs defined for a programme in the area of Medicine;
- lekarz dentysta: where a student has achieved the LOs defined for a programme in the area of Dentistry;
- lekarz weterynarii: where a student has achieved the LOs defined for a programme in the area of Veterinary Medicine;
- magister farmacji: where a student has achieved the LOs defined for a programme in the area of Pharmacy;
- magister inżynier architekt: where a student has achieved the LOs defined for a programme in the area of Architecture.
A Master's degree (magister) or an equivalent degree entitles its holder to practise a given profession and provides access to doctoral training.