Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Quality assurance in higher education

Poland

11.Quality assurance

11.2Quality assurance in higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023

General information

The aims of quality assurance are defined for individual processes and as part of mission statements and / or responsibilities of the responsible bodies. There is no single official document setting out overall aims of the quality assurance system.

External quality assurance

The legislation provides for the following six external quality assurance processes:

  1. initial institutional evaluation: assessment of applications and entry of new non-public institutions into the Register of Non-Public Higher Education Institutions;
  2. institutional re-evaluation: assessment of applications for the renewal of registration and renewal of the registration for non-public institutions;
  3. initial programme evaluation:
    • assessment of applications for, and the granting of, permits to establish first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in any field of study: for new non-public institutions and existing public and non-public institutions which do not meet the statutory requirements to establish a programme in a given field of study as part of their autonomy (see also Chapter 7);
    • additionally, evaluation / accreditation for the establishment of programmes in the fields of Nursing and Midwifery;
  4. periodic programme evaluation:
    • evaluation of ongoing first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in all fields of study;
    • additionally, evaluation / accreditation of ongoing programmes in the fields of Nursing and Midwifery.

and two processes which are not yet in place:

  1. Complex evaluation focusing on the effectiveness of internal quality assurance
  2. Evaluation of the quality of education at doctoral schools

All of the four processes that are in place and the evaluation of educational quality at doctoral schools combine supervisory or accreditation and quality improvement orientations. On the one hand, they are mandatory and end with a formal decision which grants (or refuses) permission for a non-public higher education institution (HEI) to operate, or for a public or non-public HEI to establish or continue to deliver a programme, or to continue to operate a doctoral school. On the other hand, the criteria, analysis of collected evidence, and reports of evaluation panels are aimed at quality improvement. In most of these processes, the quality improvement orientation is also reflected in the outcome of an evaluation which depends on the extent to which the criteria or standards are fulfilled.

In an initial institutional evaluation and institutional re-evaluation, a positive opinion of the Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC) on an application and a positive decision of the Minister of Education and Science are required for new non-public HEIs to operate. Based on the review of applications conducted by PAC in an initial programme evaluation, the Minister issues mandatory permits for newly established non-public HEIs, and for existing public and non-public HEIs which do not meet specific statutory requirements, to establish first-, second- and long-cycle programmes. The criteria for PAC’s assessment of applications are quality oriented, extending beyond formal legal requirements and minimum standards, and the assessment ends with a positive opinion, a positive opinion with recommendations on quality improvement of a programme to be established, or a negative opinion.

A positive outcome of a periodic programme evaluation, conducted by PAC in all fields of study, is required for HEIs to continue to deliver first-, second- and / or long-cycle programmes. A negative outcome leads to the abolishment of the programme concerned (where established by an HEI within its autonomy) or may lead to the withdrawal of a permit by the Minister (where a permit was needed to establish the programme). However, like in the case of initial programme evaluation, the criteria, analysis of collected evidence and evaluation reports are oriented towards quality improvement, and the validity period of a positive decision depends on the extent to which the standards are fulfilled. PAC also awards certificates for outstanding quality of education (for details, see the Chapter “Approaches and methods of quality assurance” below).

Initial and periodic programme evaluation in the fields of Nursing and Midwifery, conducted by the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery (NACSN&M), ends with the granting, withdrawal or refusal of accreditation by the Minister of Health. Where accreditation is refused, the HEI concerned is not authorised to establish a programme and enrol students; where it is withdrawn, the HEI ceases to enrol students until accreditation is re-granted. At the same time, two sets of the evaluation criteria, defining minimum and additional standards, reflect a quality improvement approach, and the extent to which they are fulfilled determines the validity period of the accreditation.

A positive outcome of an evaluation of educational quality at doctoral schools, which will be carried out by the Research Evaluation Committee, will be required for a doctoral school to continue its activity. However, the evaluation criteria extend beyond minimum standards and focus on the quality of education, which will allow evaluation panels to make quality improvement recommendations. 

Detailed arrangements for complex evaluation, which will be conducted by PAC, have yet to be developed. The regulations in force indicate that the process will be mainly advisory in nature and geared towards quality improvement: applications will be submitted by HEIs on a voluntary basis; evaluation will focus on the effectiveness of internal quality assurance; and "refusal to issue a positive decision" will not have any legal consequences. However, where the decision is positive,  PAC will not conduct periodic programme evaluations in the fields of study assigned to the disciplines within areas where PAC has assessed the quality of education as particularly high, unless it is instructed to do so by the Minister of Education and Science.

In addition to the institutions in charge of evaluation mentioned above, there are so-called peer accreditation commissions, set up by HEIs from the 1990s onwards. They have an exclusively advisory role, supporting HEIs in the development of quality culture and quality improvement. The commissions, which focus on specific types of HEIs or fields of study, do not operate on the basis of national legislation. They carry out evaluations based on applications submitted voluntarily by HEIs, and their accreditation decisions do not entail any legal consequences. In the last decades, most of the commissions have suspended or curtailed their activity in view of mandatory evaluation by PAC. Thus, they are not included in the next sections. More details can be found on the websites of the commissions which are still active:

Internal quality assurance

The legislation does not regulate in detail approaches to internal quality assurance. It only lays down general principles for study programmes, teacher appraisal and student course evaluation. HEIs set out detailed arrangements in their internal regulations. PAC and NACSN&M review internal quality assurance mechanisms as part of their external evaluations.

Reforms in the last decade

A quality assurance system for the entire higher education system was set up by the legislation adopted in 2001, which introduced uniform and mandatory arrangements for all types of HEIs and fields of study. As part of the reforms in the last decade, the focus of external quality assurance has gradually shifted from compliance with the legislation to quality improvement; evaluation procedures and criteria have been simplified; and a stronger emphasis has been placed on internal quality assurance. Amendments to the legislation have also provided the basis for awarding additional State-budget grants to HEIs for quality assurance activities.

In accordance with the legislation that came into force in 2011, internal quality assurance became a major criterion in external evaluations conducted by the Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC). At the same time, PAC’s responsibilities were extended to include periodic institutional evaluation (for organisational units in both public and non-public HEIs rather than entire institutions) which also covered third-cycle (doctoral) programmes, as compared to programme evaluations conducted only for first-, second- and long-cycle programmes. The amended legislation also linked, for the first time, the quality of education to funding insofar as the minister responsible for higher education awarded additional funding to HEIs which received an outstanding quality rating in PAC’s programme evaluations. Grants were also available to HEIs on a competitive basis for improvement of internal quality assurance.

Amendments to the legislation adopted in 2016 aimed at reducing bureaucracy in education and quality assurance, and shifting further the focus in PAC evaluations towards quality enhancement. Institutional evaluation was abolished. PAC simplified criteria for programme evaluation. Programme evaluation still covers both qualitative aspects and formal or legal requirements. However, the two elements are more clearly separated; PAC places greater emphasis on the quality of education, and a site visit undertaken as part of an evaluation focuses on qualitative aspects. PAC takes a similar approach in the assessment of applications for permits to establish new programmes.

Despite changes between 2011 and 2015, higher education still suffered from bureaucratic burdens (requirements for the establishment and provision of programmes, and evaluation procedures); unsatisfactory quality of education and its limited relevance to the socio-economic needs; low effectiveness of doctoral training; and low status of the teaching path of an academic career as compared to the research path. In response to these and other issues, not related directly to quality assurance, and based on proposals submitted by the academic community, new legislation on higher education and science was passed in 2018.

The current system, based on the 2018 legislation, still comprises the four processes existing earlier (initial institutional evaluation, institutional re-evaluation, and initial and periodic programme evaluation; see above). However, the new legislation also provides for the introduction of two new processes, non-mandatory complex evaluation and mandatory evaluation of educational quality at doctoral schools (see external quality assurance processes above).

Pursuant to the legislation currently in force, the Minister of Education and Science awards, on a competitive basis, additional funding to HEIs, for example, under two programmes which are directly or indirectly related to the quality of education. As part of ‘The Teaching Excellence Initiative’ (Dydaktyczna inicjatywa doskonałości), public non-university HEIs may receive a grant to improve the quality of education, based on positive evaluation decisions issued by PAC in 6 years preceding the Call and on findings from student and graduate career tracking. The overall aim of ‘The Excellence Initiative: Research Institution’ (Inicjatywa doskonałości – uczelnia badawcza) is to enhance international standing of HEIs. Public and non-public university-type HEIs may be awarded a grant for improving the quality of research through, for example, enhanced international cooperation, and the quality of education, in particular, in priority research areas; putting in place arrangements for staff development and improvement of institutional management. In addition to the criteria concerning the quality of research, only HEIs which operate a doctoral school and have not received a negative programme evaluation decision from PAC are eligible to apply.

 

 

Responsible bodies

Bodies responsible for external quality assurance

Currently, the bodies responsible for external quality assurance are the Minister of Education and Science and the Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC), and the Minister of Health and the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery. PAC and the Research Evaluation Committee (REC)  will be responsible for two new processes which are not yet in place, complex evaluation and evaluation of the quality of education at a doctoral school, respectively.

Minister of Education and Science

As part of their main powers, the Minister of Education and Science:

  • lays down, by regulation, general criteria for programme evaluation, and for two new processes, complex evaluation and evaluation of the quality of education at doctoral schools;
  • takes decisions on entry of new non-public HEIs into the Register for an initial period of 6 years, after consultation with PAC (initial institutional evaluation);
  • takes decisions to renew the registration of non-public HEIs for an indefinite time, after consultation with PAC, or to refuse renewal in the cases where PAC has issued a negative accreditation decision for at least half of the programmes provided by a given HEI and in other cases specified by law (institutional re-evaluation);
  • grants to public and non-public HEIs permits to establish first-, second- and long-cycle programmes (where an HEI does not meet the statutory requirements to establish a programme as part of its autonomy) after consultation with PAC, and after consultation with the Minister of Health (for the fields of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy) or accreditation granted by the Minister of Health (for the fields of Nursing and Midwifery) (initial programme evaluation);
  • withdraws permits to establish programmes where PAC has issued a negative programme evaluation decision and in other cases specified by law (periodic programme evaluation);
  • may instruct PAC to conduct a programme evaluation which is not included in its regular evaluation schedule (periodic programme evaluation);
  • may instruct REC to conduct an evaluation of the quality of education at a doctoral school which is not included in its regular evaluation schedule (when the evaluation process is put in place) (a kind of periodic programme evaluation);
  • appoints members of PAC and REC from among candidates put forward by institutions and organisations identified in the legislation.

Polish Accreditation Committee

The Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC) was established (as the State Accreditation Committee) by the national legislation in 2002. It is the only statutory body responsible for mandatory external evaluation of first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in all fields of study and all HEIs.

As part of Its main responsibilities, PAC:

  • gives opinions to the Minister of Education and Science on applications for entry of non-public HEIs into the Register, and on applications for the renewal of registration (an advisory function in initial institutional evaluation and institutional re-evaluation);
  • gives opinions to the Minister of Education and Science on applications from public and non-public HEIs for permits to establish first-, second- and long-cycle programmes (where an HEI does not meet the statutory requirements to establish autonomously a programme) (an advisory function in initial programme evaluation);
  • conducts periodic evaluations of first-, second- and long-cycle programmes and takes related decisions (a decision-making role in periodic programme evaluation); where PAC takes a negative decision, an HEI ceases to provide the programme concerned in case it was autonomously established by the HEI and, thus, a permit from the Minister was not required; in other cases, the Minister may withdraw a permit for the establishment of the programme;
  • will conduct complex evaluations when the process is put in place (a decision-making role in the process to be put in place).

As part of programme evaluations, and complex evaluations in the future, PAC may issue a decision based on an evaluation or accreditation decision or certificate of an entity which has conducted an evaluation if the entity is included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) or PAC has concluded an agreement on the recognition of evaluation outcomes with the entity. In its evaluation processes, PAC may also take into consideration an evaluation, accreditation or certificate of a national or international entity conducting quality evaluations. 

PAC is an autonomous institution whose independence was confirmed by three external reviews (2008, 2013 and 2018) coordinated by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), and based on the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).

PAC members (up to 100) are appointed for a 4-year term by the Minister of Education and Science, but candidates are proposed by the PAC Presidium and independent institutions and organisations identified in the legislation. These include the General Council for Science and Higher Education; the Conferences of Rectors; the Students’ Parliament of the Republic of Poland; and national academic associations and employers’ organisations.

PAC is funded from the state budget. Administrative and financial services are provided by the PAC Bureau, whose head is appointed and dismissed by the PAC President.

PAC’s responsibilities, overall operational framework and the general criteria for its evaluations are laid down in the legislation. However, PAC adopts independently its operational procedures, including procedures and detailed criteria for the assessment of applications to establish non-public HEIs and degree programmes and programme evaluations, selects experts for evaluations, appoints evaluation panels, and takes positive or negative decisions in the application assessment and programme evaluation processes.

PAC has been a full member of ENQA since 2009 and was entered into EQAR in the same year. It has also been a full member of the Central and Eastern European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CEENQA) since 2002, the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA) since 2005, and the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) since 2007.

Research Evaluation Committee

The Research Evaluation Committee (REC) (the website available in Polish only) was established by the national legislation in 2019. As part of its responsibilities in the area of quality assurance of education, REC will conduct evaluations of educational quality at doctoral schools and analyse their findings. It also carries out evaluations of, and analyses findings from, evaluations of research conducted by HEIs and other research institutions; drafts lists of publishing houses which publish reviewed research monographs and registers of scientific journals and reviewed international conference proceedings; and proposes to the Minister of Education and Science research ratings for institutions or units which have undergone an evaluation.

REC is composed of 3 representatives of each area of science and 7 members with experience in research policy. Members are appointed for a 4-year term by the Minister of Education and Science and may serve up to 2 terms. The Minister appoints members from among candidates put forward by HEIs, institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, research institutes, and international research institutes (established by separate Acts of Parliament and operating in Poland).

The responsibilities and general operational framework for REC, general rules and detailed criteria for quality evaluation of education at doctoral schools are laid down in the national legislation.

REC is funded from the State budget. Administrative and financial services are provided by the Ministry of Education and Science.

Only recently established, REC has not undergone an external review yet, is not an ENQA member and is not included in EQAR.

Minister of Health and National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery

The Minister of Health and the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery (NACSN&M) (the websites available in Polish only) are involved in initial and periodic programme evaluation / accreditation in two medical fields of study: Nursing and Midwifery. The Minister grants accreditation on the basis of evaluations conducted by the NACSN&M. The NACSN&M was established (as the National Accreditation Council for Medical Education) by the national legislation in 2001.

As part of its responsibilities laid down in the legislation, the NACSN&M:

  • conducts evaluations concerning HEIs' compliance with the national standards for programmes;
  • assesses on an on-going basis HEIs' compliance with the national standards for programmes;
  • submits to the Minister of Health proposals for granting accreditation, or refusing or withdrawing accreditation in cases where an HEI does not comply with the national standards for programmes.

NACSN&M members (up to 12) are appointed by the Minister of Health for a 4-year term. Half of candidates are proposed by schools of nursing and midwifery (HEI units offering programmes in these fields) and the other half by self-government bodies for nurses and midwifes, nurses' and midwives' associations and professional organisations.

The NACSN&M defines independently detailed evaluation criteria and takes autonomous decisions on the extent to which programmes comply with the national standards. However, the Minister of Health lays down, by regulation, the NACSN&M's operational rules and the procedure for evaluation which provides the basis for accreditation. The Minister also takes final accreditation decisions, although they are based on the NACSN&M’s positive or negative opinion on the HEI’s application for accreditation.

The NACSN&M is funded from the State budget, and the Ministry of Health provides administrative and financial services to the Council.

The NACSN&M is not subject to external review, is not a member of ENQA and is not included in EQAR.

Bodies responsible for internal quality assurance

The national legislation does not identify bodies responsible for internal quality assurance, except that the criteria, procedure and entity conducting teacher appraisal are specified by the Rector of an HEI after consultation with the bodies and organisations within an HEI which are identified in the legislation (for details, see Approaches and Methods of Quality Assurance). HEIs lay down detailed internal quality assurance arrangements in their internal regulations. HEIs have appointed representatives of Rectors, coordinators or other persons, committees or other bodies and / or have established units directly responsible for internal quality assurance.

Approaches and methods of quality assurance

This chapter describes the following quality assurance processes:

  • External quality assurance:
    • Initial institutional evaluation
    • Institutional re-evaluation
    • Initial programme evaluation
    • periodic programme evaluation
    • periodic evaluation of the quality of education at doctoral schools (a new process, which is not yet in place)
    • complex evaluation (a new process, which is not yet in place)

All processes except complex evaluation are mandatory for higher education institutions.

  • Internal quality assurance

External quality assurance

Initial institutional evaluation and institutional re-evaluation

The national legislation does not refer explicitly to ‘institutional accreditation’ but lays down a mandatory procedure for the assessment of applications and the registration of non-public higher education institutions (HEIs) (public HEIs are established by national legislation).

The founder of an HEI submits an application for entry into the Register of Non-Public Higher Education Institutions, together with an application for a permit to establish (a) programme(s) (see initial programme evaluation below). The Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC) assesses the application, and the Minister enters the HEI into the Register for an initial period of 6 years.

The Minister refuses registration without consulting PAC when there are specific formal and legal grounds in relation to the founder or his / her legal representatives (for example, inclusion in the register of debtors as part of the National Court Register; due liabilities payable to the State budget; a valid court judgment for an intentional offence), or when the draft statutes of the HEI do not comply with the legislation. Where none of these circumstances occur, an application is assessed by PAC, and the Minister refuses to register an HEI if PAC issues a negative opinion on the application for entry into the Register or for a permit to establish a programme.

An application for entry into the Register is assessed together with an application for a permit to establish (a) programme(s). Assessment is conducted by members of PAC and / or its external experts. PAC usually gives its opinion based on submitted documents, but the procedure also provides for a site visit, where appropriate. The criteria are published on PAC’s website

Before the expiry of the initial 6-year period, the founder submits an application for the renewal of registration. After consultation with PAC, the Minister renews the registration for an indefinite time or refuses to do so. A negative decision is taken in the case of gross violations of the law by an HEI or its founder; where PAC has issued e negative decision for at least half of the programmes provided by the HEI; or for any of the above-mentioned formal or legal reasons for the refusal of registration.

Initial programme evaluation / accreditation

Initial programme evaluation: all fields of study

The process involves granting permits to establish first-, second- and long-cycle programmes to new non-public HEIs and existing public and non-public HEIs which are not authorised to establish autonomously programmes in a given field of study as they do not fulfil the requirement laid down by law. The requirement applies to HEIs which do not have one of the three highest research grades (awarded as an outcome of an external evaluation of research) in the discipline to which a given field of study is assigned. For further details, see Chapter 7 “Higher Education”.

Permits are granted by the Minister of Education and Science. However, except in the cases specified by law (see below), the Minister is required to consult PAC which assesses applications. For programmes in the fields of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy, the Minister of Education and Science also obligatorily consults the Minister of Health; for programmes in the fields of Nursing and Midwifery, a permit can be granted by the Minister of Education and Science only to programmes which have been accredited by the Minister of Health (see below).

The Minister refuses to grant a permit without consulting PAC on formal and legal grounds as stipulated by the legislation (for example, tax arrears of the HEI concerned or due subsidy-related liabilities payable to the State budget; liquidation of the HEI; a remedial action programme introduced for a public HEI, no economic rationale for granting a permit; failure to implement post-audit recommendations). The Minister may also refuse to grant a permit if a given programme does not respond to socio-economic needs on the date of the submission of the application.

Applications for permits are assessed by PAC members and / or external experts, including a representative of students. The procedure usually includes an analysis of submitted documents, but PAC members and / or experts also undertake a site visit where appropriate. The assessment criteria are the same as for periodic programme evaluation / accreditation (see below). Assessment templates and detailed criteria are available on the PAC website.

Initial programme evaluation / accreditation: fields of Nursing and Midwifery

The National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery (NACSN&M) assesses the extent to which new programmes in the two fields and the organisational units of HEIs which intend to establish them meet the national standards laid down by legislation. The NACSN&M conducts an evaluation in accordance with the same procedures and criteria as for periodic programme evaluation (see below). The criteria are available on the NACSN&M website (in Polish only). Based on an evaluation, the NACSN&M submits a proposal to the Minister of Health to grant or refuse accreditation. The Minister grants accreditation for a period between 3 and 5 years, depending on the extent to which the mandatory and additional standards are fulfilled.

Periodic programme evaluation / accreditation

Periodic programme evaluation: all fields of study

Evaluation of first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in all fields of study and all HEIs is carried out by PAC. Evaluations are conducted in accordance with a schedule adopted by PAC, but an evaluation may also be conducted at the request of an HEI and is immediately undertaken at the request of the Minister of Education and Science.

The frequency of evaluations depends on the outcome of the previous evaluation. Depending on the extent to which the criteria are fulfilled, PAC issues a positive decision which is valid for up to 2 years or for 6 years, or a negative decision. Where an HEI has received a positive decision for a period of up to 2 years, a follow-up or repeat evaluation ends with a positive decision valid for 6 years or a negative decision. Programmes which have received a positive decision are considered 'accredited’.

Where PAC has issued a negative decision, the programme concerned ceases to be provided if an HEI established it autonomously and, thus, a permit from the Minister was not required. Otherwise, the Minister may withdraw the permit to establish the programme, which, too, means that the programme may no longer be provided. The Minister may also withdraw a permit in case the programme concerned has not started for 2 years after the issue of the permit; no students have been enrolled on the programme in two consecutive academic years; the HEI does not fulfil the formal requirements laid down by law or – for the fields of Nursing and Midwifery – the programme has not been re-accredited by the Minister of Health (see below).

Aside from issuing a positive or negative decision, PAC may award Excellence in Education Certificates for outstanding quality of education in four categories: ‘Excellent programme’ (excellence in education); ‘Always at the service of students’ (excellence in supporting students’ development); ‘Open to the world’ (excellence in international cooperation); and ‘Partner for development’ (excellence in collaboration with the socio-economic environment). A certificate is awarded to an HEI providing a programme which has received a positive accreditation decision for 6 years, supported by good practice examples of the quality of education or regular achievements of students and graduates (up to 5 years after graduation) and a recommendation in a report of the evaluation panel under the relevant PAC evaluation criteria.

Evaluation panels have up to 7 members, including PAC members and external experts. Each panel consists of academic experts, a student, an employer representative and, depending on the type of evaluation and their availability, an international quality assurance expert. Experts are selected in accordance with the procedures and criteria published on PAC's website and are required to complete training. Both PAC members and all experts are full and equal members of evaluation panels.

PAC’s general evaluation criteria (see the table below) are identical for two orientations or ‘profiles’ of programmes: academically oriented and practically oriented programmes. However, detailed standards reflect the specificity of a given type. They address, for example, a linkage between the concept and aims of education and curricular contents, and the research activity of a given HEI and its outcomes for academically-oriented programmes, or progress and the state of practice in areas of professional / economic activity for practically-oriented programmes; effectiveness of teaching / learning methods, methods of student assessment and infrastructure in terms of preparing students for research activity in the case of academically oriented programmes, or preparing students for professional activity and developing their practical skills in the case of practically oriented programmes. The criteria together with detailed indicators are available on the PAC website.

Criteria for Programme Evaluation: all fields of study

  1. Design of a programme: concept, aims of education and learning outcomes
  1. Implementation of the programme: curricular contents; timetable for delivery; types and organisation of classes; teaching and learning methods; practical placements / internships; organisation of the teaching and learning processes
  1. Student admission; verification of learning outcomes achieved by students; completion / recognition of individual semesters and years of study; and graduation
  1. Competence, experience and number of teaching staff; and staff development
  1. Infrastructure and educational resources used in the delivery of the programme, and their improvement
  1. Collaboration with the socio-economic environment in the development, delivery and improvement of the programme, and its impact on the enhancement of the programme
  1. Conditions and methods for enhancing internationalisation of the teaching and learning processes as part of the programme
  1. Support for students in learning, social development, academic or professional development and entry onto the labour market; and development and improvement of support measures
  1. Public access to information about the programme, conditions for its delivery and results achieved
  1. Quality policy; design, approval, monitoring, review and improvement of the programme

 PAC evaluates internal quality assurance in accordance with the ‘European Standards and Guidelines’ (ESG). Its criteria cover all of the ESG, including: policy for quality assurance; design and approval of programmes; student-centred learning, teaching and assessment; student admission, progression, recognition and certification; teaching staff; learning resources and student support; information management; public information; ongoing monitoring and periodic review of programmes; and cyclical external quality assurance.

As part of a follow-up or repeat evaluation, conducted for programmes which have received a positive decision for up to 2 years, PAC assesses only the extent to which the HEI concerned has implemented recommendations made in the previous evaluation.

The evaluation procedure is based on the stages recommended by the ESG and includes: a self-evaluation report prepared by the HEI concerned; a site visit undertaken by an evaluation panel; an evaluation report prepared by the panel and provided to the HEI; a response from the HEI; a decision taken by PAC; the publication of the decision together with its justification and the evaluation report. In the case of a repeat evaluation of a programme which received earlier a positive decision for up to 2 years, an evaluation panel prepares its report based on the HEI’s report on the implementation of recommendations, but it may also request additional information from the HEI or conduct a site visit.

As part of programme evaluations, PAC may issue a decision based on an evaluation or accreditation decision or certificate of an entity which has conducted an evaluation if the entity is included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) or PAC has concluded an agreement on the recognition of evaluation outcomes with the entity. In its evaluation processes, PAC may also take into consideration an evaluation, accreditation or certificate of a national or international entity conducting quality evaluations. 

PAC’s resolution, together with its decision and justification, and the HEI’s response are published in the Public Information Bulletin on the PAC page. Evaluation reports are available on the PAC website. Furthermore, PAC publishes annual reports with a summary analysis of evaluations which provide the basis for overall evaluation of the quality of higher education and for planning quality improvement activities.

PAC has an internal quality assurance system in place, including, for example, internal audits of processes, a questionnaire survey on external evaluations for evaluated HEIs, and a so-called quality window on the website – a feedback form for stakeholders to send their comments and suggestions. Findings from the questionnaire survey are regularly published on PAC’s website and in its activity reports. In line with the ESG, PAC also undergoes an external review every 5 years (the last one in 2018).

Periodic programme evaluation / accreditation: fields of Nursing and Midwifery

Evaluations conducted by the NACSN&M provide the basis for accreditation granted by the Minister of Health.

Accreditation is granted for 3 to 5 years, and its validity period or the frequency of evaluations depends on the extent to which the mandatory and additional criteria are fulfilled. Where the Minister of Health withdraws accreditation, the HEI concerned may no longer enrol students until a given programme is re-accredited.

The NACSN&M appoints an evaluation panel which may not include NACSN&M members working in the evaluated HEI. There is no requirement in the legislation or internal NACSN&M regulations to involve students or international experts in evaluation panels.

The evaluation criteria are based on the national standards for programmes in the fields of Nursing and Midwifery laid down in the legislation. Like initial evaluations, periodic evaluations are conducted against basic criteria, which are mandatory to obtain accreditation for 3 years, and additional criteria for accreditation to be awarded for 4 or 5 years. The main areas addressed are listed below, and detailed criteria are available on the NACSN&M website (in Polish only)

Criteria for evaluation of compliance with the national standards: fields of Nursing and Midwifery

  1. Study programme: Methods of delivery:
  • Basic (mandatory) criteria: aims of education; learning outcomes; curriculum and curricular contents; teaching and learning methods; practical training and internships; implementation of the teaching and learning processes; methods for verification and assessment of learning outcomes; involvement of internal and external stakeholders in the development of the study programme;
  • Additional criteria: active learning classes other than practical training and internships; final thesis seminars; international cooperation; internationalisation of the study programme / education; opportunities created for students to broaden knowledge, improve skills and social competences relevant to the profession (for example, optional courses); use of indirect and high accuracy simulation in the teaching and learning processes.  
  1. Teaching staff:
  • Basic (mandatory) criteria: research achievements, teaching competence, number and stability of the teaching staff; staff assigned to classes;
  • Additional criteria: staff development programmes aligned with the classes conducted; participation in organisations involved in the development of professional practice; support from the HEI for research development of the teaching staff.
  1. Teaching and learning facilities:
  • Basic (mandatory) criteria: infrastructure and teaching and learning resources; improvement and development of teaching and learning facilities, library and information resources.
  • Additional criteria: Polish and international scientific journals available in the library and reading room and / or digital access to journals provided; infrastructure and equipment enabling the HEI to conduct classes at various levels of simulation accuracy; a register of teaching and learning equipment, including equipment items assigned to the basic organisational unit and (a) branch campus(es).
  1. Evaluation of the quality of education and achievements of the HEI:
  • Basic (mandatory criteria): a transparent structure for the management and monitoring of the quality of education; an internal quality assurance system in place, which enables the HEI to improve curricula and the teaching and learning processes; a quality assurance committee in place, with criteria and tools for quality evaluation; involvement of internal and external stakeholders in periodic evaluation of the quality of education; the student admission process conducted in accordance with the requirements and criteria adopted, and monitoring of the student dropout and its underlying reasons; graduate career tracking; analysis of the quality of education, dissemination of findings, and follow-up action taken to use findings for the improvement of teaching and learning processes.
  • Additional criteria: opportunities created for international engagement of academic teachers and students, and a periodic review of international activities; documentation available for action taken to improve the quality of education; activity of student research clubs; organisation of scientific symposia and conferences; other activities, for example, for the benefit of the local community / collaboration with other HEIs / implemented innovations. 

The evaluation and accreditation procedure includes the following stages: submission of an application for accreditation by a HEI; review of the application by the NACSN&M; a site visit; a site visit report prepared by the evaluation panel and forwarded to the HEI for feedback; a resolution adopted by the NACSN&M with a positive or negative opinion; a motion to grant, refuse or withdraw accreditation put forward to the Minister of Health; an accreditation certificate awarded by the Minister of Health or the Minister's decision to refuse or withdraw accreditation. The NACSN&M publishes only the names of HEIs and the fields of study which have been granted accreditation together with its validity period.

The regulations concerning the NACSN&M do not lay down any specific arrangements to ensure the quality of its own procedures and do not provide for its periodic external review. 

Evaluation of the quality of education at doctoral schools

Evaluation will be conducted by the Research Evaluation Committee (REC). Doctoral schools (which have replaced previously existing third-cycle or doctoral programmes) have operated since 1 October 2019. Pursuant to the legislation, the first evaluation of education at a doctoral school can take place at least 5 years after the date when a school started to provide education or earlier at the request of the Minister of Education and Science. First evaluations are scheduled for the academic year 2024/2025.

The length of the evaluation cycle is laid down in the legislation. REC will conduct an evaluation of each school at least every 6 years or, outside its schedule, at the request of the Minister of Education and Science. An evaluation may end with a positive or negative outcome. Where the outcome is negative, an HEI (or another research institution) will no longer be authorised to operate the doctoral school concerned.

In accordance with the legislation, evaluations will be conducted by evaluation panels, each composed of 4 to 7 members. Each panel will consist of REC members and external experts with significant research achievements (or artistic achievements for the areas of fine arts) appointed by REC, including at least one working in a foreign HEI or research institution, and one doctoral student appointed from among candidates put forward by the National Representation of Doctoral Students (a body representing doctoral students).

The legislation lays down 8 general evaluation criteria listed below. Detailed criteria are published in the Regulation of the Minister of Education and Science on the evaluation of the quality of education in doctoral schools (see the Legislation in the introductory section to Chapter 11) and will soon be available on the REC website.

  1. Relevance of a doctoral training programme and individual research plans to the learning outcomes defined for the qualifications at Level 8 of the Polish Qualifications Framework (PQF), and the implementation of the programme and plans
  1. Methods for the assessment / verification of learning outcomes at Level 8 of the PQF
  1. Qualifications and competence of teaching or research staff providing doctoral training
  1. Quality of the admissions process for doctoral students
  1. Quality of tutoring and support in research activities
  1. Reliability of mid-term assessment
  1. Internationalisation
  1. Effectiveness of doctoral training

 The evaluation procedure will include: a self-evaluation report prepared by a doctoral school; analysis of the report and a site visit conducted by an evaluation panel; an evaluation report (in Polish and English) prepared by the panel and provided to the school under review for its feedback; a decision on evaluation taken by REC; and the publication of the REC resolution together with the self-evaluation and evaluation reports in the Public Information Bulletin.

Complex evaluation

Complex evaluation, a non-mandatory process, will focus on the effectiveness of quality assurance measures taken by an HEI in all areas where it provides education. PAC will conduct a complex evaluation at the request of an HEI which has received only positive programme evaluation decisions (see above) or a positive decision in a previous overall evaluation.

An evaluation will be carried out by an evaluation panel composed of up 7 members, including PAC members and external experts. A panel will consist of academic experts, a student, an employer representative and, depending on their availability, an international quality assurance expert. Experts will be selected in accordance with the procedures and criteria to be published on the PAC website and will be required to complete training. Both PAC members and all experts will be full and equal members of evaluation panels.

Like in the case of programme evaluation, the evaluation procedure will include: a self-evaluation report prepared by the HEI concerned; analysis of the report and a site visit conducted by an evaluation panel; an evaluation report prepared by the panel and provided to the HEI; a response from the HEI; and a decision taken by PAC. PAC’s decision, together with its justification and the response from the HEI concerned, will be published in the Public Information Bulletin on the PAC page. PAC will also publish evaluation reports on its website.

An evaluation will end with a positive decision valid for 3 to 8 years or refusal to issue a positive decision. During the validity period of a positive decision, unless otherwise instructed by the Minister of Education and Science, PAC will not conduct periodic programme evaluations in the fields of study assigned to the disciplines within areas where PAC has assessed the quality of education as particularly high. In case PAC refuses to take a positive decision as an outcome of an evaluation, the HEI concerned will be eligible to re-apply for a complex evaluation after 5 years, unless PAC sets a shorter timeframe.

As part of complex evaluations, PAC may issue a decision based on an evaluation or accreditation decision or certificate of an entity which has conducted an evaluation if the entity is included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) or PAC has concluded an agreement on the recognition of evaluation outcomes with the entity. In its evaluation processes, PAC may also take into consideration an evaluation, accreditation or certificate of a national or international entity conducting quality evaluations. 

Internal quality assurance

Internal quality assurance is integrated in general terms into the mission of the higher education and research system. As stated in the legislation, its mission is to provide highest-quality education and conduct highest-quality research, shape civic attitudes, and contribute to societal development and the creation of an innovation-based economy. The legislation does not prescribe the scope or aspects to be addressed by internal quality assurance, except for general provisions whereby the responsibility for the evaluation of institutional performance rests with the senate of an HEI, and general arrangements for study programmes, including periodic student course evaluation, and teacher appraisal.

HEIs should regularly evaluate and improve the quality of education and curricula. Courses taught by teachers are evaluated, on a mandatory basis, by students and doctoral students at least once a year. Study programmes should integrate findings from an analysis of the relevance of learning outcomes to labour market needs, and findings from the career tracking system, managed by the Minister of Education and Science, for first-, second- and long-cycle students and graduates and individuals who apply for, and are awarded, doctoral degrees.

All academic teachers, except for the Rector of an HEI, undergo a performance appraisal. It is conducted at least every 4 years or at the request of the Rector. It covers, in particular, the performance of duties as part of teaching and / or research activities and the observance of intellectual and industrial property rights. The criteria, procedure and entity conducting appraisal are specified by the Rector after consultation with the HEI’s Senate, trade unions and student and doctoral student self-government bodies. Appraisal takes into consideration outcomes of student course evaluation, conducted at least once a year by students and doctoral students. Appraisal ends with a positive or negative outcome. The teacher may appeal against the outcome of the appraisal to the Rector. Where the outcome is negative, another appraisal can be conducted at least 12 months after the previous appraisal. The Rector may terminate the employment relationship with a teacher after one negative assessment and is required by law to do so when a teacher has received two consecutive negative assessments.

Each HEI adopts detailed internal quality assurance arrangements in its internal regulations. PAC and the NACSN&M review internal quality assurance approaches in their external evaluations.

Summary reports on quality in higher education

At the national level, PAC’s reports are the main source of summary information on the quality of higher education. Reports include statistical data on evaluation processes and more detailed analyses of selected issues (for example, findings from programme evaluations in a breakdown by group of fields of study). Analytical chapters discuss, for example, strengths and weaknesses of HEIs, changes and trends and the impact of PAC’s activities on quality improvement. Reports are sent to, among others, the competent Ministers, the Parliament, the Conferences of Rectors and the General Council for Science and Higher Education, and are published on the PAC website. Findings are used to inform the national policy agenda for higher education, and by PAC itself to improve its processes.