Tertiary education in Slovenia includes short-cycle higher vocational education and higher education. Since December 2022, the first domain has been under the auspices of the ministry responsible for education, and the latter of the ministry responsible for higher education. Both subsystems of tertiary education are interrelated. The graduates of the short-cycle higher vocational education can continue their studies to advanced years of higher education according to the criteria and requirements for transferring to other programmes, as a rule in the second year of the first cycle study programme. The final say on it have technical higher education institutions and faculties. The rules have to be made public. Tools for greater transparency of education (credit system, diploma supplement, and system of quality) are instituted at all levels of tertiary education.
Both systems are associated also through elements of quality assurance. Quality in higher vocational colleges, higher education institutions and study programmes is assured with accreditation procedures and internal and external evaluation.
In 2010, the Slovenian quality assurance agency for higher education (SQAA) was established. It manages the system of quality assurance in higher education and short-cycle higher vocational education. It also carries out external evaluations of higher education institutions and study programmes, as well as higher vocational colleges. Furthermore, it renders the service for the accreditation of higher education institutions, accreditation of study programmes, accreditation extension for higher education institutions and accreditation of changes to the higher education institutions.
For the accreditation of short-cycle higher vocational education programmes and higher vocational colleges, one appoints the competent board with the Council of experts of the Republic of Slovenia for vocational and technical education.
Short-cycle higher vocational education and higher education are organised as full-time or part-time studies. The academic year is from 1 October to 30 September. It is within the autonomy of higher vocational colleges and higher education institutions to further specify the organisation of studies, namely in line with the academic calendar. The academic year is usually divided into two semesters of 15 working weeks. The main exam terms are three. The medium of instruction is Slovenian. Under terms and conditions specified by law and articles of association, the study programmes or parts thereof can be provided in a foreign language.
Short-cycle higher vocational education
The short-cycle higher vocational education in Slovenia is specified by the Higher Vocational Education Act. It is provided by both public and private higher vocational colleges. The practice-orientated study programmes extend over 2 years; they are developed according to the European principles on short programmes in higher education, and they emerge out of actual economic staffing needs. The students develop vocational competences as specified by vocational standards adopted by the minister of labour under the recommendation of the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for vocational education and training. The graduates are qualified to manage, plan, and supervise work processes.
Short-cycle higher vocational education is connected with the European education area. To implement freedom of movement of persons and answer the need for recognition of gained vocational qualifications in the EU member states, the law specifies the goal of short-cycle higher vocational education to be passing on knowledge and skills required for work and continuous education at an international comparable level.
In July 2020, the Government approved the Strategy of the Republic of Slovenia for short-cycle higher vocational education 2020–2030. It articulates the vision of short-cycle higher vocation education to remain part of the tertiary education that has been based on a practically orientated study, to respond and adapt to the needs of the economy and/or society in the relevant moment. The quality and flexibility of programmes, as well as the high employability of graduates, distinguish them.
The social partnership will remain one of the foundations of continuous development, and vocational standards the basis for developing study programmes. The latter will continue to include a large scope of education and training with employers. According to the strategy, the future short-cycle higher vocational education should be mainly technologically orientated. Alongside the set of digital skills, the emphasis should be given to basic skills such as group work, problem-solving, resolving conflicts at the workplace and similar. Equipped with all those skills, graduates will have better chances for successful work and life in an environment ever so dominated by artificial intelligence.
Higher education in Slovenia is provided by the Higher Education Act. The studies are organised by both public and private universities, and other higher education institutions, namely at faculties, art academies, and higher vocational colleges. Private faculties and art academies, and public and private higher vocational colleges may be established as autonomous higher education institutions that may further form an association of higher education institutions. Under special conditions, it is allowed to form an international association of universities.
The activities and responsibilities of the higher education institutions, i. e. scientific R&D and education, are specified by law. The five- to ten-year strategic goals are defined with the Higher Education Master Plan that is adopted by the Parliament. The development of such a plan is the result of higher education partners, the Council of Experts of the Republic of Slovenia for Higher Education, and the National Science and Technology Council joining forces.
In March 2022, the National Assembly adopted the Resolution on the National programme of higher education 2030. The key strategic goal is to raise the level and quality of the higher educational qualification in Slovenia, improve the responsiveness, flexibility and attractiveness of the higher education system irrespective of economic needs, non-economic requirements and expectations of the society; accelerate its integration internationally; improve the accessibility of education and open up opportunities for continuous education and lifelong learning in higher education, all over Slovenia. Furthermore, one will strive to increase the intensity of research and innovation and facilitate the transfer of knowledge to the societal environment.
The goal is to improve the comparability internationally and disciplinary plurality of the higher education system; secure free studies to all and at all levels of the three cycles of the higher education system; higher education institutions will have to be able to adapt and respond to the needs of society. An important objective is sustainable assuring of quality in higher education; increasing the degree of inclusion of universities and independent higher education institutions in the common European higher education space to thereby achieve the internationalisation of study programmes and improve the inclusion of Slovenians who live abroad
Higher education is part of the single European higher education area. In 2017, the possibility of graduating from old study programmes elapsed. Since then, all study programmes have been integrated into a three-cycle higher education system set up according to the principles of the Bologna process.
The first cycle study programmes or bachelor's degree programmes are academic or professional. The second cycle programmes are master's programmes. The common ones that lead directly to a master's degree focus on education and training for occupations or professions according to the EU directives or special rules of the Republic of Slovenia. The third-cycle programmes are PhD programmes. At all three levels, students may choose to take combined study programmes. The higher education institutions may develop, accredit, and provide programmes of further training, i. e. within the scope of lifelong learning. The credit system (ECTS) has been implemented in full.
Universities, faculties, and art academies may provide study programmes for all cycles. Higher vocational colleges provide, as a rule, the first cycle programmes (undergraduate); if they meet special stipulations, they may provide the second cycle programmes (graduate). The entry requirements are provided by law provisionally, in detail they are specified for a given study programme. If certain requirements are met, students have the option to transfer from one study programme to another at the same level. Graduates receive a diploma and a professional or academic title in accordance with the Professional Titles and Academic Science and Art Titles Act. For over ten years now, graduates have been receiving diplomas and diploma supplements free of charge in the Slovenian language and one other official EU language.