Colleges of social work operate in accordance with the legislation on school education and are part of the school education system. First colleges of social work were established in 2005. Colleges train for the occupation of social worker. They provide full-time and part-time 3-year (6-semester) programmes which lead to a diploma. In the academic year 2020/2021, there were 4 colleges of social work, with 14 departments in total, which trained 243 students. Most of the students (197) were women.
Public colleges are established and administered by a local government body at the province (województwo) level. The establishment of a public college requires a positive opinion from the Minister of Family and Social Policy.
Each college is supervised academically by a higher education institution (HEI) which offers programmes leading to a Master's degree (magister) in the areas of study and specialism areas corresponding to the specialism area in a given college. Detailed arrangements for academic supervision should be laid down in an agreement between the body administering a college and an HEI. Moreover, pedagogical supervision is exercised by the Head of the Regional Education Authorities (kurator oświaty) (responsible for school education) in a given province (województwo).
Higher education institutions
There are two main types of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Poland: university-type HEIs (uczelnia akademicka) and non-university HEIs (uczelnia zawodowa).
A university-type HEI is an institution which conducts research activity and has the A+, A or B+ research rating in at least 1 scientific or artistic discipline. (Ratings are awarded based on an external evaluation of the quality of research.) It may provide first-cycle programmes leading to a Bachelor's degree (licencjat or inżynier) (ISCED 6), second-cycle and / or long-cycle programmes leading to a Master's degree (magister) (ISCED 7), and doctoral training (ISCED 8).
A non-university HEI is an institution which offers programmes responding to the needs of the socio-economic environment and does not fulfil the criteria for a university-type HEI. It provides first-cycle programmes and may also provide specialist programmes, second- and long-cycle programmes. Non-university HEIs offer only practically oriented programmes.
Additionally, the Law on Higher Education and Science (ustawa – Prawo o szkolnictwie wyższym i nauce) lays down requirements concerning names of HEIs:
- the term “academy” is reserved for university-type HEIs;
- the term “university of technology” is reserved for university-type HEIs which have the A+, A or B+ research rating in at least 2 disciplines of engineering and technology sciences;
- the term “university” is reserved for university-type HEIs which have the A+, A or B+ research rating in at least 6 scientific or artistic disciplines (hereafter referred to as disciplines) included in at least 3 fields of science or art (hereafter referred to as fields);
- the term “academy of applied sciences” is reserved for HEIs which fulfil all of the following conditions:
- have operated for at least 10 years;
- have at least 250 students, including at least 100 students enrolled on full-time programmes;
- have at least 50% of academic staff employed in the institution as the place of their primary employment;
- provide first- or second- or long-cycle programmes in at least 5 areas of study;
- provide (a) programme(s) leading to a degree in at least 1 regulated profession (doctor, dentist, pharmacist, nurse, midwife, biomedical analyst, physiotherapist, paramedic, veterinary surgeon, architect or teacher) or leading to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in engineering or technology areas (inżynier or magister inżynier);
- have not received a negative rating for any programme evaluated by the Polish Accreditation Committee.
To be authorised to provide first-, second- and/or long-cycle programmes, both university-type and non-university HEIs are required to comply with identical requirements set out 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 lays down:
- 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.
Pursuant to the above-mentioned Regulation, 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 to be awarded to graduates. It should also identify classes / courses (groups of classes or courses), 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 that 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 that students are required to earn for 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.
Curricula should be developed in accordance with the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 14 November 2018 on the second-stage descriptors of learning outcomes for qualifications at Levels 6 to 8 of the Polish Qualifications Framework (Rozporządzenie Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego z dnia 14 listopada 2018 r. w sprawie charakterystyk drugiego stopnia efektów uczenia się dla kwalifikacji na poziomach 6–8 Polskiej Ramy Kwalifikacji). The Regulation provides second-stage descriptors of learning outcomes, defined in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences, for qualifications which students acquire within the higher education and science system, after obtaining a full qualification at Level 4.
First-, second- and long-cycle programmes are divided into practically and academically oriented programmes (referred to as practical and general academic orientations / profiles), and this is reflected in curriculum design. A curriculum for a practically oriented programme includes classes / courses developing practical skills which represent more than 50% of the total number of ECTS credits. In a curriculum for an academically oriented programme, more than 50% of the total number of ECTS credits are allocated to classes / courses related to an HEI’s research activities in (a) discipline(s) to which a given area of study is assigned.
The Law on Higher Education and Science identifies the following specific types of HEIs:
- a military HEI: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for national defence;
- a government service HEI: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for internal affairs;
- an HEI of art studies / specialising in fine arts: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for culture and national heritage;
- a medical HEI: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for health;
- an HEI of maritime studies: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for maritime affairs.
According to the POL-on database, in 2021 Poland had 426 HEIs, including 278 non-public institutions; 57 HEIs are in the process of liquidation. HEIs can be divided into the following types (based on the classification of the Central Statistical Office):
- Universities (uniwersytety);
- Technical HEIs (uczelnie techniczne);
- Agricultural HEIs (uczelnie rolnicze);
- HEIs specialising in economic sciences / schools of economics (uczelnie ekonomiczne);
- Pedagogical HEIs (uczelnie pedagogiczne);
- Medical HEIs (uniwersytety medyczne);
- HEIs of maritime studies / specialising in maritime studies (uczelnie morskie);
- Academies of physical education (akademie wychowania fizycznego);
- HEIs of art studies / specialising in fine arts (uczelnie artystyczne);
- Theological HEIs;
- HEIs supervised by the minister responsible for national defence and the minister responsible for internal affairs and administration
97 public HEIs are university-type institutions which provide first- and second-cycle programmes and doctoral training. The remaining 34 HEIs are non-university HEIs offering only first- and second cycle programmes.
It should be emphasised that since 2010/2011, when Poland had 460 HEIs, the education market has slowly stabilised, as a result of the fall in demand, which reflects mainly a population decline. Thus, some HEIs have merged or have been closed down in recent years.
As explained in the previous sections, doctoral training may also be provided by research institutions other than HEIs (Polish Academy of Sciences and research and development institutions) which are authorised to award post-doctoral degrees. Such research institutions are not discussed here as a separate type of institutions as their primary task is to conduct research rather than providing degree programmes.
In terms of organisation or mode of delivery, first-, second- and long-cycle programmes are divided into full-time and part-time programmes:
- a full-time programme: a programme where at least half of the ECTS credits covered by a curriculum are earned in classes directly involving academic teachers or other staff conducting classes and students;
- a part-time programme: a programme identified in a resolution of the HEI senate where less than half of the ECTS credits covered by a curriculum can be earned with direct involvement of academic teachers or other staff conducting classes and students.
Part-time programmes are usually delivered as extramural or evening programmes.
A university-type HEI which has the A+ or A research rating in at least 4 disciplines which are part of at least 2 fields may provide individualised inter-field programmes which lead to a diploma / degree in more than one area of study.
An HEI may provide a joint programme together with another HEI, an institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a research institute, an international institute or a foreign HEI or research institution. Collaboration arrangements are laid down in a written agreement. A joint programme graduate can receive a joint diploma / degree.
An HEI may offer a dual programme, which is a practically oriented degree programme delivered jointly with an employer. Organisational arrangements for such a programme are laid down in a written agreement.
Classes / courses can be delivered using distance learning methods and techniques if their ECTS credit value is not higher than 50% of the total ECTS value of the entire programme. Additionally, HEIs should meet all of the following requirements:
- teaching staff are trained to deliver distance learning classes / courses, and delivery is monitored by the HEI on an ongoing basis;
- access to ICT facilities and software enables synchronous and asynchronous interaction between students and teachers;
- teaching and learning materials are provided in an electronic format;
- students have access to face-to-face tutorials / guidance sessions with academic staff and other staff conducting classes in the main campus or a branch campus of the HEI;
- learning outcomes achieved by students are verified through ongoing monitoring of the progress in learning, while exams and other forms of assessment at the end of a course / group of classes are conducted in the main campus or a branch campus of the HEI;
- students have been trained to participate in such classes / courses.
For classes / activities developing practical skills, distance learning methods and techniques can be used only as additional or supporting ones.