Chapter 1. Overview of the Polish higher education system

This chapter provides contextual information for the HEInnovate review. It begins with a discussion of entrepreneurship and higher education in Poland, followed by a brief overview of the current policy framework for promoting innovation in Poland. The bulk of the chapter provides an overview of the Polish higher education system and the main actors involved. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of the higher education institutions that participated in the study visits and an overview of their cities and regions.


1.1. Entrepreneurship and higher education

Entrepreneurship is a concept for which there is no single definition. More than one hundred definitions are currently in use. Two common elements that thread through nearly all of the definitions are the notions of innovation and value-creation.

Within complex organisations such as higher education institutions (HEIs) and their networked environments, entrepreneurship can be a process to promote development through the ability to identify and react to opportunities. As such, entrepreneurship has a long-standing presence in higher education reform initiatives that promote, for example, the systematic crossing of discipline and knowledge boundaries in teaching and research, and engaging external stakeholders in an institution’s leadership and organisational capacity.

In entrepreneurial HEIs, teaching, research, and societal engagement are intertwined and the institution’s leadership and governance models ensure a synergy across these areas and with non-university stakeholders. Gibb (2013) offers a useful working definition of the entrepreneurial higher education institution that can be applied to different types of institutions in different contexts:

“Entrepreneurial higher education institutions are designed to empower staff and students to demonstrate enterprise, innovation and creativity in research, teaching and pursuit and use of knowledge across boundaries. They contribute effectively to the enhancement of learning in a societal environment characterised by high levels of uncertainty and complexity and they are dedicated to creating public value via a process of open engagement, mutual learning, discovery and exchange with all stakeholders in society – local, national and international.”

There are many motivations for higher education institutions to become entrepreneurial. For example, becoming more entrepreneurial can help HEIs catch up with the changes in how knowledge is produced since knowledge generation and application increasingly occurs across disciplines and outside of HEIs. It can help HEIs re-organise education so that students and academic staff can cope with the volume of information that is generated and easily accessed through the internet. Moreover, it can also help students be better prepared for the labour market as employees or in self-employment by helping them to be more entrepreneurial individuals through education programmes that emphasise soft skills such as problem solving, team-work and communication. It can also help with promoting and supporting business start-ups, which will contribute to economic development and job creation. Becoming entrepreneurial will also make HEIs more relevant to the community by making research more accessible and increasingly working with businesses to apply academic work to business challenges.

At the same time, there are many barriers to advancing this agenda. HEIs are multi-faceted, complex environments with mixed autonomous groups and cultures. This results in different work organisations within single institutions. This is further complicated by the presence of different types of stakeholders and partnerships with different stakeholder groups. Consequently, the concept of entrepreneurship has a different meaning for different individuals and groups within a university. Therefore institutions will need to define what entrepreneurship means within their context and launch a dialogue on how entrepreneurship applies to their range of activities. Advancing in this agenda will likely require governance models to become more lateral rather than hierarchical. It also means that entrepreneurship and innovation must be conceptualised as being on an equal plane with research and education objectives. Thus the third mission will need to be taken as a core academic mission rather than as a peripheral academic task.

1.2. Supporting the Polish innovation agenda

Poland generally compares poorly relative to other European Union countries on many innovation measures. For example, the European Union’s Innovation Union Scoreboard (European Commission, 2015) ranks Poland 24th out of the 28 Member States on the overall aggregate indicator. The Scoreboard suggests that policy makers should aim to boost performance in the following areas:

  • Number of international PhD students in Poland from outside the European Union;

  • Number of public-private scientific joint publications;

  • Licensing and patent revenues coming from abroad;

  • Number of international patent applications related with societal challenges.

In response to this longstanding challenge, the Government has prioritised strengthening the research and innovation system to ensure synergies between research and development (R&D) and innovation activities. The current innovation agenda is based largely on the 2013 Strategy for Innovation and Effectiveness of the Economy 2020, which defines the key research and innovation priorities. The 2014 Enterprise Development Programme implements the 2013 Strategy with a wide range of measures that enhance the innovation support system over the range of the innovation cycle. These two strategic documents, along with the National Research Programme, underpin Poland’s Smart Specialisation Strategy. The Smart Specialisation Strategy is supported with Operating Programmes under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The Smart Specialisation Strategy is reinforced with other strategies and programmes. One of the most relevant for higher education is the Operational Programme – Smart Growth, which is one of Poland’s six national programmes that align with Europe 2020 goals. This programme aims to strengthen research activity and improve linkages between scientific research and the business community across all regions. There is a special focus on enhancing the capacity of private sector companies, mainly of small and medium-sized enterprises, to be more innovative and to have access to scientific research. The programme includes EUR 10 billion of investments, of which EUR 8.6 billion comes from the ERDF. It is expected to support more than 12 000 enterprises in conducting research, resulting in 20 500 new jobs by the end of 2023.

A number of other specific actions have been taken towards strengthening support for innovation. For example, “Innovation for the economy” is a set of new measures aimed at connecting research with business by increasing the amount of financial support that is available with revolving instruments (e.g. loans, venture capital investments). New financial instruments include the Bridge Venture Capital Programme (PLN 2 billion or approximately EUR 0.46 billion) and the Vitello Programme (PLN 500 million or approximately EUR 115 million). In addition, this set of measures will also adjust the methods of distributing funding used by The National Centre for Research and Development, including through a simplification of rules and an acceleration of procedures. Funding will focus on projects that create technical solutions to challenging problems, with a priority on transferring innovations.

The Ministry of Economic Development also adopted the Responsible Development Plan in February 2016, which aims to boost innovation by improving i) regulation related to innovation, ii) the business environment (including tax system) and iii) linkages between business and science. It will also create a new law on innovativeness. This plan is elaborated in the Strategy for Responsible Development (Strategia na rzecz Odpowiedzialnego Rozwoju), which was launched in May 2017.

Further, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education plans to redesign the structure of research institutes. The new approach will build on the concept of the National Institute of Technology, which concentrates on the transfer of technologies to the Polish economy. At the same time the National Institute of Technology will conduct research to support the governments in developing policies in areas such as energy, climate change and defence. This will be complemented by a series of activities that aim to extend the social responsibility of science and academic institutions, including the development of National Science Congress, Children’s and Third Age Universities and Mobile Copernicus Centres.

One of the most important recent actions was the establishment of The Innovation Council by the Prime Minister on 18 January 2016. The Council is the most important co-ordinator of innovation policy and it has been anchored in the public administration system. The Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Economic Development was appointed as the Chairman of the Council and permanent members of the Council are: the Minister of Science and Higher Education; the Minister of Culture and National Heritage; the Minister of Digital Affairs; the Minister of Treasury; the Minister of Health; the Minister of National Education; and the Undersecretary of State in Ministry of Economic Development who acts as Secretary of the Council. The main tasks of the Council are to:

  • co-ordinate activities related to strengthening of innovation in the Polish scientific community and economy;

  • identify future directions innovation policy and develop proposals for the government;

  • evaluate innovation activities; and

  • conduct public consultation of the main lines of action.

The Innovation Council has already developed proposals for legislative changes (“Small Law on Innovation”), including a draft law that aims to facilitate innovation with significant changes to the design of R&D tax credits (e.g. increasing their size, adding new eligible cost categories, expanding the deduction period) and offering additional incentives for start-ups and companies that consistently increase their R&D expenditures. In addition, a “White Paper on innovation” was adopted in September 2016, which contains a catalogue of barriers or regulations requiring amendments and development of Polish innovativeness. The white paper will lead to a “large act on innovation”, which will be elaborated before the end of 2016.

A subsidiary body of the Council – the Innovation Committee – is a working-level committee that consists of deputy ministers from the ministries that are represented on the Council and also from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of the Environment. The Committee draws up detailed proposals aimed at increasing the innovativeness of Polish economy and removing barriers that hampers innovation.

1.3. Polish higher education

Governance of higher education

The national system of higher education in Poland is centrally organised, but all HEIs operate autonomously within this legal framework. The six key pieces of legislation in this framework are the following, with the Law on Higher Education being the principal law that governs higher education:

  1. The Law on Higher Education (27 July 2005, with further amendments);

  2. The Act on the Academic Title and Academic Degrees (14 March 2003, with further amendments);

  3. The Act on the National Centre for Research and Development (2010, with further amendments);

  4. The Act on the National Science Centre (2010, with further amendments);

  5. The Act on the Principles of Financing Science (30 April 2010, with further amendments); and

  6. The Act on Loans and Credits for Students (1998, with further amendments).

An important element of the system is the National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (NQF for HE) (Krajowe Ramy Kwalifikacji dla Szkolnictwa Wyższego). The NQF for HE was developed for all levels of education (i.e. not only higher education); first and second cycle degrees correspond to Levels 6 and 7 of the European Qualifications Framework, while third cycle degrees correspond to Level 8. The learning outcomes are specific to each level and include a) knowledge, b) skills and c) attitudes. Entrepreneurship is included in the NQF for HE as personal and social competences for Levels 6-7 and many study programmes make specific references to entrepreneurship in their learning outcomes, e.g. engineering graduates need to be able to “think and act independently, be creative and entrepreneurial”.

The Law on Higher Education includes provisions on a national system of tracking graduates’ employment outcomes based on administrative data from the social security system. The outcomes of the first edition of tracking graduates’ career path were published in May 2016 and are available at: Three types of reports are created corresponding to three levels of analysis: field of study, higher education institution and a national report. The tracking of employment outcomes is done with data contained in the ministerial students’ database (POL-on) combined with data collected by the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS). The new tracking system aims to inform public opinion, potential students, public authorities and other relevant stakeholders with impartial and comparable data on graduates’ outcomes in the labour market, including employment status, salaries, length of job search and more. At the same time complementary tracking activities are carried out by HEIs themselves as a tool of internal quality assurance in order to gather qualitative data, e.g. graduates opinion on curriculum.

The Ministry has recently announced several reforms and new initiatives to strengthen the higher education framework. At the end of February 2016, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education announced the “Law 2.0 competition”, which aims to reform the Law on Higher Education. Three teams, selected from the academic community, are preparing three competing concepts for the new law. These will be the starting point for a series of conferences (launched in October 2016) that will constitute the National Congress of Science. Over the course of the debates, the law will be drafted and it is expected to come into force for the academic year 2018-19. The Law 2.0 will bring broad reform, making the higher education and research system more efficient and closer to the needs of society and the economy. The new law will also introduce new types of research universities and mechanisms for financing and evaluating the performance of research organisations. It should also stimulate the co-operation with entrepreneurs and strengthen the internationalisation of the higher education system, including through scholarships for foreign students that will be managed through the National Agency of Academic Exchange.

Furthermore, a new strategy for science and higher education was announced in September 2016. The proposal for reforms consists of three pillars: a Constitution for Science to bring about systemic changes in the higher education; Innovation for the economy initiative, with a focus on the commercialisation of research and science-business partnerships; and the Science for You initiative to promote social responsibility for science. The first element of the Constitution for Science is a Deregulation Act which applies from the beginning of October 2016. The aim of the new law is to reduce bureaucracy in science and higher education management by introducing deregulation in various areas for universities. The criteria of a programme assessment carried out by the Polish Accreditation Committee have been changed in order to focus strictly on the quality of an educational process and learning outcomes and eliminate bureaucratic burden.

In addition, there are ongoing consultations on a draft of a new version of the Law on Academic Degrees and Titles and on Degrees and Title in Art (Ustawa o Stopniach Naukowych i Tytule Naukowym oraz o Stopniach i Tytule w Zakresie Sztuki), which assumes that co‐operation with business might be a criterion in researchers’ careers (industrial doctorate). The new formula of financing of higher education institutions is currently being elaborated by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Structure of higher education in Poland

The Polish higher education system conforms to the guidelines from the Bologna Process in European Higher Education Area. The degree system based on a three-cycle structure has been implemented with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).

First cycle

First-cycle studies (3 to 4 years) lead to the professional title of a licencjat or inżynier. This is the Polish equivalent of the Bachelor’s degree. It is focused on preparing students for future employment or for continued education within the Master’s degree programmes. To obtain this degree, students must earn 180-240 ECTS credits.

Second cycle

Second-cycle studies (1.5 to 2 years) follow the completion of first cycle studies and lead to the professional title of magister, or an equivalent degree depending on the study course profile. This is the equivalent of a Master’s degree. Master’s degree holders may enter a doctoral programme (third-cycle studies). To obtain the second cycle degree, students must earn 90-120 ECTS credits.

Long-cycle studies

In addition to the standard first and second cycle studies, higher education institutions offer long-cycle programmes (4.5 to 6 years). They are however provided only in selected fields of study such as medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, dentistry, theology, law and some art and design areas.

Long-cycle studies lead to the professional title of magister, or an equivalent degree depending on the study course profile, which is also the equivalent of a Master’s degree. To obtain this degree, students must earn 270-360 ECTS credits.

Non-degree postgraduate studies

Postgraduate studies include all programmes other than degree programmes or doctoral programmes. They are designed for people who already hold higher education diplomas. These programmes usually last for 1 or 2 years and students must earn a minimum of 30 ECTS credits.

Third cycle

Third-cycle studies (up to 4 years) lead to a PhD degree and are accessible for graduates of a Master’s degree programme. Third cycle studies are offered by universities and the Polish Academy of Sciences as well as research institutes. The PhD degree is awarded to candidates who submit and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation before the thesis committee and pass the doctoral examination.

Higher education institutions

There are broadly two types of HEIs in Poland, those that are public and those that are non-public. Public HEIs are state institutions, while non-public institutions are operated by the private sector. In 2015-16, 132 of the 415 HEIs were public HEIs (Figure 1.1a). The first non-public HEIs were established in 1991 and the number increased rapidly to 330 by 2010. Since then, the number of non-public HEIs has declined to 283 (Figure 1.1b).

Figure 1.1. Public and non-public HEIs, 2015-16
a. Number of HEIs
b. Number of non-public HEIs

Source: Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

Public HEIs are diversified, including general and specialised universities, as well as universities of applied sciences (Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.2. Types of public HEIs, 2015-16

Source: Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

Another important distinction between different types of HEIs is university-type institutions and non-university institutions, which is defined in the Law on Higher Education. This distinction is significant as only university-type institutions are authorised to confer the academic degree of Doctor (PhD). As long as at least one unit within the HEI is authorised, the institution is considered to be university-type. Of the 415 HEIs, 118 are university-type and the vast majority of these are public HEIs.


In the academic year 2015-16, there were nearly 1.6 million students in the Polish higher education system. Students in first cycle studies accounted for 57% of students, while second cycle studies accounted for 22% of students (Figure 1.3). Approximately 9% of students were in long cycle programmes and another 9% were in postgraduate programmes. Students in third cycle studies accounted for 3% of the student body.

Figure 1.3. Students in Polish higher education, 2015-16

Source: Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

The majority of the students are enrolled in full-time programmes in public HEIs. Students do not pay tuition for these programmes. However, in terms of part-time studies, which are fully paid by the students, non-public HEIs are more popular.

The most popular fields of study for full-time students were Business and administration (124 281 students), Engineering and engineering trades (119 459) and Social sciences (91 879) (Table 1.1). Combined, these three areas of study account for 36.5% of full-time students. These three fields of study were also among the most popular with part-time students, with 44.2% of part-time students studying in these fields. In addition, Teacher training and education science was also very popular with part-time students (55 529 students), as were Health sciences (33 127) and Security services (31 057 students).

Table 1.1. Number of students by field of study, 2015-16

Field of study

Full-time students

Part-time students





Business and administration

124 281


137 583


Engineering and engineering trades

119 459


32 320


Social sciences

91 879


45 158


Health sciences

90 827


33 127



58 128


15 168


Teacher training and education science

57 137


55 529


Architecture and building

53 228


24 014


Manufacturing and processing

36 033


14 803


Information and communication technologies

35 756


16 214



30 224


25 214


Security services

29 653


31 057


Personal services

27 007


14 133



26 438


7 159


Physical science

21 851




Humanities (except languages)

19 615


3 179


Life science

15 456




Journalism and information

12 541


4 661


Transport services

11 992


5 151


Inter-disciplinary programmes and qualifications involving

11 977


6 223


Mathematics and statistics

11 622





8 882


4 160



7 147


1 025


Social services

5 838


2 260



4 848





3 047


2 657


Hygiene and occupational health services

1 751


1 225


Inter-disciplinary programmes and qualifications

2 205


1 749








918 952

486 181

Source: Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

Although the student base in the Polish higher education system is becoming increasingly international, the number of international students continues to be low relative to most other European Union countries. Out of the nearly 1.6 million students in 2015-16, 57 116 were foreign students (approximately 3%). More than half of these international students were from neighbouring Ukraine (Figure 1.4).

Figure 1.4. Number of foreign students, 2015-16

Source: Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

One of the most important issues that the Polish higher education system is facing is a substantial decline in the number of students due to the demographic structure of Poland. After peaking at nearly 2 million students in the years 2002 to 2009, it is expected that the number of students will decline to 1.25 million by 2024. This downward trend will clearly exert pressure on the HEIs as there is likely to be increased competition to attract students.


There were approximately 164 500 employees in Polish HEIs, with more than half being academic staff (Figure 1.5). The majority of these academic staff and non-teaching employees work in public HEIs (88%).

Figure 1.5. Number of staff, 2015-16

Source: Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

Employment in Polish higher education is determined by the regulations of the Law on Higher Education and there are defined categories of staff. Each category has a set of general requirements:

  1. Research and teaching staff (vast majority of the academic staff) and research staff:

    • Full professor (profesor zwyczajny): may be held by a person with the academic title of professor (see Box 1.1).

    • Associate professor (profesor nadzwyczajny): may be held by a person with the degree of doktor habilitowany or the academic title of profesor. In HEIs for maritime studies, it may also be held by a person with the degree of doktor or the highest naval rank. In some exceptional cases, it may also be held by a person who, while not in compliance with the full requirements, holds the academic degree of doktor and has demonstrated outstanding and original achievements in research, professional or artistic activity, attested in accordance with the procedure laid down in the HEI’s statutes.

    • Visiting professor: may be held by a person with the degree of doktor habilitowany or the academic title of profesor, employed in another higher education institution. In some cases it may also be held by a person who, while not in compliance with the full requirements, holds the academic degree of doktor and has demonstrated outstanding and original achievements in research, professional or artistic activity, attested in accordance with the procedure laid down in the HEI’s statutes.

    • Assistant professor (adiunkt): may be held by a person with at least the academic degree of PhD (doktor).

    • Assistant lecturer (asystent): may be held by a person with at least the degree of MA (magister) or equivalent.

  2. Teaching (non-research) staff:

    • Senior lecturer (starszy wykładowca): may be held by a person with at least the degree of MA (magister) or equivalent.

    • Lecturer (wykładowca): may be held by a person with at least the degree of MA (pol. magister) or equivalent.

    • Lector (lektor): usually is held by teachers providing foreign languages classes’ may be held by a person with at least the degree of MA (magister) or equivalent.

    • Instructor (instruktor): usually is held by teachers providing physical education classes (obligatory for every study programme at both BA and MA levels); may be held by a person with at least the degree of MA (magister) or equivalent.

Within both public and non-public HEIs, most academic staff are Assistant professors (Figure 1.6). One of the main differences in the structure of academic staff in public and non-public HEIs is that public HEIs use Lecturers (including Senior and Assistant lecturers) much more heavily than non-public HEIs. Lectors and Instructors are not used widely in either public or non-public HEIs, and there are also very few Visiting professors.

Figure 1.6. Number of employees, 2015-16

Source: Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

Box 1.1. Academic titles

There is a unique structure of academic degrees and titles in Poland. Students who successfully complete third cycle studies are typically awarded a PhD, which is an academic degree that is awarded through a separate procedure by the entitled faculties. The granting of this degree does not require any further approval beyond the faculty level. However, other academic titles require additional procedures and approvals:

  • Full professor (profesor zwyczajny) is an academic title. It is the highest academic degree awarded by the President of the Republic of Poland, following approval of the Central Committee for the Academic Degrees and Titles. This Central Committee is a national-level body that is composed of Full professors who serve on the committee for 4-year terms.

  • Doktor habilitowany is an academic degree awarded only by the entitled HEIs’ faculties to the outstanding researchers with the PhD degree. This requires a special procedure that reviews the candidate’s research outcomes. The procedure of awarding the doktor habilitowany degree is complete after its approval by the Central Committee for the Academic Degrees.

The Polish legal framework does not put any restrictions concerning the activities undertaken by academic staff members inside or outside of academia. Instead, these issues are usually subject to the internal HEI’s policy. The only legal restriction concerning employment is the “minimum core staff” requirement for each specialisation for HEIs to be able to confer degrees.

1.4. Key actors for supporting entrepreneurship in higher education

Ministry of Science and Higher Education

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education has the primary responsibility in government for matters related to higher education. It is responsible for the Law on Higher Education and designs and implements policies related on science and higher education, including designing European Union-funded programmes. These programmes are implemented through various agencies, including the National Centre for Research and Development (Narodowe Centrum Badań i Rozwoju) and the National Science Centre (Narodowe Centrum Nauki), and the Ministry remains responsible for monitoring and reporting on these actions.

One of the most important functions of the Ministry is to grant HEIs the authority to confer degrees. This includes monitoring the operations of HEIs to ensure that they are in compliance with the national law and with the statutes of each HEI.

The Ministry manages the budget for higher education and determines funding for each public HEI. It is also responsible for nationally-funded scientific research. It disburses scientific research funds in collaboration with agencies such as the National Science Centre and the National Centre for Research and Development. The Ministry can also assign grants for education and research activities for public HEIs.

Activities for entrepreneurship – Operational Programme Knowledge Education Development (PO WER)

In June 2014, the Government launched “the Competence Development Programme”, which replaced the scheme of Commissioned Degree Programmes. The Competence Development Programme was established on the basis of a specific ex-ante evaluation, commissioned by the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR) and conducted in 2014, aiming at exploring demand for skills in various industries in the coming years in the context of trends in the Polish economy. The Competence Development Programme puts a particularly strong emphasis on co-operation between universities and employers in strengthening the practical elements of training and increasing employer’s engagement in the Programme delivery. Its main objective is to strengthen the competences needed to succeed in the labour market, especially transversal ones.

73 projects have been implemented in the framework of a pilot phase of the project (PLN 58.0 million, or approximately EUR 13.3 million). The call concerning the first edition of the Competence Development Programme was launched in May 2015. Examples of other projects under PO WER include:

  • Apprenticeship programme at State Higher Vocational Schools. The main objective of this project is to develop a nation-wide, single (uniform) system of 6-month apprenticeships in non-university higher education institutions. The project will finance an additional three months of apprenticeship that complement the 3 months of apprenticeship mandatory in practical-profile degree programmes.

  • New Training Programme. The aim of the competition-based programme is the implementation of training programmes for both general academic or practical profiles, based on analysis and economic forecasting, tailored to the needs of the economy, the labour market and society. The competition aims to distribute funds to finance projects concerning the creation and implementation of new courses, or the adaptation of existing courses, to the current socio-economic needs. Submitted projects must include employers in the preparation and implementation of training programmes. In addition, all projects in the competition for the New Education Programmes must respond to the needs of individual regions, as defined in the Regional Innovation Strategies. A project submitted to the competition therefore must have a positive opinion of the local government confirming the compliance of the planned activities with the Regional Innovation Strategies of the relevant voivodship (regional authority).

  • Studying? Practice! This competition aims to enhance the quality of student placements organised jointly by employers and HEIs. This programme aims to meet the needs of employers by providing students with experience for future professional work. The scope of the curricula is shaped by the HEIs in co-operation with employers. Business practitioners and employers who are representatives of regional enterprises are also involved in teaching and in assessing its outcomes.

  • Academic Career Offices. This contest seeks to encourage the expansion of services offered by academic career offices, as well as improving their quality. This applies particularly to the support services related to the provision of career advice and to starting new businesses.

In addition, the NCBiR announced a new contest in June 2016 that will be implemented under Measure 3.4 “Management in higher education institutions” of the Operational Programme Knowledge Education Development (PO WER). The NCBiR plans to allocate PLN 132 million (approximately EUR 30.2 million) for “Improving the competencies of academic staff” in Polish tertiary education institutions. The competition will select projects aimed at training for academic staff, potentially covering innovative teaching methods and computer skills, information management or teaching in foreign languages. Up to PLN 9 000 (approximately EUR 2 060) will be provided per participant, or PLN 24 000 (approximately EUR 5 500) for those undergoing training abroad. The support is to cover a total of more than 7 000 academic staff.

R&D Sector

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education has offered a scheme “Innovation brokers”, sponsoring the employment of sales professionals, who are expected to help HEIs commercialise their technologies by either licensing or launching spin-offs. These individuals receive a regular base salaries and performance bonuses, with targets to increase the number of transactions.

The Ministry also launched a competition called “Incubator of innovativeness”, subsidising HEIs to stimulate the formation of spin-offs and the pursuit of technology licensing transactions. In the competition there were a total of 21 entities, of which 14 received support. For the realisation of projects there was planned the amount of PLN 18 million (approximately EUR 4.1 million) (eventually the allocation of funds under this intervention amounted to PLN 19.5 million, approximately EUR 4.5 million). The amount of the financing of the tasks carried out by one entity could not exceed PLN 1.5 million (approximately EUR 340 000).

Polish Accreditation Committee

The Polish Accreditation Committee (Polska Komisja Akredytacyjna, PKA) is an independent public institution that works with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and HEIs to ensure the quality of higher education. As defined in the Law on Higher Education, the role of PKA includes:

  1. Programme assessments, including the evaluation of initial teacher training programmes;

  2. Giving opinions to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in matters pertaining to:

    • the granting of authorisations of academic units of higher education institutions to provide programmes in specific fields of study and at specific levels of study where the field of study concerned covers an academic area and domains of science or fine arts, which do not correspond to authorisations to confer postdoctoral degrees (doctor habilitowany) held by a given unit;

    • the re-granting of suspended authorisations to provide programmes in specific fields of study and at specific levels of study;

    • the establishment of higher education institutions;

    • the establishment of a higher education institution or a branch campus in the territory of the Republic of Poland by a foreign higher education institution;

    • the quality of education provided by the unit applying for the authorisation to grant the doktor and doktor habilitowany degrees.

PKA is composed of up to 90 members appointed by the Minister for Science and Higher Education, who are selected from a pool of candidates who are nominated by the higher education stakeholders, e.g. academic senates, rectors’ conferences, employer organisations, national student organisations. The Committee is supported by a secretariat and a network of experts who participate in the assessments and evaluations.

PKA is a member of the European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education.

National Centre for Research and Development

The National Centre for Research and Development (Narodowe Centrum Badań i Rozwoju, NCBiR) is the implementing agency of the Minister of Science and Higher Education. The main task of the NCBiR is the management and execution of strategic research and development programmes, which lead directly to the development of innovativeness. This includes support for commercialisation and technology transfer activities and the management of applied research programmes.

In addition, NCBiR provides training and development opportunities for young scientists and researchers. This includes training on commercialisation, intellectual property management and business development.

Ministry of Economic Development

The Ministry of Economic Development (Ministerstwo Rozwoju) is also active in promoting entrepreneurship as it is responsible for the economy (previously covered by the Ministry of Economy) and regional development (previously covered by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development). One of the key tasks of the Ministry is the management of projects funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, including those related to higher education.

The Ministry aims to create an environment that is conducive to entrepreneurship by improving access to capital, promoting the value of entrepreneurial mindsets, strengthening the institutional environment and by improving the availability of industrial intelligence.

Polish Agency for Enterprise Development

The Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (Polska Agencja Rozwoju Przedsiębiorczości, PARP) is a state agency that reports to the Ministry of Economic Development. It manages national and European Union funds for fostering entrepreneurship, innovation and human resources development. In the European Union programme period 2014-20, PARP is responsible for the implementation of activities under three operational programmes: Operational Programme Smart Development; Operational Programme Knowledge, Education, Development; and Operational Programme Eastern Poland.

The Agency has a role in supporting entrepreneurship in higher education because it implements economic development programmes that support innovation and research activities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), regional development, exporting, development of human resources and use of modern technologies. It manages a large infrastructure of business development service providers, including business incubators and science and technology parks.

1.5. A profile of the case study universities

Seven HEIs participated in the two study visits. These seven HEIs were selected to cover a range of different types and sizes of HEIs in Poland. A brief profile of each institution is provided in Tables 1.2 to 1.8.

Table 1.2. GUT Gdansk University of Technology



Year of establishment

1945 (1904)

Type of institution

Public technical university

Number of students

33 500

Number of alumni


Brief profile

The GUT Gdansk University of Technology has nine faculties: Architecture; Chemistry; Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics; Electrical and Control Engineering; Applied Physics and Mathematics; Civil and Environmental Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Ocean Engineering and Ship Technology; and Management and Economics. It offers full-time and part-time degrees at all levels of study in each of the nine faculties. In addition, the university offers three interdisciplinary programmes of study in Materials Engineering, Power Engineering and Biomedical Engineering.

The university’s main research activities are in the areas of mathematics, physics, chemistry, civil engineering, maritime technology, energy, bio- and nano-technologies, architecture, medicine, ecology, IT, electronics and management.


Table 1.3. KU Kozminski University



Year of establishment


Type of institution


Number of students

Approximately 8 000

Number of alumni

Approximately 40 000

Brief profile

KU Kozminski University was called the Leon Kozminski Academy of Entrepreneurship and Management until 2008, when it was awarded the title university to signify that it was accredited to grant doctoral degrees in at least two disciplines.

KU Kozminski University offers a broad portfolio of programmes consisting of full-time and part-time programmes at the Bachelor, Masters and PhD levels. At the Bachelor and Masters levels, programmes are offered in the following five areas: management, finance and accounting, administration, law and, sociology. Programmes are offered in both Polish and English. KU Kozminski University holds doctoral granting rights in five disciplines: management, economics, business law, sociology and finance. In addition, it is the only non-public HEI in Poland that holds habilitation granting rights in management and economics. The University also provides tailored programmes for companies and executive courses.

The University’s research profile contains the following four key focuses: Economics and Finance, Management and Decision making, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Business Law.

KU Kozminski University has the following international accreditations: AACSB, AMBA and CEEMAN. It also received an unconditional EQUIS accreditation in 2005. The university is also a full member of ELFA (European Law Faculties Association) and EUA (European University Association).


Table 1.4. UMCS Maria Curie–Sklodowska University



Year of establishment


Type of institution

Public general university

Number of students

Approximately 24 000

Number of alumni

Approximately 223 000

Brief profile

Maria Curie-Skłodowska University offers a comprehensive suite of programmes within 12 faculties: Fine Arts and Music; Biology and Biotechnology; Chemistry; Economics; Philosophy and Sociology; Humanities; Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science; Earth Sciences and Spatial Management; Education and Psychology; Political Science; Law and Administration; Political Science; and a Branch Campus in Pulawy. There are currently more than 60 programmes offered with more than 200 specialisations.

The university has an equally wide research base, including earth science and spatial management, media and arts, chemistry and nanomaterials, biology and biotechnology, geoinformatics and more. The largest research investment has been the Ecotech-Complex project, which includes BIO-MED (e.g. tissue engineering and hybrid structures; neuroscience and brain injuries; human development and ageing; cancer-related, civilization-related and social diseases); AGRO (e.g. plant and landscape protection, agrobiotechnology, non-food use of agricultural products); ECO (e.g. ecology, climatic changes, environmental pollution, biodiversity, water, air and soil protection, and alternative energy sources) and FOOD (e.g. food security and quality, the effect of the environment on the food chain, food and health, functional and ecological food).


Table 1.5. PWSZ State University of Applied Science in Elblag



Year of establishment


Type of institution

Public university

Number of students

2 487

Number of alumni

8 441

Brief profile

The State University of Applied Sciences in Elblag offers 11 Bachelor-level programmes through the institutes Applied Informatics, Technology, Pedagogy and Languages, and Economics. The university also offers postgraduate training courses, notably in IT.

Research is conducted in the fields of Computer Science; Robotics, Electronics and Telecommunications; Environment; Mechanical Engineering; and Business and the Global Economy.


Table 1.6. UG University of Gdansk



Year of establishment


Type of institution

Public general university

Number of students

26 896

Number of alumni


Brief profile

The University of Gdansk was established in 1970 by the amalgamation of the Higher School of Economics in Sopot and Gdansk College of Education. It is a general university that does not have an academic focus. It operates in many different fields, including experimental studies, maths, social sciences and language studies.

University of Gdansk offers studies on all levels, many multiple degree programmes (mainly at the Faculty of Law and Administration) and some interdisciplinary programmes (mainly at the Faculty of Biotechnology and Faculties of Math, Physics and IT, Biology and Chemistry).


Table 1.7. SGH Warsaw School of Economics



Year of establishment


Type of institution

Public economics university

Number of students

Approximately 17 300

Number of alumni

Approximately 610 000

Brief profile

The SGH Warsaw School of Economics offers a range of programmes at the Bachelor, Masters, Doctoral and post-graduate levels in both Polish and English. The major fields of study in Polish at the Bachelors level are Finance and Accounting; Quantitative Methods in Economics and Information Systems; Management; International Economic Relations; Economics; European Studies; Spatial Planning; Social Policy; and International Relations. In English, Bachelor programmes are available in Global Business, Finance and Governance; International Economics; Management; and Quantitative Methods in Economics and Information Systems.

At the Masters level, programmes are offered in Polish in Finance and Accounting; Quantitative Methods in Economics and Information Systems; Management; and International Economic Relations. Masters-level programmes in English are offered in

Advanced Analytics – Big Data; Finance and Accounting; Global Business, Finance and Governance; International Tourism, Hotel Industry and Leisure Services; and International Business.

PhD studies are available as part-time or full-time-programmes, including some in English. There are currently 18 PhD programmes in economics, management, finance, or public policy.

The SGH Warsaw School of Economics conducts research in various areas of economics, finance, management and business administration, as well as in public policy and political science.


Table 1.8. WUT Warsaw University of Technology



Year of establishment


Type of institution

Public technical research university

Number of students

34 269

Number of alumni


Brief profile

The WUT Warsaw University of Technology focuses on three main activities: education, scientific research and transfer of technology. It offers education at the Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral levels in 20 Faculties, covering nearly all fields of engineering and more. The faculties are: Administration and Social Sciences; Architecture; Automotive and Construction Machinery Engineering; Chemical and Process Engineering; Chemistry; Civil Engineering; Electrical Engineering; Electronics and Information Technology; Environmental Engineering; Geodesy and Cartography; Mathematics and Information Science; Management; Materials Science and Engineering; Mechatronics; Production Engineering; Physics; Power and Aeronautical Engineering; Transport; Civil Engineering, Mechanics and Petrochemistry; College of Economics and Social Sciences; and an International Business School.

Other units of WUT Warsaw University of Technology include: Centre for Advanced Studies; Research Centre for Energy & Environmental Engineering; Research Centre for Functional Materials; Centre for Distance Learning; Foreign Language Centre; Centre for Physical Education & Sports; Centre for International Co-operation.

Scientific research is conducted across all faculties and at one college. In addition, it is realised in a number of academic research centres: Academic Research Centre for Functional Materials; Academic Research Centre for Power Engineering and Environment Protection; Academic Research Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems; Academic Research Centre for Aerospace Engineering; Academic Research Centre for Defence and Security; Centre for Advanced Materials and Technologies CEZAMAT; and Centre for Preclinical Research and Technology CePT.


The case study HEIs operate in differing regional economic circumstances. Three of the case study HEIs are in Mazowieckie region (Warsaw School of Economics, Warsaw University of Technology and Kozminski University). The region is located in central eastern Poland and includes the Polish capital, Warsaw. Mazowieckie is the largest region, both in terms of area and population, and is the most economically developed region in Poland.

Three of the case study HEIs are in or neighbouring Pomorskie (University of Gdansk, Gdansk University of Technology, and The State University of Applied Sciences in Elblag). Pomorskie is located in the north of Poland, at the Baltic Sea and Gdansk Bay. The largest city in the region is Gdansk, which combined with Gdynia and Sopot form one urban agglomeration, Tricity, with a population of 747 000. Elblag is a town that is approximately 60 km east of Gdansk. Although the town is located in Warmińsko-Mazurskie region, it has a strong relationship with Pomorskie. The economy in Pomorskie is strong relative to other regional economies in Poland, and the Tricity sub-region is one of the top three performing sub-regions in Poland.

One of the case study HEIs is in Lubelskie region (Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin). Lubelskie is located in the south-eastern Poland and it borders Belarus and Ukraine. The capital is Lublin, with a population of 343 600 people. Lubelskie is one of the least populated and the least urbanised regions in Poland. Furthermore, it has a declining population due to negative birth rate and out-migration. The Lubelskie region is characterised by the highest proportion of the labour force employed in agriculture. The average monthly income in the region is below the national average (agriculture excluded).


Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2015-16”.

Central Statistical Office of Poland (2016b), “Regional Statistics”, available at

Central Statistical Office of Poland (2015), “Higher Education Institutions and their Finances in 2014-15”.

European Commission (2015), “Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015”, European Commission, available at