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Masters in Poland

by Mark Bennett

Studying a Masters in Poland doesn't just mean tapping into a long and prestigious culture of intellectual inquiry and innovation; it also means benefiting from a higher education philosophy that values modernisation and international recognition.

On this page you can read about postgraduate education in the Polish higher education system, postgraduate course types, fees and funding, visa requirements and even university rankings.

For advice on living abroad as a Masters student in Poland (including information on accommodation, living costs and work permits) check out our separate guide. Or, if you'd like to start looking for a Masters program in Poland, you can use our course search.

Why study a Masters in Poland?

As a member of the EU, the EEA and the Schengen Group, Poland is one of the countries driving international partnerships and development in modern Europe.

This extends to its higher education system, which, since 1990, has been reconceived to take advantage of the country's considerable intellectual and cultural heritage, whilst playing a key role in the formation of the modern European Higher Education Area.

Poland's first university was founded almost seven-hundred years ago and the country's list of famous artists and scientists includes the composer, Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, the pioneering radiographer, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, the astronomer, Mikołaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus) and the director, Roman Polanski.

This intellectual tradition means Polish universities have plenty to offer postgraduate students. What's more, because the country is a signatory of the Bologna Declaration and uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), studying for a Masters in Poland has never been easier or more attractive.

The Polish higher education system: an introduction for postgraduates

A variety of higher education providers exist in Poland, but you can divide them into two general types for the purposes of postgraduate Masters study:

  • Schools of Higher Vocational Education (uczelnia zawodowa) specialise in professional training. Some offer long-cycle Masters degrees, but their overall focus is upon undergraduate, rather than postgraduate, education. They make up around 30% of Poland's tertiary education institutions.
  • Higher Education Institutions (uczelnia akademicka) operate as full research universities, though many specialise in particular fields. They usually offer second-cycle Masters qualifications as well as PhD programmes. Collectively, these institutions make up around 70% of Poland's tertiary education providers.

Poland's higher education providers may be private or state-run. State institutions are more closely governed by the Polish State Accreditation Committee and are more likely to offer second-cycle Masters programmes.

Polish university rankings

Despite coming from a non-anglophone background and having to recover from a period of political transition, Poland's universities feature in all major global rankings tables.

What are the top-ranked universities in Poland?

The highest ranked Polish university is the University of Warsaw, which features in all three major international rankings. Various other institutions are also placed in league tables.

Polish universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Seven Polish universities feature in the 2015-16 THE World University Rankings:

Polish Unis in the THE Rankings
University Ranking Place
University of Warsaw 501-600
Jagiellonian University 601-800
Warsaw University of Technology 601-800
University of Silesia in Katowice 601-800
Adam Mickiewicz University 601-800
AGH University of Science and Technology 601-800
AGH University of Science and Technology 601-800
Gdańsk University of Technology 601-800

For more information on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, see our postgraduate guide.

Polish Universities in the QS World University Rankings

Six Polish universities feature in the 2015-16 QS World University Rankings:

Polish Unis in the QS Rankings
University Ranking Place
University of Warsaw 344
Jagiellonian University 411-420
Warsaw University of Technology 651-700
University of Lodz 701-800
University of Wroclaw 701-800
Nicolaus Copernicus University 701-800

For more details of the QS World University Rankings system and advice on making the most of them as a prospective postgraduate, see our separate guide.

Polish universities in the Academic Ranking of World Universities

One university in Poland is featured in the 2015 edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU):

Polish Unis in the ARWU
University Ranking Place
University of Warsaw 301-400

For advice on understanding and using the ARWU table as a postgraduate, see our guide.

Polish Masters degrees: program types and course structure

A Masters degree in Poland is referred to as a Magister.

Because the country is a participant in the Bologna Process, the Magister degree is usually offered as a postgraduate (or 'second-cycle' ) qualification, taking place after a Bachelor's degree (referred to as a Licencjat in arts-related disciplines or an Inżynier in the sciences) and serving as a prerequisite for research at PhD (or Doktor) level. These second-cycle degrees usually take two years of full-time study to complete.

Poland is also one of a number of European countries in which an older form of Masters degree is sometimes still offered (others include Portugal and the Czech Republic).

These 'long-cycle' degrees commence at undergraduate level and award a qualification equivalent to the second-cycle Magister degree after around five or six years of study.

Organization of the academic year in Poland

The Polish academic year runs from October to June and takes place across two semesters, divided by a long summer break. Each semester is made up of around 15 weeks of timetabled courses, along with examination periods.

Short holiday periods take place at Christmas and Easter. It is common for students at Polish universities to use the summer vacation to undertake practical placements or internships related to their studies.

As a Masters student on a second-cycle programme you may find yourself encouraged to do this between your first and second years of study. Depending on your subject-area, your institution may have partnerships and relationships with businesses or research institutes set up for its students.

Course content

You will spend the majority of your time on a Masters in Poland completing set units of study in particular semesters.

Teaching methods for these will vary between different academic disciplines, but will usually involve a combination of small-group sessions, independent study assignments and / or practical laboratory or workshop tasks.

On some programmes the completion of prior study units may be a requisite for progression to successive modules.

Students on long-cycle Masters programmes will commence with 3-4 years of study at undergraduate level, before moving on to more advanced material.

Assessment and grading of Polish Masters degrees

Poland uses a five-point numerical grading system for the assessment of Masters programmes:

Grade Band Label Description
5 Bardzo Dobry (Very Good) The top grade achievable for a Polish Masters
4 Dobry (Good) An above-average grade
3 Dostateczny (Satisfactory) A minimum passing grade
1-2 Niedostateczny (Unsatisfactory) A failing grade

In practice, this scale is similar to the Pass, Merit and Distinction system used in Britain and elsewhere.

The Polish Masters dissertation

Most Polish Masters programmes conclude with an independent dissertation, giving you the chance to explore a research project in depth and use the expertise you have developed on your Masters degree.

On some courses you will begin selecting a topic and preparing your approach earlier in your programme, whilst others will commence the dissertation stage once all timetabled units have been completed.

Unlike programmes in some other European countries (such as the UK) a Polish Masters programme usually requires a candidate to defend their dissertation during a short oral examination. This is an important part of the Polish higher education philosophy, which sets a high standard for research and scholarship and often includes oral examination elements in undergraduate and professional programmes.

Don't let the prospect of having to defend your work in this way concern you; by the time you have reached the dissertation stage of your programme you will not only have spent two years developing expertise in your subject, but will also have had plenty of practice presenting, explaining and justifying your research findings.

And, needless to say, successfully defending a thesis at Masters level is an excellent preparation for doctoral work and will look great on your CV.

ECTS credits for Polish Masters degrees

As a member of the European Higher Education Area, Poland uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) to measure progress and attainment on its Masters programs.

  • A modern 'second cycle' Masters degree in Poland is usually worth between 90 and 120 ECTS credits, depending on its length and intensity.
  • Where available, a traditional 'long cycle' Masters qualification is worth between 270 and 360 ECTS credits (combining the credit value of an undergraduate and postgraduate course).

The use of the ECTS credit system allows completed content on a Polish Masters programme to be recognised (and occasionally transferred) within other European higher education systems. It also allows programs to be organised into different units, weighted according to their importance. Individual course units (including your dissertation) will be assigned an ECTS value and this will determine their significance when your final grade is calculated.

Applying for a Masters in Poland

In most cases, applying for a Masters in Poland means getting in touch with the institution you wish to study at (there isn't a central agency handling applications for postgraduate study).

There is no restriction on the number of simultaneous applications a student can make, but, as always with international study, you should ensure you have sufficient time to allow for communication with your prospective institution or institutions and complete their procedures in advance of deadlines.

You may also need to leave sufficient time available to complete visa and immigration procedures before your course commences.

Application requirements and procedures will vary for different Masters programmes, but, you will typically be expected to hold (or be due to receive) a relevant Bachelors degree (or equivalent).

Qualifications from elsewhere in Europe will usually be recognised by Polish universities without any issues (the Polish branch of the ENIC-NARIC network should be able to assist with any difficulties).

International degrees from countries outside Europe may need to be assessed by your institution, but this should be a relatively simple process.

Other requirements for a Polish Masters application may potentially include:

  • A personal statement.
  • A set of academic references.
  • Identification documents such as your passport.

More competitive programs are likely to have stricter application and admissions requirements. This is particularly likely for medical subjects, which are subject to a numerus clausus (a limit on the number of students who can enrol and graduate in any given year).

Language requirements

Many courses at Polish institutions are now offered in English, but this is not universal. You should therefore ensure that you meet the language requirements for any Masters programme you apply to.

If applying to study a course in a second language (whether English or Polish) you will usually be asked to demonstrate proficiency. You can do this by submitting a score from a recognised academic language test.

  • For English-language courses tests such as the TOEFL or IELTS will usually be accepted
  • For Polish language courses a test of Polish as a foreign language will normally be required. The most recognised test is the Certificate Examination of Polish as a Foreign Language (Egzaminy Certyfikatowe z Języka Polskiego jako Obcego). More information is available on the official test website.

Even if Polish is not required for your course, you may find that acquiring some language skills is worthwhile. After all, you could be living in the country for up to two years as a Masters student. That's more than long enough to acquire a strong grounding in Polish and to enjoy the benefits it brings!

Being able to communicate in another language will also look excellent on your CV and demonstrate that you have made the most of the opportunities made available to you when studying abroad as a postgraduate.

Masters student visas in Poland

Poland welcomes international students, with around 28,000 studying at the country's universities. What's more, as part of the EU, Poland has relaxed immigration procedures for citizens of other member countries.

  • If you are an EU or EEA citizen (or a Swiss national) you won't need a visa to enter Poland. However, you will need to apply for a residence permit in order to remain in the country for longer than 91 days. You can do this at a local Voivodeship Office.
  • Citizens of other countries will need to apply for visa in order to enter Poland. You can do this at a local Polish consulate in your home country, provided you have confirmation of enrolment on a Polish degree program. A visa will be valid for up to 12 months. If your Masters degree lasts longer than this you will need to apply for a longer term residence permit.

More detailed information on entering and residing in Poland as a foreign national and the regulations governing citizens of different countries is available from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The international office at your prospective higher education institution should also be able to assist if you have any additional queries.

Applying for a residence permits

Most postgraduate students in Poland will eventually need a residence permit. This is because a Polish Masters degree lasts longer than the 91 days an EU / EEA student can stay in the country (and is also likely to to last longer than the 12 months for which a student visa is valid).

You can apply for a residence permit at a local Voivodeship Office near to your university. In addition to your residence permit you will normally require:

  • Valid Health insurance for the duration of your course.
  • Proof of financial support whilst studying.

Health insurance for postgraduate students in Poland

All international students in Poland are required to have valid health insurance. However, depending on your circumstances you may be covered by an existing policy or reciprocal healthcare agreement:

  • EU and EEA students will normally receive free health cover, provided they hold a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
  • Students from other countries will need to purchase seperate health insurance in Poland (unless covered under an existing private plan). You can do this by paying a small monthly premium into the Polish National Healthcare Fund.

Your university's international office will be able to assist you if you are unsure of your healthcare and health insurance requirements.

Masters fees and funding in Poland

Tuition on a Masters in Poland is free for Polish citizens and for EU / EEA nationals at public universities (in most cases). Other international students will usually have to pay for their university studies. Exceptions may be made for non-citizens with Polish heritage sufficient to procure a Karta Polaka (a 'Polish Charter' or 'Pole's Card').

Polish Masters fees for international students

Minimum fees for international (non-EU / EEA) students at public (state-run) universitiesare determined by the Polish government. Rates are currently set at the zł (PLN) equivalent of:

  • €2,000 per year for a normal full-time Masters program (putting the full cost of a typical Polish Masters degree at €2,000-4,000).
  • €3,000 per year for other postgraduate courses, including vocational and professional programs or research courses.

Remember that these fees are the minimum you will be charged. Universities are free to charge more. In some cases they may also waive fees (as part of a need-based scholarship offer, for example).

Regardless of fee status, all students at Polish public universities pay a small administrative charge (covering the provision of basic university services). This is capped by government and is usually no more than 170zł (€40).

Private universities are free to set their own fees, which may be substantially higher than state institutions. Typical fees are around 8,000-25,000zł (€1,880-5,900) per year.

Polish Masters funding

Poland is keen to attract international postgraduates and this means that some Polish higher education institutions will provide funding for suitable candidates from overseas. Eligibility will usually be decided based upon merit, but financial need may also be taken into account.

Some funding is also available through the Polish Government Scholarship scheme, which covers tuition fees and provides additional money for maintenance. You should contact the Polish embassy or consulate in your home country to inquire as to the relevant eligibility conditions in your case.

As an international student you may also be able to seek support through the new Erasmus+ programme. Erasmus+ opportunities include funding for Joint Masters Degrees, shorter Mobility Grants for placements abroad and a new system of international Masters Loans.


You can also search for Masters funding in Poland at PostgraduateFunding.com: a comprehensive database of small grants and bursaries available to support postgraduate study around the world, including travel bursaries, living cost support, fee waivers and exchange programmes. Click here to start searching for funding to study a Masters in Poland, or elsewhere.

After graduation: careers and opportunities with a Polish Masters degree

Student employability and the needs of the job market are an important factor in Polish higher education policy and decision making.

Since 2011 all Polish uczelnia akademicka have been required to monitor student prospects after graduation, with the resulting data feeding back into ongoing course design and improvement. As a result, Polish Masters programmes will be designed to offer strong employment prospects and support careers in relevant fields.

The academic value of a Polish Masters degree is also enhanced by various other factors. The two-year length of most second-cycle programmes will provide a comprehensive grounding in your subject and the oral examination of your thesis will demonstrate your successful completion of a scholarly challenge that many postgraduate students do not encounter until the end of a PhD.

Of course, if you decide to continue on to a Polish PhD in your subject area, your Polish Masters degree will be an excellent preparation. See FindAPhD.com for information on PhD study in Poland.

Whatever you choose to do after graduation, your time spent living and studying abroad will have given you plenty of valuable experiences alongside your academic qualification; you will have enriched your CV, demonstrated adaptability and broadened your horizons as a person and prospective employee in all sorts of fields.

Last updated - 23/10/2015

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