Bordered by 7 countries and the Baltic Sea, this European nation has become a hotbed for higher education. Discover why 60,000 international students every year choose to study in Poland!
Welcome to Poland!
Well, not yet. But this is what you will hear the moment you make the decision to study in Poland as an international student. The entire country is in a period of bloom, seeing as how the collapse of communism in 1989 opened up the doors to freedom of travel, freedom to visit, and freedom to start a business. Moreover, Poland was the only European country whose economy wasn’t crippled by the 2009 economic crisis. Their national economy continues to grow every year.
This fact alone plays a major part in the hospitable nature the Polish are known to possess. They are still curious about foreign cultures since their doors were shut for such a long period of time.
Poland’s oldest university, Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364, is a testament to the nation’s longstanding commitment to higher education. Polish citizens can pursue higher education for free, and as an international student looking to study in Poland, you will see that the foreign tuition fees are substantially less than most other countries.
No matter what first comes to mind when you think of Poland – be it its geographic location as a crossroads between the East and the West, or having been home to the famed mathematician/astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus and celebrated composer, Frédéric Chopin – its modern position as a popular destination for international students should be at the top of the list.
Of the 1.7 million people that live in Poland’s largest city, Warsaw, a staggering 255,000 (15%) are students! Kraków, another very popular international student destination, is partly comprised of a 22% university student population! The list goes on to include Wroclaw, Gdansk, Pozna?, and many more as fantastic places for students from far and wide to settle.
See a full list of universities in Poland offering low tuition to international students here. Some of the most popular include:
- University of Warsaw
- Jagiellonian University
- Warsaw University of Technology
- Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan
- AGH University of Science and Technology
- Cracow University of Technology
- Lodz University of Technology
- Nicolaus Copernicus University
- Poznan University of Technology
- University of Gdansk
As you can see, many of Poland’s universities specialize in science and technology studies. Of course there are thousands of other programs, and among the most popular are business, engineering, natural and social sciences, art, and languages.
Poland’s largest university, established in 1816, surviving even through World War II when the campus was used by the occupying Nazis as military barracks! International tuition fees are around €3,000/year.
Situated in the wonderful student city of Kraków, this research university offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. Courses are taught in Polish, English, and German.
“…truth and freedom of expression,” are the two elements that University of Wroclaw claims as fundamental to their entire curriculum. This is a testament to many other universities of Poland, which are all known to have a more liberal approach to research and innovation.
Though all of Poland’s universities use the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), making it easier for international students to switch schools, the structure is broken down a little bit differently:
- First Cycle – equivalent to the Bachelor’s degree. 3-4 years duration. 180-240 ECTS credits.
- Second Cycle – Master’s degree equivalence. 1.5-2 years duration. 90-120 ECTS credits.
- Long-Cycle Studies – Second Cycle Master’s. 4.5-6 years durations. 270-360 ECTS credits.
- Third Cycle – Doctoral degree. 3-4 years duration. Thesis and doctoral examination.
Bachelor’s degree (First Cycle)
Obtaining a First Cycle degree in Poland will give you the education and qualifications necessary to begin your career in your chosen field of study, or continue your studies into your Second Cycle!
While all institutions have varying requirements for international applicants, generally you must produce a matriculation certificate, which is equivalent to a high school diploma in America. This will show not only that you graduated high school, but also that you completed with honors with X amount of AP credits, etc. Stand out from the crowds!
Poland’s undergraduate universities offer over 5,000 courses, and the quality of education isn’t sacrificed! There are several government organizations that are constantly evaluating the quality of ALL courses taught at ANY university in Poland. Polish Accreditation Committee is one of these organizations, and also offers plenty of information about Polish universities.
The professional title of a holder of First Cycle degree is licencjat or in?ynier, which translates to Engineer.
Master’s degree (Second Cycle)
A second cycle degree in Poland is available for holders of a First Cycle (Bachelor’s) degree. There are over 200 courses taught in English, making Poland a fantastic place to take your education to the next level as an international.
The Long-cycle program, as mentioned earlier, is a different form of Master’s degree offered which commences during the undergraduate studies and lasts for a total of 5-6 years. This is an older style of the Master’s program which a few European countries, Poland included, still use.
Depending on the field of study, most Master’s programs employ a teaching system of working with small groups of students on given assignments, independent study/research, and applicable lab and workshop endeavors.
The final assessment before obtaining your Master’s degree in Poland usually involves an independent dissertation, in which you must thoroughly research and present a project either of your choice, or one assigned by the institution. Some programs also require an oral examination as part of this dissertation.
The assessment scale for the Master’s program is broken down into Very Good, Good, Satisfactory, and Failing.
PhD (Third Cycle)
Poland offers a range of internationally recognized postdoctoral degrees that usually range from 3-4 years in duration for full-time students.
The PhD curriculum in Poland is a bit more structured than in other countries. An academic supervisor that is an expert in their field of study is assigned to every PhD student. The academic counselor keeps the student on track, approves or disapproves research material, and helps prepare for the student’s doctoral thesis.
Every PhD student needs to attend mandatory classes, teach their own set of classes to undergraduates, and submit annual yearly progress reports on their research.
Each institute has a different set of doctoral study regulations, though any university offering postdoctoral degrees complies with the Bologna Process in terms of structure and international recognition.
Everybody has different reasons that pique their curiosity in partaking in a student exchange program. You may just want to go to Poland for 6 months to see why everybody is talking about its fantastic education system. You may just be bored. You may be a bit nervous to enroll in a university that is in a foreign land and prefer to live there just for a brief time.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of opportunities to study in Poland for a short amount of time before heading back home.
The most popular program that is used would be Erasmus+. They are a committee established in 1987 that connects students to foreign universities all over the world.
Check with your current or prospective university to see if there are any existing partnerships with Polish universities!
It’s not very often that you can find something as good in life as Poland, and to be paying substantially less for it! Most Polish universities range from €2,000-4,000/year for undergrad, grad, and post grad programs. This is a very attractive tuition compared to most countries higher education systems.
Living costs are about 50% less than most other European cities. Combining rent, food, public transportation, cell phone, study materials, and leisure/entertainment, you will be looking at about €315-500/month.
Of course it is good to have a little bit of extra cash in your stash, for any unexpected costs you may encounter, i.e. winter wear, supplies, or emergency cab rides.
Great news! Medical insurance will not be costing you an arm and a leg!
If you are an EU/EEA citizen, you likely have a medical card for the insurance system in your native country. If this is the case, scratch medical insurance off of your to do list; you’re covered!
If you are coming from a country outside of the EU/EEA, there are 2 options: you can purchase your own international medical insurance from a private company, OR you can purchase insurance from Poland’s National Health Fund for around €15/month. This gives you access to public hospitals and university health clinics. Additional accident insurance is available for purchase as well.
Funding to study in Poland
Not all students are in the position to have their entire education paid for by a fat inheritance from Grandpa Joe. As an international student, you will likely have to source a good chunk of cash to pay for your studies, albeit not as much as if you were attending university in most other developed countries.
There are many outlets offering scholarships for international students wishing to attend university in Poland, and here are a few of them:
- Erasmus+ – along with offering student exchange services, Erasmus+ offers many scholarships to international students.
- Eastern Partnership and Post-Soviet Countries Scholarships – many scholarships that are geared for students from ex-Soviet countries.
- Fulbright Programme – grants for American citizens studying in Poland and vice versa.
- National Agency for Academic Exchange – more information and scholarships through the Polish government.
Scholarships aside, as an international student in Poland, you are entitled to work without having to apply for a separate work permit. Word on the street, though, is that it can be very difficult to find a job if you don’t speak Polish.
Knowing a second language from one of neighboring countries, such as German or Czech, could help in your search. Research ahead of time to see if your qualifications may be able to score you part time work whilst studying in Poland.
For EU/ EEA citizens, you do not need a student visa to study in Poland.
Students from outside the EU/ EEA need to apply for a Category D visa. To do this, you will need to schedule a time with your closest Polish embassy and present the following documents:
- A completed application form.
- Valid passport and copy of all the pages.
- 2 passport-size photos.
- Proof of medical insurance.
- Acceptance letter from your university.
- Receipt for the payment of your first semester.
- Proof that you will be financially stable throughout your duration of study.
- Visa application fee.
How to apply to study in Poland
Every institute has different expectations of their candidates. Research how you will best stand out among the crowd! Know the prerequisites for the courses/programs you are applying for.
Choose the university you wish to attend as well as the study program. Get all the papers together and be sure to check deadlines for the given university. The academic year for most Polish universities begins in October, and deadlines for applications are usually in September. The earlier you submit, the better chance you have of acceptance and the more time you have to prepare.
Submit and wait!
As usual, you will need to provide proof of proficiency in the language in which your courses will be taught in. Polish universities have thousands of courses that are taught in Polish, German, and English.
Even if you are a native English speaker, you’ll need to take a language proficiency test. IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is accepted by universities all over the world as sufficient proof that you can speak English well enough to study. The fee is usually €90-100.
Polish Education Vs US
While making this age-old comparison, there are several factors to take into account. For starters, some folks will tend to look at the concentration of the world’s highest ranking universities by country. By this standard, the US holds the throne, being home to 4 of the world’s top ten universities. If we are looking at overall standard of education and student happiness, Poland is proving itself to be rapidly improving each year.
Countless studies are showing overall student satisfaction to be skyrocketing in Poland, while the country’s Bologna Process status ensures quality standards to that of all the EU countries. A First, Second, or Third Cycle from a Polish university is internationally recognized as being just as powerful as a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD from any other country.