Poland must accelerate reform of tertiary education, OECD says


19/09/2007 - In some respects, Poland has joined the ranks of countries with a modern, responsive and creative system of tertiary education. But the process of modernisation is incomplete and the tertiary system must accelerate further reforms to respond to the social and economic pressures facing Poland.

This is the main conclusion of an independent review of Tertiary Education in Poland led by the OECD. Poland is one of 24 countries taking part in a major OECD review designed to assist countries to understand how the organization, management and delivery of tertiary education can help them achieve their social and economic goals.

In some areas, Poland has followed through on new policies effectively and with confidence. Institutional autonomy is firmly embedded; the principles of selective and – to a certain extent – earmarked funding are accepted; quality assurance systems have been developed and implemented in line with international good practice; there are provisions in the legislation for external stakeholder involvement and for a bachelor’s-master’s framework in line with the Bologna process. More students in more parts of the country now have access to tertiary education.

However, the system is still very much academically driven and that means it cannot respond adequately to the diverse needs of today’s economy and society. Key challenges identified by the review team include:

  • the central government lacks sufficient tools to steer the system and institutions;
  • programme offerings and curricula are supply-dominated and links with the labour market are weak;
  • tuition fees and the student support framework are not consistent with basic equity requirements;
  • the academic profession is unmodernised, with antiquated career and qualification structures;
  • there is relatively little involvement in continuing education and training and in “third mission” activities such as external service, training and consultancy.

The review team based its findings on extensive background documentation prepared by the Polish authorities complemented by a ten-day visit to Poland in May 2006. During their visit, the team met with a wide range of educational authorities and relevant agencies and visited several institutions of tertiary education. This allowed the team to obtain a wide cross-section of perspectives from key stakeholders on the strengths, weaknesses and policy priorities regarding tertiary education in contemporary Polish society.

Members of the review team included Oliver Fulton (Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Lancaster University, United Kingdom); Paulo Santiago (OECD Directorate for Education); Charles Edquist (Professor of Innovation Management and Director of the Centre for Innovation, Research and Competence in the Learning Economy, Lund University, Sweden); Elaine El-Khawas (Professor of Education Policy, George Washington University, United States); and Elsa Hackl (Professor of Political Science University of Vienna, Austria).

The OECD will draw upon this report on Poland and reports on the other participating countries to prepare an international comparative report on tertiary education which will be released early in 2008. All these reports are available on the OECD website at

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Paulo Santiago (tel. 33 1 45 24 84 19) in the OECD’s Directorate for Education.


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