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Poland

11 September 2018

Poland: education reform focuses on dual studies and the development of practical skills

The Polish government has reached an agreement with parliament on its Law on Higher Education and Science. This comprehensive reform of higher education will result in big changes in the functioning of universities, their financing, and scientific career pathways. In the weeks before its approval in parliament, several protests took place with trade union involvement.

In June 2018, the parliament (Sejm) approved the Law on Higher Education and Science (Law 2.0), including amendments and introductory provisions. The law, also referred to as the Constitution for Science, was signed by the presidency in early August 2018. This reform of higher education will result in big changes in the functioning of universities, their financing, and scientific careers. The draft Law was initially presented in September 2017 and following this, the education system has been undergoing substantial restructuring to be finalised in the 2022/23 school year.

The reform of the higher education system provides for changes in the system of organisation, functioning and financing of the education institutions. Part of the reform is the introduction of a new model of education that should better match the competencies of students and doctoral students to the needs of the labour market. The law provides for two educational paths in fields with a practical profile, i.e. compulsory six-month apprenticeship or education in the form of dual studies. Diversification of the mission of vocational and academic higher education institutions will be fostered by different subsidy distribution systems and conditions for conducting education. Vocational higher education institutions will have to focus on didactic activities aimed at providing local and regional labour markets with specialists in areas with skills and labour shortages.

The law enters into force on 1 October 2018 and replaces four existing ones: the Law on Higher Education, the Law on the Principles of Financing Science, the Law on Academic Degrees and Title, as well as the Law on Student Loans. Before the Law 2.0 was accepted several protests were organised against some of its provisions. The protests were organised by the Academic Protest Committee, a civil society and grassroots movement. Occupational strikes and protest actions took place at the University of Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, the University of Gdańsk, the University of Wrocław and the AGH. Also trade union NSZZ Solidarność opposed the bill at several universities. Earlier in 2018. protesters called for a better education policy, and asked for the dismissal of the education minister, because of the implementation in September 2017 of ‘an ill-conceived, poorly prepared, expensive education reform’.

In its national reform program, the government announced several other reforms of the vocational training and education system, to be implemented in the second half of 2018. In the area of vocational training, the planned reform provides for the introduction of programs, with organisational and legal changes. The organisational changes will include a new model of cooperation between sectoral and technical education and the economy, in which the priority will be to develop practical skills in real-life working conditions. According to the government a series of measures has been implemented since 2016 in the field of VET. The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training listed the main elements of the reform that the Polish education system has been undergoing in an updated Spotlight Report.

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