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Second-cycle programmes

Republic of North Macedonia

7.Higher education

7.3Second-cycle programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023



•1 Branches of study 

Second cycle programs are provided through second cycle of academic (graduate) studies and second cycle of vocational studies. The second cycle of academic (graduate) study programs lasts between 1 and 2 years, offers 60 to 120 credits (60 ECTS credits for one year), and awards a master degree. The earned competences correspond to the level VII A of the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level VII of the European Qualification Framework (EQF). Graduate studies can last longer than 2 years if in compliance with the internationally accepted standards of a given profile.

The qualifications acquired by completing the study program of the integrated first and second cycle of academic studies correspond to the level VIIA of the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level VII of the European Qualifications Framework (see section 7.4.).

Universities and higher vocational schools may also organize second cycle vocational studies for those who have completed appropriate study programs in the first cycle of vocational or academic studies.

Vocational studies at the second cycle lasts one year, offers 60 ETCS credits and awards a Specialist (Spec.) degree. The earned competences correspond to the level VII B from the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level VII from the European Qualification Framework (EQF).

The studies are organized in the following seven scientific research areas of the International Frascati classification: 1) natural-mathematical sciences; 2) technical-technological sciences; 3) medical sciences and health; 4) agricultural and veterinary sciences; 5) Social Sciences; 6) Humanities; and 7) Arts.


•2 Admission requirements

A student who completed a relevant undergraduate, first cycle study program can enroll in the second academic study cycle. The universities/HEIs set the enrollment requirements and determine which first cycle study programs are relevant for the particular second cycle study program. One-year master program is intended only to students who completed 4-year undergraduate studies and have earned at least 240 ECTS credits. Special requirements for the graduate studies in the area of arts are set by the higher education institution’s acts. A student who completed a relevant undergraduate, first cycle academic and professional study program can enroll in the second professional study cycle.

Students enrollment is carried out through public competition announced by the university/HEIs with a prior Government consent. The total number of enrolled students depends on the maximum capacity determined with the accreditation of the public and private higher education institutions. The decision on the number of students enrolling in a public and private HEI is adopted by the Teaching Council, but cannot exceed the number determined with the accreditation of the HEI (Article 151 from HE Law 2018). The competition provides the application procedure and selection criteria that guarantees equality of all candidates irrespective of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other belief, ethnic, national or social origin, property, birth, social status, disability, sexual orientation and age.


•3 Curriculum

All higher education institutions are autonomous to decide on the nature and structure of their education curricula, that is developed based on the minimum requirements for the study program prescribed with Article 140 of the HE Law 2018 and the Rulebook on the contents of the study programmes prescribed in and adopted by the National Council for Higher Education.

The study programmes in all study years of the graduate studies are designed on the basis of learning outcomes and include compulsory and elective courses, except the study programmes for the regulated professions as well the study programmes for legal studies and for the initial teacher training study programmes. Elective courses comprise minimum 10% and maximum 30% of the number of ECTS credits in the study programme. The content elements of the study programmes are regulated in more details by the Rulebook on the contents of the study programmes adopted by the National Council for Higher Education and Research.

The study programs for the second cycle are adopted by the University Senate on the proposal of the Teaching-scientific Council of the faculty, the Teaching council of the higher vocational school or the Scientific Council of the scientific institute within the university, the Teaching Council of the single higher vocational school. Accreditation of the study programmes of the second cycle is carried out by the Accreditation Board and is issued for a period of five years.

Accreditation of second cycle study programmes includes the list of the mentors at master study programme. During one academic year, one university teacher (academic staff member) may be appointed as mentor to up to 12 candidates that prepare their master thesis.

Language of instruction is Macedonian. Members of the small ethnic communities, for the purpose of preserving and nurturing their identity, have right on higher education in language other than Macedonian (article 144), in line with the Statute of the HEI. The Law on HE provides possibilities for higher education in the foreign languages. Teaching at private higher education institutions may also be delivered in the languages of the members of the communities that are not the majority in North Macedonia or in the world languages. In order to encourage and support the internationalization, the Law stipulates a mandatory requirement for universities to organize teaching instruction for at least two first cycle study programs and at least two second cycle study programs in English language.  

The workload of students is 1.500 to 1.800 hours annually within maximum of 40 weeks per academic year. It includes lectures, exercises, seminars, individual classes and other forms of studies (practical training, internship, performances, fieldwork etc.), consultative-instructional classes, forms of continuous examination of knowledge and exams which are considered as contact hours, as well as individual study work (literature review, seminar work, project work), autonomous learning, as well as the preparation of the final Master's paper.


•4 Teaching methods 

Teachers are free to choose their own teaching methods and teaching materials. In addition to the conventional forms of teaching, students teaching and learning is carried out through exercises, consultations, seminar papers, projects, practice, field work, clinical teaching, courses, etc. Lectures are mainly held for small to large groups of students. Consultations are part of the teaching and educational process and they are obligatory to be offered/provided to students by every teacher and associate. Students also have seminars, essays, project tasks and research work as independent work.

Teaching can also take place in a virtual environment for teaching and learning (e-learning).

Teachers are obliged to provide students with a list of compulsory and other reference literature (textbooks, articles and other study materials) at the beginning of each study course. The list of materials is integral part of each accredited study program. The teaching and learning materials are not free of charge for students but are available at the National University Library (NUB) for the annual membership fee and available at other universities/ faculties libraries. Students have also access to EBSCO and /or other research scientific databases made available by their home universities/HEIs.


•5 Progression of students

The students’ progress in their studies by taking exams for the study courses(subjects)/ modules and by fulfilling all the obligations envisaged by the study program. In order to complete a master study program, a student should attain at least 300 ECST credits from both, the undergraduate and the master programs. The total number of credits obtained at the first and second cycle of vocational studies is 240 ECTS credits.

Legal acts do not specify the maximum number of times students can attempt to pass examinations in a particular course/subject. After three successive exam failures, the student has the right to take the exam in front of the commission. There is no prescribed period within which students are obliged to complete their studies. However, the student is obliged to complete and defend the master thesis in one year the latest, but the deadline may be extended under certain conditions upon the student request.


•6 Employability

The state doesn’t provide financial support for a second cycle studies and the new academic posts at state universities in the country are subject to government approval. Therefore, the opportunities for research and/or project engagement of the potential academics during their second cycle studies are limited, alike the employment opportunities (in and outside the university) upon successful completion of the studies.

Some master students may be engaged at universities /HEIs as Demonstrators, (junior academic posts) that are not paid by the state budget, but from the higher education institution revenues as a way for overcoming the shortage of young academic teaching staff. A demonstrator assists the teaching process at the first study cycle of the faculty or higher vocational school. S/he can be elected for a period of one academic year and a possibility for re-election two more times at the same university unit. The election procedure as well as the rights and obligations of a demonstrator in the teaching and educational process are regulated by a general act of the university, of the single higher vocational school or of the university unit.

The second cycle graduates can access the university carrier centers that have been established at the universities recently, as a result of the legal requirement (Article 86 from the HE Law 2018). Besides carrier guidance and information on employment opportunities, the centers ensure the links with the businesses and industry, reduce the gap between the labour force demand and supply and assist students transition from HEI to the labour market employment.


•7 Student assessment

The same as for the first cycle programmes, student’s assessment is carried out during the teaching process and is expressed in points. The student receives a grade expressed in numbers from 5 (five) to 10 (ten) for passing the exam. The grade 5 (five) marks a failure. Student’s assessment is determined by the subject teacher, included in the study programme and is implemented within the deadlines determined by the Statute of the higher education institution. It is the university, or the single higher vocational school that prescribes the possible ways of assessment of student’s knowledge with a General Act adopted by the university Senate/ Teaching Council of the higher vocational school. The final assessment is recorded in the index/ some other document or electronically. The average achievement of the student is the arithmetic mean of the grades awarded in the final assessment in all subjects during the studies of the study programme, including the final exam if required in the study programme.

The study program at the second cycle of the academic studies has a compulsory requirement for developing a master thesis (magisterski trud), that is a public performance/exhibition (for the arts students) and an architecture project (for the students of architecture) as final part of the studies. Students at two-year second cycle study programs can apply for a master's thesis with at least 90 ECTS earned credits, after the completion of all study exams as determined with the study program. Students can suggest the topic of the master thesis in agreement with the mentor.  Each student is assigned a mentor accredited by the Accreditation Board to guide her/him through the process. During one academic year, one teacher may be appointed as mentor to up to 12 candidates who prepare their master thesis. The master thesis is subject to a public defence, in front of the three members’ commission.

The final part of vocational study program entails compulsory requirement for developing a specialist thesis (specijalisticki trud) and a public performance/exhibition (for the arts students). Students at one year vocational, second cycle study programs can apply for a specialist thesis with at least 30 ECTS earned credits, after the completion of all study exams as determined with the study program. Students can suggest the topic of the thesis in agreement with the mentor. The special conditions for a second cycle of vocational studies in the field of art are prescribed by the higher education institution by a separate act.


•8 Certification

A student that completes the academic second cycle studies earns title master in respective area, internationally recognized as master, Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Arts (MA).

A student that completes the vocational second cycle studies that lasts one year, earns a Specialist (Spec.) degree. The vocational and scientific titles are determined with the law and the General Act of the National Council.

The student who has fulfilled all obligations according to the study program in the second cycle of education, is issued a diploma in relevant profession by the university/HEI based of the records it keeps of the student. The diploma confirms that the student has completed the study program of the second cycle and has acquired the appropriate vocational or academic degree. Promotion of the persons who have completed vocational or academic second cycle studies is performed by the Dean/Director of the HEI according to a procedure regulated with the university Statute.

Integral part of the Diploma is the Diploma supplement that is provided at the student’s demand free of charge. The Diploma and the Diploma supplement are signed by the rector and the Dean/the Director of the HEIs and contain the grade average of the student. The joint diploma and the diploma supplement are signed by the authorized persons of the higher education institutions that have organized the study program for obtaining a joint diploma.

Diploma supplement offers all data needed for the nature, degree, content, the status of the studies completed and the results achieved and provide for international “transparency”, for academic and professional recognition of qualification and greater mobility. It is issued in Macedonian, English language and in Albanian language for the students that completed the studies in Albanian language. If determined by the university Statute, the Diploma and Diploma supplement for members of the community that speaks an official language other than Macedonian, spoken by at least 20% of the citizens, and whose language of instruction is other than the Macedonian language are issued in Macedonian and in Cyrillic script and in the language and alphabet of that community (Article 154 (9) of the HE Law 2018).

The ENIC-NARIC center operates within the Ministry of Education and Science with the role of the Information center for recognition of foreign higher education qualifications, considering the provisions of the Convention for recognition of academic qualifications, the National Qualification Framework (NQF), and the European qualification framework (EQF).