Secondary education in Poland

According to the educational reform of 2017, education in Poland is compulsory from ages 6 to 18. Children under 6 years old can attend kindergartens (żłobek) and preschool centers (punkt przedszkolny) at the discretion of parents.

Compulsory primary education includes three sub-levels:

Level of educationGradesAgeDescription
Preschool education (przedszkole)0


Compulsory preparation for school
Primary school (szkoła podstawowa, etap I)1-37-10General preparation without a clear division into subjects; all classes are taught by one teacher.

Basic School (szkoła podstawowa, etap II)

4-810-15Division into subjects, different teachers. Examinations in order to determine the vector of further education

Secondary education is implemented in schools of four types:

Educational institutionsTitle in PolishDurationAgeEligible for university
LyceumsLiceum ogólnokształcące4 years15-19Yes
Trade-schoolTechnikum5 years15-20Yes
school, 1 stage
Branżową szkołę pierwszego stopnia3 years15-18No
school, 2 stage
Branżową szkołę drugiego stopnia2 years18-20Yes

Lyceums, as a rule, have a wide profile. Their primary goal is to prepare students for admission to college.

Graduates of trade schools receive a diploma on the appropriation of a professional and technical qualification (IT specialist, mechanic, accountant), which gives them access to employment.

Vocational schools of the first stage involve obtaining working qualifications (seller, cook, gardener, hairdresser) at a basic level. Upon request, graduates can improve their qualifications by continuing their education at an advanced level (the second stage). Such education is equivalent to training in a trade school.

After graduating from the lyceum, technical school, and the 2nd stage of a vocational school, students are entitled to take the Matura (egzamin maturalny) — a comprehensive exam that tests knowledge gained in high school and gives the right to enter Polish universities.

For students who have graduated from lyceums, but want\ to get a professional qualification in Poland, there is a higher non-university (additional) education in the szkoła policealna. It offers courses that last from 1 to 2.5 years, at the end of which students pass exams similar to the final exams in trade and vocational schools, and receive a diploma of professional and technical qualification.

Education in Poland retained many elements of the old education system from the USSR. But at the same time, being a member of the European Union, Poland is actively modernizing its educational system: it follows the latest academic trends within the framework of a single European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and strives to reach the level of quality equal to European.

The advantages of education in Poland

  • Easy entry. The lack of entrance exams in Polish universities is a huge advantage. Grades in the secondary education certificate also do not play a role in admission. It will be enough to provide the results of the language test and a certificate of financial viability.
  • Low cost. Students looking for a budget education abroad can consider Poland as an option to receive quality European education for an affordable cost. A foreigner will need about 217-543 USD per month for a comfortable stay in Poland. This amount includes payment for apartments, food, and transport. Education is free for EU citizens, and for other foreigners the price is relatively low — from 2000 to 6,515 USD per year[1].
  • The oldest educational tradition. The Polish tradition of academic education dates back to 1364, when King Casimir the Great founded the Krakow Academy, known today as the Jagiellonian University. The Cracow Academy, being one of the oldest in the world, adopted the traditions of the academies in Bologna and Padua and became the second university in Central Europe after Charles University in Prague. In addition, it was in Poland where in 1773 the National Education Commission (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej) — the world's first Ministry of Education was created.
  • Rapid development. Poland is in the top 10 European countries by the number of university students: approximately 1.3 million people study at more than 400 universities[2]. Each year, 300-400 thousand applicants begin their studies at universities in Poland[3], which offer over 200 high quality study programs. More and more programs are implemented in foreign languages.
  • European mobility. As a member of the EHEA, Poland adheres to European education standards. In Polish universities, the ECTS grading system is in place, which ensures the mobility of students and graduates within the EU and other countries participating in the Bologna Process. So, in the 2018-2019 academic year, more than 78,000 foreign students came to study in Poland[3], while about 2% of Polish students received education in other EU countries[4]. A diploma issued upon graduation from Polish universities is recognized not only in Europe but also in many countries of the world. In addition, this is a great way to travel: a foreigner with a Polish student visa can visit European countries without any hassle. The flights will also be inexpensive: an average of 54-76 USD per flight.
The disadvantages of education in Poland

  • Weak discipline. In many Polish universities, the attendance of lectures is not controlled in any way and does not affect examinations. If the student was not able to pass the exams, he will still be transferred to the next semester with the condition of retaking the exams in question. However, the student will not receive a diploma until he passes all the exams and collects the required number of credits for his educational program in accordance with ECTS requirements. In the absence of strict control, students have to discipline and motivate themselves.
  • Low standard of living. The welfare of Polish citizens is lower than in many EU countries. Students who are going to look for jobs or stay for permanent residence must understand that their salaries will not be as high as in other countries of the European Union.

The cost of training and education structure in Poland

Type of studiesMin.ageDurationMin. costAvg. costMin. language proficiency
Summer camps7+2 weeks.543 USD727 USDPolish A1
Language courses15+1-36 weeks195 USD/week282 USD/weekPolish A1
Secondary education7+10-13 yearsFree10,858 USD/yearPolish B1/TOEFL iBT 45
Foundation16+1 year1,086 USD/year2,172 USD/yearPolish B1/TOEFL iBT 45
Bachelor's18+3-4 years1,303 USD/year2,389 USD/yearPolish B2/TOEFL iBT 60-69
Master's 20+2 years1,303 USD/year2,714 USD/yearPolish C1/TOEFL iBT 90-100
MBA18+1-2 years8,686 USD/year13,029 USD/yearPolish C1/TOEFL iBT 90-100
Doctoral22+4 years1,412 USD/year4,343 USD/yearPolish C1/TOEFL iBT 90-100
Additional costs

Dormitory109 USD/month
Single room217 USD/month
Double room163 USD/month
Apartment380 USD/month
Basic meals81 USD/month
Lunch at the cafe22 USD/month
Commute16 USD/month
Insurance16 USD/month
Visa fee38 USD
Residence permit92 USD

Options for admission to Polish universities

Options for admission to Polish universities

The academic year in Polish universities consists of two semesters, each of which ends with an examination period. The first semester begins in October and ends in mid-February. The second semester lasts from mid-February to the end of June.

The admissions are carried out not only from October 1, but also from March 1.

The most popular specialties are taught in English. The proposed programs are more modern and competitive in terms of material and teaching staff. But programs in English have tuition fees, even for local students. Therefore, most of them choose educational programs in Polish.

For admission to programs conducted in English, you must confirm the level of English proficiency. Minimum requirements may vary from university and program, but the majority will require the score of at least IELTS 5.5–6.0 or TOEFL 500 (computer based).

To enter Polish-language programs, you must pass an exam conducted by the State Commission for the Certification of Proficiency in Polish as a Foreign Language (Państwową Komisję do spraw Poświadczania Znajomości Języka Polskiego jako Obcego). The minimum level for bachelor’s programs is B2, for master's/doctoral studies — C1.

Legalization of a certificate/diploma in Poland

For most universities, the legalization procedure is a prerequisite. Member countries of the Hague Convention of 1961 legalize documents by apostilization.

In addition, the education received in a foreign educational institution should be recognized as equivalent to Polish through nostrification (recognition). However, you can start studying at a university in Poland without it. Most educational institutions allow you to undergo the procedure during the first semester in the city where the university is located.

The recognition of foreign certificates of maturity, documents that can give the right to study bachelor’s programs, is carried out by authorized local education authorities (kuratoria oświaty). This is a free service. The review period is 3-6 weeks. Detailed information on the recognition of foreign certificates is available on the website of the Ministry of National Education of Poland.

Nostrification of higher education diplomas is carried out in the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland (Departament Współpracy Międzynarodowej Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego). The price of the service is 2000-6000 PLN. The review period is 3 months.

Documents for nostrification in Poland

For nostrification of a diploma you will need:

  1. Application for nostrification;
  2. Diploma;
  3. Diploma transcript with grades and a list of disciplines;
  4. Certificate of secondary education;
  5. Consular translation of the diploma with a transcript into Polish;
  6. Biography in Polish.

For nostrification of the certificate of secondary education:

  1. Application;
  2. Certificate;
  3. Attachment to the certificate;
  4. Consular translation of certificate with a transcript into Polish.
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Foundation — Preparatory programs in Poland

Polish universities offer annual preparatory courses for international students who intend to enter bachelor’s / master’s / doctoral programs but do not have the necessary language competencies, or want to brush up the subjects in the chosen specialty. Training is conducted in Polish or English, depending on the educational program. Admission is held in August and September.

Required documents:

  • Application;
  • Copy of passport valid for the entire period of study;
  • Copy of visa;
  • Copy of health insurance;
  • Copy of certificate of previous education;
  • Tuition receipt.

In case of successful completion of the program, students are awarded a certificate of language proficiency of level B2 and or a certificate of completing training in selected subjects.

Colleges — Kolegium

The system of higher education in Poland includes 3 types of state colleges:

  • Pedagogical colleges (kolegium nauczycielskie);
  • Colleges of teaching foreign languages (nauczycielskie kolegium języków obcych);
  • Colleges of social work (kolegium pracowników służb społecznych).

Colleges offer three-year programs for students of ages 19 to 21, who have passed the Matura.

Students receive grades for coursework and tests. At the end of the three-year study period, they pass the final exam. To successfully complete the program, students must complete practical exercises and submit a thesis.

College graduates enter the labor market as fully qualified workers. In academic terms, each college is attached to a university. Under such agreements with universities, students can take the final exam at a supervisory institution and immediately receive a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor’s in Poland — Licencjat / Inzynier

Bachelor's degrees in Polish universities are of two types: Licencjat (BA, Bachelor of Arts, ) — 3-4 years of training, and Inzynier (BSc, Bachelor of Science) — 3.5-4 years of study, depending on the educational program. In fact, an Inzynier is a Licencjat in the field of technical sciences, economics, or agriculture.

Bachelor’s education allows you to acquire a profession. To build a career in Poland, it is enough to get a bachelor's degree, but still about 70% of students continue their studies[4].

For some specialties (for example, for doctors, veterinarians, dental technicians, architects, lawyers, artistic studies), there are actually no bachelor’s programs. Instead, they study under the integrated master's programs (jednolite studia magisterskie), which last an average of 5-6 years.

The process of studying bachelor’s programs consists of seminars and lectures, as well as compulsory internships. Students can choose some disciplines for themselves, others are obligatory. The examination process is done in writing.

Students begin writing their scientific works from the 1st year. The process is monitored by curators. At the end of their studies, Polish students defend their final qualification work.

In addition to the five-point grading scale, each student is required to collect from 180 to 240 ECTS credits for the entire time of study. This is used when transferring a student from one EU institution to another or to determine the "success" of a candidate’s diploma when hiring in any of the EU countries.

To apply for bachelor’s programs, foreign students may need the following documents:

  • Application form;
  • Passport valid for the entire period of study;
  • Notarized or consular translation of certificate with an apostille;
  • TOEFL iBT 60 or a Polish proficiency certificate of level B2;
  • A medical certificate confirming the ability of an applicant to study in a chosen specialty (for certificates received outside of Poland, you will need a translation through an approved translator).
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Master’s in Poland — Magister

These types of students can enter the master’s programs in Poland:

  • Students who have a bachelor's degree (licencjat or inżynier);
  • Students with a master's degree;
  • International students with degrees similar to the above.

Master's studies take two years. Master's programs can be divided into practical and research. The former is suitable for students who wish to learn a new profession, while the latter is suitable for those who intend to continue their studies in doctoral studies. Students who intend to acquire a new specialty during their master's, will have to additionally take exams in some core subjects.

Each university has the right, at its discretion, to conduct additional entrance tests for master’s programs, as well as establish the number of state-funded and fee-paying places available for applicants, with the exception of the fields of medicine and dentistry. The maximum number of students in these specialties is established by the Ministry of Health with the assistance of the Ministry of Education of Poland.

To obtain a master's degree, you need to collect from 90 to 120 credits and get at least a "satisfactory" mark for defending a master's thesis. For the successful completion of integrated master's programs, you need to get from 270 to 360 credits.

Sample list of documents for admission to the master’s:

  • Application;
  • Passport valid for the entire period of study;
  • Notarized or consular translation of certificate of secondary education with an apostille;
  • A diploma of higher education (not lower than a bachelor) with the application + its certified translation;
  • TOEFL iBT 60 or a Polish proficiency certificate of level B2;;
  • Motivation letter;
  • A medical certificate (for certificates received outside of Poland, you will need a translation through an approved translator).

Doctoral studies in Poland — Doktor

To enter a doctoral program, a student will need a master's degree. Training lasts from 3 to 4 years. The educational process does not differ from other European countries: the first two years are occupied by studies, then the student needs to write a dissertation, which is defended in front of the commission.

Each university has the right to establish the rules for the implementation of doctoral programs. Generally speaking, doctoral students should attend classes, take exams, conduct research, compile reports and work on a dissertation. In addition, doctorate students are required to teach at their university.

Examinations are conducted by a senior teacher or a researcher. The pedagogical activity of doctoral students, their progress in research and writing a doctoral dissertation is also evaluated by a senior professor.

Upon successful completion of a program a doctoral degree is awarded. Students who failed to pass the doctoral program will receive a certificate, which indicates the studied disciplines and achieved results. A doctorate can be awarded to students studying in doctoral studies, as well as to other applicants who have fulfilled the following requirements:

  • Master's degree or similar;
  • Successful completion of doctoral exams;
  • Successful defense of doctoral dissertation.

The decision to award a degree is made by the dissertation council, consisting of scientists, curators of applicants, dissertation reviewers.

Academic career

PositionName in PolishRequired qualifications
Full ProfessorProfesor zwyczajnyTitle of professor
Extraordinary Professor = Professor at the UniversityNadzwyczajny Profesor = Profesor UczelnianyTitle of professor / PhD
Visiting ProfessorProfesor wizytującyTitle of professor / PhD
Associate ProfessorAdiunktDoctoral degree
AssistantAsystentMaster's degree or equivalent

While studying in Doctoral studies, a student can work at the university as an assistant professor, as well as in other positions requiring master's degree: senior lecturer (starszy wykładowca), lecturer / teacher of foreign languages ​​(lektor), instructor (instruktor).

To be promoted to full professor, the academic staff member must receive the title of professor (assigned by the government). This title is awarded to outstanding scientists who have done major research and have extensive teaching experience, including work on the training of scientific personnel.

Salaries of academic staff in Poland are low. Assistant teachers and lecturers receive an average of 2400 PLN[5] per month, associate professor — 4500 PLN[6], and professor — 5940 PLN[7].

Scholarships and grants

The Fulbright Program is a grant to finance the United States-Poland exchange programs that allows students, interns, scientists, teachers and professors to study in both countries. Funding is administered by the Polish-American Commission Fulbright.

The CEEPUS Exchange Program involves 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe . Students participating In the program are exempted from tuition and receive grants covering living expenses from the host country.

Scholarships of the Eastern Partnership and post-Soviet countries — these scholarships are provided to students from countries of Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Among them are:

  • The Constant Kalinowski's program — bachelor's / master's / doctoral studies for Belarusians, who, cannot continue higher education in their country due to their political activity;
  • Scholarships for Master’s of Oriental Sciences — for foreign students from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia;
  • The Stefan Banach's program — for bachelor’s of economic, technical, biological, legal sciences from Eastern Partnership countries;
  • The program for doctoral students of Eastern partnership countries in humanities and social sciences;
  • The scholarship program for young scientists from post-Soviet countries. Includes a 9-month internship for bachelor’s/master’s in humanities or social sciences with academic achievements.

Scholarships for researchers — organizes the studies in doctoral programs / support for post-doctoral studies and academic mobility of scientists from around the world. The program is funded by the Polish government.

The ERASMUS+ exchange program — allows students to study in another country without paying for studies or accommodation. The program involves all EU countries, as well as Northern Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey, Serbia, and the United Kingdom.

The Leyna Kirkland program — for students from the CIS countries and Georgia who have at least 2 years of work experience in the specialty and who wish to contribute to the development of the economy, civil society and democracy in their homeland[8].

Need help with admission?

Student visa to Poland

To study at a Polish university, a student needs a temporary residence permit. In order to receive it, it is necessary to apply to the local voivode department, already being in the country.

EU students do not need any visas to enter Poland. For non-EU nationals there are 2 types of visas that students can use:

  • Type “C” — a short-term Schengen visa allowing the holder to stay in Schengen territory for up to 90 days for a 180-day period;
  • Type “D” — a long-term national visa issued for a period of up to one year. Not renewable, except in a few cases.

It should be noted that foreigners from a number of countries are exempted from visa requirements when entering the Schengen territories for periods not exceeding 90 days during a 180-day period.

An application for a temporary residence permit must be submitted before the visa expires. Documents required are as follows:

  • Application;
  • Photos and documents proving identity and citizenship;
  • Address of stay;
  • Purpose of stay — letter of admission;
  • Medical insurance;
  • Evidence of funds, that will cover living costs and return to your homeland.

Upon receipt of permission, you will be issued a temporary residence card — an identity card confirming the legitimacy of your stay in the country. Together with a travel document, it will allow you to cross the Polish border without restrictions. The first residence permit is issued for a period of 15 months. It can be extended for up to 3 years, but no longer than the planned training period.

Health insurance, which is necessary to obtain a residence permit, can be obtained in advance through insurance agencies or obtained upon arrival by signing a voluntary health insurance agreement with the National Health Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia — NFZ). Insurance premiums will be around 16 USD per month. As for EU students, they are eligible for free or discounted health care provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Ability to work while studying in Poland

Full-time students who have received a temporary residence permit have the right to work part-time while studying and full-time during summer vacation. Full time work for the whole period of study is permitted only for Residence Card holders.

Part-time students will need a work permit. It is issued for a period of three years and is canceled after leaving the position. Therefore, if a person changes jobs, he will have to get a new permit.

A large number of companies provide paid internships for students. This is a good opportunity to gain the necessary experience, and also, if a student managed to prove himself, to receive an offer for further cooperation. Some universities have career centers that help students find work and practice.

Opportunity to stay and immigration to Poland

To stay in the country after graduation, neither EU/EEA students nor nationals from other countries need a work permit. It is important just to extend the temporary residence permit. To do this, you need to apply to the voivode office at the place of residence. The request will be satisfied if:

  • The applicant is a foreigner who has recently graduated from a Polish university and is looking for work in Poland or plans to start an entrepreneurial activity on its territory;
  • The circumstances that are the basis for applying for a permit justify the stay of a foreigner in the territory of the Republic of Poland for a period of more than 3 months.

Usually a temporary residence permit can be extended for a period of 9 months. The cost of the procedure is 92 USD.

Then, a foreigner can apply for a permanent residence permit[9] if he has lived in Poland for at least 5 years. During this period, only 50% of the time spent in the country while training is counted. The application is also submitted to the voivode office at the place of residence. The cost of the service is 163 USD.

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Employment prospects

  • Poland. The country has a fairly low unemployment rate of 3.5%[10], but many Poles decide to look for work outside the country. Foreigners who graduate from Polish universities have good chances to find a job in Poland, but for this it is important to know the local language at a good level.
  • Europe. A diploma of a Polish university is not very valuable in Europe[11]. However, students who graduate from any Polish university have the opportunity to continue their studies at other European universities, including more prestigious ones.
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