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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Poland

7.Higher education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

Organisation of doctoral education / training

Detailed organisational arrangements for doctoral training are laid down by the Law on Higher Education and Science.

Doctoral training, provided by university-type HEIs and research institutions other than HEIs, prepares for the award of a doctoral degree (doktor or doktor sztuki for fine arts) in the fields and disciplines listed below.

  1. Field of science: Humanities
    1. Archaeology
    2. Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
    3. Philosophy
    4. History
    5. Linguistics
    6. Literary Sciences
    7. Cultural and Religious Studies
    8. Artistic Sciences
    9. Polish Philology
  2. Field of science: Engineering and Technology
    1. Architecture and Urban Planning
    2. Automation Engineering, Electronic Engineering and Electric Engineering, and Space Technologies
    3. Information Engineering and Telecommunications
    4. Biomedical Engineering
    5. Chemical Engineering
    6. Civil Engineering, Geodesy and Transport Engineering
    7. Materials Engineering
    8. Mechanical Engineering
    9. Environmental Engineering, Mining and Energy Engineering
    10. Heritage Engineering and Art Conservation
  3. Field of Science: Medical and Health Sciences
    1. Medical Biology
    2. Pharmaceutical Sciences
    3. Medical Sciences
    4. Physical Culture Sciences
    5. Health Sciences
  4. Field of Science: Family Sciences
    1. Family Sciences
  5. Field of Science: Agricultural Sciences
    1. Forestry
    2. Agriculture and Horticulture
    3. Food and Nutrition Technology
    4. Animal Husbandry and Fishery
  6. Field of Science: Social Sciences
    1. Economics and Finance
    2. Social and Economic Geography, and Land Management
    3. Security Studies
    4. Social Communication and Media
    5. Political Science and Administration
    6. Management and Quality Sciences
    7. Law
    8. Sociology
    9. Educational Sciences
    10. Canon Law
    11. Psychology
    12. International Relations
  7. Field of Science: Natural Sciences
    1. Astronomy
    2. Biotechnology
    3. Computer Science
    4. Mathematics
    5. Biological Sciences
    6. Chemical Sciences
    7. Physical Sciences
    8. Earth and Environmental Sciences
  8. Field of Science: Theological Sciences
    1. Biblical Sciences
    2. Theological Science
  9. Field of Science: Veterinary Sciences
    1. Veterinary Medicine
  10. Field of Science: Arts
    1. Theatre and Film Arts
    2. Musicology
    3. Plastic Arts, and Art Conservation and Restoration

Doctoral training may also be provided in more than one discipline of science or art.

Doctoral training at doctoral schools, which operate within HEIs and research institutions other than HEIs, lasts 3 to 4 years, the predominating model being a 4-year cycle. At the doctoral student’s request, the head of a doctoral school may extend the duration of training by up to 2 years in total, while exempting the student from attendance at classes, in case he / she should conduct research over a longer period of time (longitudinal study) as part of doctoral training. The exact duration of a training cycle is determined in regulations establishing a given doctoral school.

Doctoral training is based on a curriculum and an individual research plan.

Curricula for doctoral training are developed by senates or research boards of doctoral schools in HEIs and research institutions, and are approved by the authorities of a given institution. Curricula in both HEIs and research institutions should specify the number of compulsory course hours to be attended, coursework to be completed and examinations to be taken and passed in each year of study. In addition, doctoral students in HEIs may be required to teach courses (for a maximum of 60 hours) as part of their practical training.

In consultation with their dissertation supervisor(s), a doctoral student develops an individual research plan, which includes, in particular, a schedule for preparing the doctoral dissertation, and submits it to the entity operating a given doctoral school within 12 months of the starting date of the training programme.

Admission requirements

Access to doctoral education / training, provided by both university-type HEIs and research institutions other than HEIs, is open to applicants who hold a Master's degree (magister) or an equivalent degree and fulfil admission requirements laid down by a given institution. Specific admission requirements are defined by the board of the organisational unit authorised to operate a doctoral school in a given institution, and should be published not later than by 31 May of the year preceding the academic year to which they refer.

In exceptional cases, where this is justified by highest-quality research achievements, a doctoral degree may be conferred to a person who has completed a first-cycle programme or the third year of a long-cycle programme.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

Doctoral students have influence on study timetables and curricula for doctoral training through feedback given by the relevant doctoral student self-government body.

As part of their main duties, doctoral students should follow the doctoral training curriculum, conduct research and report on its progress. Doctoral students are also required to undertake practical training which involves teaching or participation in the teaching of classes. The maximum teaching load for a doctoral student is 60 class hours per year.

Doctoral students are entitled to holiday leave of up to 8 weeks in total per year, which should be taken in periods when no classes are taught. They are also covered by the national social security and health insurance schemes.

A doctoral student who does not hold a doctoral degree receives a doctoral scholarship; however, the maximum total period during which a student in a doctoral school is eligible to receive a scholarship is 4 years. A monthly doctoral scholarship amounts to at least 37% of the salary of a professor (until the month in which the interim assessment is conducted), and 57% of the salary of a professor (after the month in which the interim assessment is conducted). The amount of a doctoral scholarship may vary depending on the doctoral student’s achievements.

A doctoral student may also receive financial support in the form of a maintenance grant, an aid payment, a scholarship for learning achievements, meals grant, an accommodation grant or a special grant for a person with a disability.

Supervision arrangements

Doctoral students are supervised by academic supervisors. Supervision may involve monitoring progress in the student's research work and providing advice and guidelines on, for example, the preparation of the doctoral dissertation and various aspects of research activity (publications, participation in conferences, etc.).

Employability

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 in order 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.

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.

Cooperation between the higher education sector and the labour market is also supported by job fairs organised in many HEIs where employers present their job offers.

Assessment

Doctoral students in an HEI or another research institution are required to attend courses and take examinations as specified in the regulations for a given doctoral school, conduct research and submit reports on its progress, and prepare a doctoral dissertation. Doctoral students in HEIs are also required to teach classes in a given organisational unit of the HEI. Exams are conducted by the academic teacher (in HEIs) or research staff member (in other research institutions) responsible for a given course / type of classes. The progress in research and the preparation of a doctoral dissertation is assessed on an ongoing basis by the supervisor of a doctoral student (an academic teacher / researcher holding a post-doctoral degree /doktor habilitowany/ or a professorial title /profesor/ in a given or related area).

Additionally, the implementation of the student’s individual research plan is subject to an interim assessment conducted either at the mid-point of the training period as specified in a curriculum or during the 4th semester if the duration of a programme is 6 semesters. An interim assessment ends with a positive or negative outcome. The outcome and its justification are publicly available. An interim assessment is conducted by a board consisting of 3 members, including at least 1 member who holds a post-doctoral degree or professorial title in the discipline addressed by the doctoral dissertation concerned and is employed outside the entity operating a given doctoral school. The supervisor and the supporting supervisor may not be members of the board.

The teaching of classes by doctoral students in HEIs is assessed by the supervising academic teacher. Detailed arrangements are laid down in the doctoral school regulations by the organisational unit in an HEI / research institution which provides doctoral training.

Detailed arrangements for progression to the next semester / year of study and examinations are laid down in the doctoral school regulations by the unit of an HEI or another research institution concerned. To be admitted to the final stage of the training, which leads to the award of a doctoral degree, applicants (either doctoral school graduates or other applicants as enrolment on a doctoral programme is not a precondition for the award of a degree) are required to pass the doctoral exam, conducted by the board of a given unit, and submit a doctoral dissertation.

A student of a doctoral school may be struck from the register of doctoral students in case he / she has not passed exams specified in the curriculum, has made no progress in research or the preparation of the doctoral dissertation or has not submitted a report on the progress in his / her work / research. Such decisions are taken by the head of a given doctoral school.

Certification

A doctoral degree (doktor or doktor sztuki for fine arts) may be awarded to a candidate who fulfils the following conditions:

  • holds a Master's degree (magister) or an equivalent degree;
  • has achieved learning outcomes for a qualification at Level 8 of the Polish Qualifications Framework, with the learning outcomes for proficiency in a modern foreign language at B2 level confirmed by a certificate or a higher education diploma / degree;
  • has achievements which include at least:
    • 1 scientific paper published in a scientific journal or as part of peer-reviewed international conference proceedings which were included in the register of the Ministry of Education and Science in the year when the final version of the paper was published; or
    • 1 scientific monograph published by a publishing house which was included in the register of the Ministry of Education and Science in the year when the final version of the monograph was published, or a chapter in such a monograph; or
    • a significant artistic work;
  • has submitted and successfully defended a doctoral dissertation;
  • has fulfilled other requirements defined by the entity awarding a given degree.

A doctoral dissertation presents the candidate’s general theoretical knowledge in the discipline(s) concerned and ability to conduct independent research or artistic activity. A dissertation is devoted to an original solution to a research problem, an original solution where findings from the applicant’s own research are applied in the economic or social sphere, or an original artistic achievement. A dissertation can be a written work, including a scientific monograph, a collection of published and thematically related research papers, a project, design, engineering or artistic work, or an independent and separate part of a collective work.

Doctoral dissertation defence takes place in public, which means that any interested person can participate, apart from the examination board, the candidate’s academic supervisor and reviewers. An announcement about a forthcoming defence is usually published in advance, together with a summary and reviews of the dissertation. During a defence, the candidate presents key theses of his / her dissertation, and subsequently reviewers present their opinions and ask questions. This is followed by an open discussion in which any interested person can participate. After the defence, the board takes a decision to award (or refuse) a doctoral degree.

A doctoral degree (or its equivalent in fine arts) is awarded in a given field and discipline of science. All proceedings leading to the award of a doctoral degree are conducted, and the degree is awarded, by the board of a doctoral school in an HEI or other research institution. A resolution awarding a doctoral degree becomes valid immediately after its adoption by the board.

The Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 21 September 2018 on doctoral diplomas, post-doctoral diplomas and the identity card of a doctoral student (Rozporządzenie Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego z dnia 21 września 2018 r. w sprawie dyplomów doktorskich, dyplomów habilitacyjnych i legitymacji doktoranta) specifies the necessary elements of a doctoral diploma and a doctoral student’s identity card.

Organisational variations

Doctoral training is normally provided at doctoral schools. Institutions or units which may run a doctoral school include a university-type HEI, an institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a research institute or a so-called international institute (a research institute established and operating in Poland) in accordance with specific regulations) which holds:

  1. research rating A+, A or B+ in at least 2 disciplines; or
  2. research rating A+, A or B+ in at least 1 discipline and an authorisation granted in at least 1 discipline by the Research Excellence Council (REC) in accordance with Art. 226a, section 1, of the Law on Higher Education; or
  3. an authorisation in at least 2 disciplines granted by the REC in accordance with Art. 226a, section 1, of the Law.

A doctoral school can also operate in a university-type HEI which conducts research in only 1 discipline if this discipline is part of Theology or Physical Culture, or is an artistic discipline, and the HEI holds either research rating A+, A or B+ in this discipline or an authorisation granted in accordance with Art. 226a of the Law on Higher Education.

A doctoral degree may also be conferred jointly by HEIs, institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, research institutes or international institutes in a discipline where each institution has the A+, A or B+ research rating or an authorisation granted in accordance with  Art. 226a of the Law. This includes foreign institutions which are authorised to award a doctoral degree in the discipline concerned. Collaboration arrangements are laid down in a written agreement. 

There is also a path referred to as ‘an implementation doctorate programme’ (doktorat wdrożeniowy). It is provided in a dual system where a doctoral student conducts a project at two places: an enterprise and an HEI / a research institution. The project has two supervisors; one is appointed by the employer and the other by the HEI / research institution. This approach helps to develop links between the HEI / research institution involved and its socio-economic environment and intensify research activities with commercial potential, and enables a prospective researcher to gain experience in Research and Development. Implementation doctorates are supported under The Implementation Doctorate Programme (Doktorat wdrożeniowy) established in 2017. 

The Programme consists of 3 modules:

  1. “Implementation Doctorate Programme I”: supports doctoral dissertations prepared by doctoral students conducting research in areas other than those listed in point 2;
  2. “Implementation Doctorate Programme II”: supports doctoral dissertations prepared by doctoral students conducting research on the use of artificial intelligence in technological or social processes, including those related to cybersecurity;
  3. “Implementation doctorate III – Metrology”: supports doctoral dissertations prepared by doctoral students conducting research on the use of metrology in technological and social processes, including those related to the development of digital technologies and new technologies in the areas of health, environment, energy and advanced measurement techniques.

The Programme supports the preparation of doctoral dissertations by doctoral students conducting research where results of dissertations can be applied in the activities of entities employing doctoral students. A dissertation should be prepared within a maximum period of 4 years.

Where this is possible considering the specificity of doctoral training in a given area, some learning outcomes covered by a curriculum may be achieved as part of classes based on distance education methods and techniques. In such cases, HEIs should use the infrastructure and software which enables synchronous and asynchronous interaction between students and teachers.

A doctoral degree can also be obtained in a so-called external mode. Before the initiation of the degree award process, a candidate submits a request for the appointment of a supervisor or supervisors.