Much of the current structure and regulation of the higher education sector in Poland can be traced to the “Law on Higher Education” passed on 27th July, 2005. The previous Higher Education Act (1990) allowed for some private provision of universities rather than the more common state provision. As such there is now a mixture of both types of provision. Including the Catholic University of Lublin. These are supplemented by higher professional education providers, created via the Schools of Higher Professional Education Act (1997).
Oversight of universities and higher education generally comes from the Ministry of National Education and Science with some specific input from other ministries (e.g. Ministry of Health for Academies of Medicine or Ministry of National Defence for military schools).
First cycle programmes aim to provide knowledge and skills in a specific area of study, preparing students for work in a specific profession. Graduates of first-cycle programmes have access to second-cycle programmes. Second-cycle and long-cycle programmes aim to provide specialist knowledge in a specific area of study, preparing students for creative work in a specific profession. The completion of both second cycle and long cycle programmes provides access to third cycle (doctoral) programmes.
The duration of degree programmes in both university-type and non-university HEIs is as follows:
All three types of degree programmes, including first-cycle (Bachelor’s degree), second cycle (Master’s degree) and long-cycle (Master’s degree) programmes are offered by HEIs in officially recognised fields of study. Fields of study are the same for university-type and non-university HEIs. All 119 currently existing fields are listed in the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 13 June 2006 on the names of fields of study. At present, degree programmes in most fields of study may be offered as first cycle programmes, second-cycle programmes and/or long-cycle programmes; with the exception of 11 fields of study including acting, art conservation and restoration, canon law, dentistry, law, medical analysis, medicine, moving image production and photography, pharmacy, psychology and veterinary medicine, where programmes are provided only as long-cycle studies.
Students in secondary schools take a final examination called Matura. In addition, students wishing to progress to a higher level of education whatever the destination (college, polytechnic or university) must take and pass a Matura exam in order to gain a Swiadectwo Dojrzalosci (Matura Certificate). It is this certificate that provides a route to admission to the first cycle or licencjat degree. Each institution sets its own criteria in relation to this examination to determine admission.
To progress to a second cycle programmeme, students must hold a Bachelor’s degree (licencjat or inżynier), a Master’s degree (magister or an equivalent degree) or an equivalent degree.
Doctoral programmemes in the third cycle are provided by universities and research institutions other than HEIs. Admission is based on the students having a Master’s degree (magister or an equivalent degree) plus some institution-specific conditions.
Graduates of the first level courses (studia pierwszego stopnia) are awarded the professional title of licencjat or inżynier (or equivalent) after 3-4 years' study. Graduates of the second level courses (studia drugiego stopnia) are awarded the professional title of magister or equivalent after 1.5 to 2-year complementary magister level courses. There are also uniform 5-year magister level courses (jednolite studia magisterskie).
A system of grading for degrees awards works as follows:
The grading is done every semester (twice a year), not once in a school year.
The overall grade can either be based on a single exam or across the whole semester, the latter case resulting in a point system being used as opposed to the 2–5 scale.