Poland: An exciting destination for students and scholars

May 10, 2019
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entrance to the University of Warsaw at night

by Ann M. Koenig of the AACRAO International staff

Witamy w Polsce! Welcome to Poland!

The month of May brings the Święto Konstytucji 3 Maja, the Feast of the Constitution of May 3rd. This Polish patriotic holiday commemorates the declaration of Poland’s first constitution on May 3rd, 1791, one of the first modern constitutions in history. Although short-lived -- in effect for only one year due to forces that exploited Poland’s political and geographical vulnerability for centuries -- the Constitution of May 3rd is commemorated today as a beacon of Polish enlightenment, culture and hope through almost two centuries of control by its neighbors.

Higher education in Poland has developed steadily since Poland broke away from Soviet domination in 1989. The PIER (Projects in International Education Research) Poland workshop research team, co-sponsored by AACRAO and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, arrived in Poland just a few days after the May 3rd celebration in 1991, exactly 200 years after the Constitution was declared. It was a time that witnessed the very beginning of Poland’s coming to terms with its new position in Europe. The team’s 1992 PIER workshop report, a comprehensive country profile for international credential evaluators that includes placement recommendations, is archived in the Poland profile in AACRAO EDGE.

As a Bologna process signatory since 1999 and member of the European Union (EU) since 2004, Poland has been actively engaged in higher education development rooted in the Bologna process for more than two decades. A higher education law passed in 2005, which took effect at the start of the 2006/07 academic year, created a Bologna-compliant degree structure and the legal basis for other Bologna-based reforms.  There were several updates to this law. These Bologna-based developments are also aligned with European Union (EU) objectives that focus on improving the employment environment in EU countries and promoting education at all levels.

Today Poland is actively reaching out to the international community to welcome students and scholars to participate in its higher education offerings. Melanie Gottlieb, AACRAO’s Deputy Director, participated in a December 2018 meeting of Polish higher education institution representatives in Warsaw at which goals and projects for the internationalization of Polish higher education were discussed.

Recent initiatives supporting Poland’s aim to become a top-tier destination for international engagement include:

  • A national qualifications framework introduced in 2011 legislation amending the 2005 higher education law. The Polish Qualifications Framework (Polska Rama Kwalifikacji [PRK]) was implemented in 2015. Descriptive information is available online in English, German, Russian, French and Polish. The specifications of the graphic logo of the PRK are regulated by law and may appear on credentials. A sample copy of a dyplom magistra issued by the Uniwerstytet Łódzki in May 2018 bearing the PRK graphic for a Level VII qualification (upper left corner) can be found at the end of the article.*

  • Creation of the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (Narodowa Agencja Wymiany Akademickiej [NAWA]) in 2017. This agency is part of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. It opened in October 2017 with a mission to coordinate government activities that support internationalization of Polish institutions, and to promote Polish higher education and teaching of the Polish language in the international arena. NAWA functions as the Polish ENIC-NARIC office, the contact point for information on higher education in Poland.

  • NAWA’s Go! Poland Website. This is an official source for information on higher education in Poland, including a list of higher education institutions, degree structure, admission requirements, examinations and grading, ECTS credits, diploma documentation, academic calendar, and more.  Go! Poland also gives practical information for students considering studying in Poland (including scholarships!). One current focus of NAWA is to increase the numbers of direct-enroll native speakers of English, especially from the United States and the United Kingdom.

  • Welcome to Poland project. This is an institution-based program running from January 2018 to March 2022 that provides funding for internationalization activities at institutions that hold an Erasmus charter to participate in Erasmus programs. The funds can support efforts to provide professional development for teaching and administrative staff in working with international students and scholars, activities related to internationalization of the institution, organizational preparation for providing services for international students and scholars, programs aimed at shaping attitudes of openness and tolerance in the academic environment, and organization of a “welcome center” serving international students and scholars.

  • The “Constitution for Science” (Konstytucja dla Nauki). This is a sweeping reform undertaken jointly by the Ministry and the academic community that required almost two years of preparation. It encompasses a number of changes aimed at overhauling structures and processes in all areas and at all levels of the higher education sector.

  • The Law on Higher Education and Science, effective October 1, 2018. This law, along with a series of regulations passed throughout the year 2018, creates the legal basis for the “Constitution for Science” and for the reforms in all areas of higher education, from institutional organization to institutional personnel and salary issues.

    • Many provisions of the 2018 Law are adjustments or amendments to existing regulations, such as those for programs of study at the first and second cycles, unified magister programs, professional titles and distance education.

    • There are sections on academic recordkeeping and documentation, and diploma and Diploma Supplement documentation guidelines.

    • New developments include an electronic student identification chip card that is synchronized with an integrated electronic records system, and stipulations for processing and fees for the authentication of academic documents.

  • The creation of “doctoral schools” (szkoły doktoranckie). The “Constitution for Science” creates the legal foundation for a new approach to the organization of doctoral education, effective October 1, 2019. Under the new stipulations, a “doctoral school” will be a division of a university that teaches only doctoral programs, offering a minimum of two fields of study. The regulations for doctoral degrees will be created by a senate or scientific council of the doctoral school, rather than part of the general university academic regulations, as is currently the case. Under the new system it will still be possible to complete a doctoral degree on an “external” basis, without being enrolled in a doctoral program. Doctoral students who began their programs before the start of the 2019/20 academic year will follow the current regulations, with the teachout process for these programs ending in 2023.

  • The implementation of POL-on (The Integrated Information System on Science and Higher Education). POL-on is a data repository administered by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The network retrieves, organizes and analyzes data from many areas of scientific research and higher education. Its databases related to Polish higher education institutions and programs of study are valuable to international credential evaluators and study abroad advisors. The POL-on system includes data about completed diploma theses, but it does not include data to verify individual student academic records.

Some POL-on Registers:

Much has changed in Poland since the Feast of the Constitution of May 3rd in 1991, a few days before the PIER workshop research team was welcomed in Warsaw to experience the Polish educational system in action. Today Poland has systems, projects and resources in place that reflect almost three decades of development in higher education internationalization rooted in the principles of the Bologna process and the European Union. Poland extends an invitation to participate in its vision of internationalization. Witamy w Polsce! Welcome to Poland!

*Sample diploma: Dyplom magistra

Dyplom magistra issued by the Uniwerstytet Łódzki in May 2018 bearing the PRK graphic (upper left corner) for a Level VII qualification (PRK VII Kwalifikacji pelna na poziomie siódmym Polskiej Ramy kwalifikacji)

C:\Users\Ann\Documents\0 - COUNTRY PROFILES\POLAND\3 - POLISH QUALS FRAMEWORK\Polish PRK Level VII Dyplom Magistra, Uniwersytet Lodzki, 2018 2.bmp


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