PhD Study in Poland - A Guide for 2023
Written by Chris Banyard
Poland is an important social, cultural, historical and intellectual hub within central Europe, with a university system that draws on this tradition.
A PhD in Poland awards an internationally recognised doctorate, with structured training and development woven into your programme. Fees are low and all PhD students are offered scholarship.
This page explains the opportunities for international PhD study in Poland, with information on universities, fees and scholarships.
PhD opportunities in Poland – what’s on offer for 2023?
Poland has one of the oldest higher education systems in the world, with a rich history of famous artists, musicians, writers and scientists. You’ve probably heard of Fryderyk Chopin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Nicolaus Copernicus, Joseph Conrad, Lech Wałęsa, and the Warner Bros. But did you know they are all Polish?
As a country that has achieved independence relatively recently, Poland is on the rise with a dynamic economy and society. These improvements can be seen in its education system: Polish universities have some of the largest numbers of students in Europe – and those numbers are increasing.
Studying a PhD in Poland will provide the opportunity to achieve an internationally recognised degree and you will be part of a university system on the up.
- European crossroads – Poland is at the heart of Europe, highly international and cosmopolitan, with strong links to major cities across the continent
- Tradition – The Polish university system dates back to the 14th century and includes some of Europe’s oldest institutions
- Low cost – The cost of living is low compared to other European countries and all Polish PhD courses come with a scholarship
- Modern Development – The Polish education system (and the country) is undergoing rapid growth and now has one of the biggest student populations in the continent
- Cultural hub – Poland has a rich artistic and cultural history, making it a great location for student life
PhD Study in Poland - Key Details
||Jagiellonian University (1364)
||October to September
PhD life in Poland
Want to know more about what it's like to live and study abroad in Poland during a PhD? Our detailed guide covers everything from accommodation and living costs to culture and entertainment.
There are two types of higher education institution in Poland:
- University-type (uczelnia akademicka) – these are full research universities that are able to offer doctoral (doktor) degrees
- Non-university type (uczelnia zawadowa) – these are not able to offer doctoral degrees: only Bachelors (licencjat or inżynier) and Masters (magister) degrees are available
The university-type institutions provide around 70% of Poland’s higher education. Poland has 20 standard research universities with broad expertise, all of which are public institutions. Additionally, there are specialised universities such as universities of technology, medical universities, universities of economics and many others. These institutions can be public or private.
There are several cities in Poland with one or more universities and large numbers of students:
Polish university rankings
Poland’s higher education system is in a stage of development following the country’s regaining independence. Despite this, Polish universities are included in all major global rankings tables.
Do rankings matter for PhD study?
University rankings can help you choose a PhD project or programme, provided you know what to look at. Our guide explains how to use rankings as a prospective postgraduate.
Individual universities are responsible for developing and approving their own doctoral programmes.
Currently, the awarding of degrees by all Polish higher education institutions is overseen by the Polish Accreditation Committee (PKA). Therefore, a PhD can only be awarded if the university meets strict criteria. This includes a minimum number of staff with recognised research outputs and a minimum ratio of students to supervisors. This ensures high quality research training with proven academic experts.
PhDs in Poland are organised in accordance the Bologna Process and have equivalence with most other international PhDs (including the UK). Many Polish universities also implement the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) to facilitate international exchange and qualification recognition. Check with your institution's PhD curricula to find out whether they use the ECTS.
Full-time (studia stacjonarne) doctoral programmes usually last between three to four years; they often last the full four years.
It is also possible to study a PhD part-time (studia niestacjonarne). This form of study often has an additional tuition fee associated with it. The duration and regulations of these degrees can vary depending on your prospective university and research field.
Each PhD student will have an academic supervisor. This supervisor must be an expert in their field and have satisfactory academic achievements during the last five years.
Your supervisor will monitor your progress, provide guidance, advise on aspects of research activity including publication and conference attendance, and assist in the preparation of your doctoral thesis. The thesis must be approved by your supervisor before submission.
Polish PhD programmes are often more structured than those in other countries. In addition to your research, they usually contain several compulsory training components, forming a curriculum that must be fulfilled to complete your doctoral programme. These are generalised requirements – the specific training you will need to complete will be specified by your prospective university’s Doctoral Study Regulations.
PhD students may also undertake up to 60 hours of formal teaching, usually for undergraduates at your university. Your running of these classes will be observed and assessed by your supervisor or another experienced teacher.
You will also have to attend taught classes yourself (both in a general subject and specialised discipline). These classes will be a combination of compulsory, optional, and professional training. They often include training in a modern foreign language. You must complete a minimum number of hours of this teaching and will be assessed through coursework and / or doctoral examinations.
As a doctoral student in Poland, you will also be required to submit annual progress reports on your research.
Assessment and examination
To be awarded a Polish PhD, you must:
- Pass all doctoral examinations and other requirements as part of the study curriculum
- Submit a doctoral thesis
- Defend your doctoral thesis through a public defence
The doctoral thesis defence is the equivalent of the UK viva voce examination. You will be assessed by an examination committee attended by reviewers and your doctorial supervisor.
This assessment is a public defence – it is announced with a research summary and reviews and attendance is open to everybody. You will present your research to the audience and face questions from reviewers and members of the public audience.
Tuition fees are not charged for doctoral study. Instead, all PhD students recieve a scholarship in Poland. These are calculated in relation to the salary of a professor.
The amount of scholarship recieved will depend on where you are in your studies. Before the mid-term evaluation (conducted half way through your studies) you will recieve a minimum of 37% of a professor's salary. After passing the evaluation, the scholarship will increase to 57%. Some universities will also offer extra financial insentives to high performing students.
Doctoral students are able to receive several forms of additional financial support to fund their studies. In Poland additional PhD funding is usually based upon merit and / or financial need.
There are several options available for PhD candidates, several of which are available for international students. The most common of these are bilateral agreements between the Polish government and the PhD candidate’s home country government. Examples include:
- Erasmus+ – available for EU (and non-EU partner countries) students, can include travel / maintenance grants and tuition fee waivers
- CEEPUS – an exchange programme with central European countries supporting joint PhD programmes and maintenance grants
- Fulbright Programme – offers grants and support for US students in studying in Poland (and vice versa)
- Visegrad Scholarship Programme – financial support for students from Eastern European ‘Visegrad’ nations
More information about these bilateral scholarship agreements can be found at the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA).
There are often other forms of financial support available from your prospective Polish university, including: maintenance grants, aid payments, achievement scholarships, meal grants, accommodation grants and disability grants.
Applying for a PhD in Poland
Applications to study a Polish PhD are processed by individual universities. So, you should apply directly to your prospective institution.
PhD applications at Polish universities often have associated registration and application fees. These are typically no higher than €50.
International applications should be made well ahead of the start of the academic year in October to provide enough time to process and issue travel documents and undergo immigration procedures.
All PhD candidates must have a Masters (magister) degree or equivalent. Other equivalent degrees are usually recognised in Poland provided they:
- give you access to doctoral studies in the original country (or one of the original countries in the case of a joint programme)
- are recognised by an international agreement
- were awarded by an accredited higher education institution operating within a country
Specific PhD entry requirements, conditions and application procedures can vary between institutions and subject disciplines. Information regarding these will be available from your prospective Polish university – each higher education institution must publish the admission requirements for the new October academic year in Fabruary of the same year.
Typical PhD entry requirements include the submission of university degree results, a research proposal, a personal statement, a CV, and academic references.
PhD entry requirements
The general eligibility criteria for PhD applications in Poland is similar to most other countries in the Europe. Our guide explains entry requirements for a prospective PhD student.
An increasing number of doctoral programmes in Poland are taught in English. Where this is the case, non-native English speakers and students whose first degree was not taught in English will have to submit satisfactory scores of a recognised English language test.
However, most higher education programmes in Poland are taught in Polish. To enrol for a doctoral degree taught in Polish, you may need to undertake relevant training and preparation before enrolment or as a condition of enrolment. This will likely include development of Polish language skills – details on Polish language courses and State Certificate examinations can be found at Polonicum.
Applying for a PhD
PhD applications in Poland will require additional application documents and processes. These are similar to those in the UK. Our guide explains PhD applications for a prospective PhD student.
Poland is very welcoming to international students, and immigration procedures are fairly simple and relaxed for both EU / EEA citizens and other foreign students.
Visa information for UK students in Poland
UK students will no longer be EU citizens from the 2021-22 academic year onwards. This means you may be considered as an international student when studying in Poland. You may be subject to different visa requirements and fee rates, unless otherwise stated.
EU / EEA / Swiss students do not require a visa to study in Poland; a valid passport is satisfactory. However, other international students will initially need to obtain a visa at a Polish embassy in your home country prior to travelling to Poland. This is necessary to enter Poland and has an application fee of €60. You will require:
- a completed application form
- a valid passport
- two valid passport-style photos
- medical insurance (minimum €30,000 coverage)
- sufficient financial funds (around €235 to cover your first two months)
- documents confirming purpose of stay and accommodation
This can be a short-term (C type) visa valid for 90 days, or a long-term (D type) visa valid for up to one year. Either way, to study a PhD you will be in Poland for longer than permitted by a visa alone and you also need to apply for a temporary residence permit. More information about visas can be found at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MSV).
All foreign students (including those from the EU, EEA and Switzerland) require a temporary residence permit to stay in Poland for the duration of a doctoral programme.
Applications should be made to your local Voivodeship Office (provincial government office), and the procedure costs around €90. The application documents and requirements for the residence permit are similar to that of the visa. This provides you with a Temporary Residence Card, allowing you to cross the Polish border and visit other EU countries as often as you wish. The first permit is valid for up to 15 months and can be renewed for up to three years (but no longer than the duration of your PhD programme).
EU / EEA / Swiss national students need to apply for their residence permit within the first three months of stay in Poland.
Other international students need to apply for their residence permit at least 45 days before their visa expires.
All international students studying in Poland require valid medical insurance before arriving in the country.
EU / EEA students will normally be covered as European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders.
Other international students will need to purchase their own form of medical insurance before arriving in Poland (this is also required to be eligible for a visa). Alternatively, international students can be entitled to healthcare by purchasing a voluntary health insurance agreement from the Polish National Health Fund (NFZ) for around €15 per month.
The Polish higher education system regards student employability as an important aspect of its remit. Therefore, all Polish research universities are required to monitor the career progress of their alumni to ensure they offer the best education and produce highly employable graduates.
As a holder of a Polish university doctorate, you will have benefitted from comprehensive training in academic and professional skills alongside your research.
Studying a doctoral programme in Poland will also provide experience of life and work at the heart of Europe as well as awarding an internationally recognised degree.
Can I work in Poland after my PhD?
As a graduate of a Polish university full-time doctoral programme, you do not need a work permit to work in Poland, even after your studies are completed. All you required is that you update your residence permit. The residence permit can be extended for a further 2-3 years, after which you may need to apply for a work permit or permanent residence.
You may also be required to apply for a blue card, which enables employment throughout the EU. This is valid initially for two years and can be extended for a further three years, after which point you may need to apply for permanent residence.
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