Summary of the key facts
Doctoral School vs Doctoral studies – what is the difference?
Introduced in 2018, the new law (The Act of July 20, 2018 – Law on Higher Education and Science, available here*) was followed by significant changes in how doctoral training is organized in Poland. Doctoral studies launched before 2019/2020 shall be finalized no later than December 31, 2023. Consequently, today, in 2021, we are having two models of doctoral training in Poland simultaneously. There are several differences between the models, and below, you can find the main points that summarize the distinction. A PhD degree can be granted by a higher education institution like a university or an academy, an institute of the Polish Academy of Science, or a research centre including international research entities which have obtained a category A+, A, or B+ in the respective discipline in which the PhD degree is granted**.
**In short, research and higher education institutions are ranked categories A+ to C (from the highest to lowest) by the responsible minister according to the quality of their offer.
Doctoral schools provide comprehensive and full-time training for young aspiring researchers. The length of the training should not exceed eight semesters, which is four years, unless in situations specified in the specific doctoral school regulations that can include a maternal/paternal leave, academic leave, sick leave or a scientific internship abroad. The decision about the extension of the period of studies is usually made individually by the rector of the higher education institution. Notably, there are no fees for pursuing education at a doctoral school. On the contrary, every student is eligible for a monthly stipend (more details in section “Financing your research”).
Doctoral schools are divided by disciplines, i.e. Doctoral School of Social Sciences, Doctoral School of Humanities, Doctoral Schools of Exact and Natural Sciences, and an Interdisciplinary Doctoral School. Each of the schools provides separate training according to specific research fields, like Mathematics and Computer Sciences, Literary Studies, or Political Science and Public Administration, among others. For a complete list of research areas, refer to the website of your selected doctoral school. There are 141 doctoral schools in Poland in 2021. All of them can be found in the regularly updated exhaustive directory of the schools here*.
Each program runs on a curriculum developed by the doctoral school and offers classes ranging from essential research tools to seminars specific only to your field of study. What is more, every candidate is obliged to acquire teaching skills by participating in didactic workshops and compulsory 30 to 180 teaching hours (max. 60 per year of your class or teaching assistance).
There is a requirement of an Individual Research Plan, which should include, in particular, a timetable for the preparation of the doctoral dissertation. It should be developed closely with the supervisor(s) and submitted within the first twelve months after commencing the doctoral school. The implementation of the plan is subject to mid-term evaluation after the second year of your education. The progress made by the PhD candidate is assessed by a committee of three, including at least one person with a PhD degree or higher in a discipline in which a doctoral dissertation is being prepared. The committee cannot include your supervisor. The evaluation involves a written report and an interview and concludes with a pass or fail.
Currently, there is no distinction between full- and part-time studies. Doctoral schools are full time only.
Doctoral studies are in the process of termination. PhD candidates currently enrolled in doctoral studies should defend their theses no later than December 31, 2023. The period of doctoral studies would be between two and four years, and the education has been free of charge. Participants of doctoral studies do not receive a basic monthly stipend. Still, they are eligible for a scholarship based on merit or personal financial situation (more in that in the Financing your research section). There are no obstacles for a current doctoral student to recruit to the selected doctoral school.
More information for PhD students:
The new legislation regulating the area of higher education and science fundamentally changed the education of doctoral students. Currently, PhD candidates obtain their education at a doctoral school. A doctoral school is an organised form of education in at least two disciplines. Doctoral education is free of charge. It is based on a curriculum and an individual research plan and lasts from six to eight semesters.
The main legal act regulating the education pf PhD candidates in doctoral schools is the Act of 20 July 2018 on Higher Education and Science (Link)
Crucial are also the rules adopted by specific universities. Under Article 205 of the Act of 20 July 2018 on Higher Education and Science, the rules of a doctoral school determine the form of education to the extent not specified by the Act, and in particular:
1) the manner of appointing and changing the dissertation supervisor, dissertation supervisors or assistant dissertation supervisor;
2) the manner of documenting the education process;
3) the manner of carrying out a mid-term assessment;
4) the requirements for postponing the deadline for submitting the doctoral dissertation.
The rules are available on the universities’ websites.
The Polish Representation of Doctoral Candidates is a representative institution in the higher education sector. It acts on behalf of all doctoral students in the Republic of Poland. It is composed of delegates from doctoral students’ representation bodies at specific universities. It is authorised to give its opinion and to submit proposals in matters concerning all doctoral students, including to give opinions on draft normative acts that concern them.
Based on its statutory activities, it is entitled in particular to:
· represent and promote the doctoral student body as well as its educational, social, economic and cultural needs,
· give its opinion and submit proposals in matters concerning the doctoral student body, including to give opinion on draft normative acts that concern them,
· protect the rights and interests of doctoral students in Poland as well as Polish doctoral students abroad,
· work towards increasing the quality of doctoral students’ education,
· support and promote the activity of doctoral students’ representation bodies,
· foster and promote among doctoral students attitudes involving active contribution to the development of civil society,
· identify and eliminate barriers in academic, cultural and sport-related development of doctoral students,
· raise the level of knowledge, skills and social competencies among doctoral students by means of information, academic and cultural activity with regard to higher education and science, education, and physical culture,
· foster doctoral students’ mobility,
· carry out activities aiming to popularise science.
The Polish Representation of Doctoral Candidates involves the activity of the Doctoral Students’ Ombudsman. This institution protects the rights of doctoral students, examines notifications concerning violations of doctoral students’ rights and intervenes in the event such violations are ascertained. Among others, the Ombudsman takes up mediations and investigative measures in individual matters, monitors and fosters the observance of doctoral students’ rights, writes and publishes reports and recommendations concerning issues with observing doctoral students’ rights, and organises information campaigns. It is worth noting that the legal assistance of the Doctoral Students’ Ombudsman is free of charge.
Currently, the position of the Doctoral Students’ Ombudsman is held by Wojciech Kiełbasiński.
Yes! A person who would like to receive a PhD degree in an extraordinary mode (so outside of the usual doctoral school or doctoral studies curriculum) is obliged to pay a relevant fee for conducting proceedings in this matter. However, the amount of the fee cannot exceed the costs of the proceedings, including, in particular, the costs of the supervisors’ and reviews’ salaries. Academic teachers or scientific employees have their costs borne by the university, an institute of the Polish Academy of Science, or an international research centre or a consortium. In addition, in justified cases, a responsible head of an institution (like the rector at universities) may approve a partial or complete fee waiver.
A PhD in a Polish higher education institution aims to train essential skills and aptitude to students seeking to conduct high-profile research to further their academic skills. Every higher education institution is obliged to provide a diverse and exhaustive curriculum to all international students. Working languages in Polish institutions are Polish and English, with an increasingly diverse offer in English. Each student must select a supervisor from the list of professors provided in
a university and establish informal contact prior to commencing the application process. The standard duration of a PhD is four years. In the first two years, doctoral students are expected to complete their scientific seminar courses. In the remaining two years, students are advised to focus mainly on writing the doctoral dissertation. The PhD is deemed to be complete only pursuant to a successful ‘defense’ of the dissertation. During the course of study, doctoral students gain valuable experience in planning, implementing and applying for funds for research grants under the supervision of experienced researchers. Applicants to a PhD programme in English in a Polish University must hold a master’s degree or equivalent and must have documents proficiency in the English language. In general, all universities in Poland pay great attention to your prior academic background, the relevance of the proposed research proposal and the fitness of the research proposal for the overall research activity of the university. Doctoral schools are free of charge for every student irrespective of their country of origin, and every student receives the applicable stipend (more under Financing your research).
Potential PhD candidates are obliged to find research supervisors with relevant expertise who are willing to support and guide them in their research study within a chosen discipline/area of interest. You can select your primary supervisor only from the lists of the academic staff approved by the faculties. And, another supporting/auxiliary supervisor can cooperate from a different institution of your choice in Poland or abroad. A PhD candidate is educated at the university under the scientific supervision of the supervisor or supervisors. The doctoral school director appoints the supervisor within three months of starting education by the doctoral candidate. As per legal regulations, the supervisor must establish together with the PhD candidate a research plan within 12 months of commencing education, introduces the doctoral student to the subject of the dissertation and appropriate research methods and techniques (more on the Individual Research Plan in the general “Doctoral Schools” section).
Once you have established a connection, start working on your application according to the requirements of your selected institution. All necessary information should be available in designated sections of the respective website, and each institution is expected to publish the applicable rules and regulations for each recruitment process thereof. So far, calls for applications have been announced between March and May, and deadlines are usually by the end of June.
The majority of higher education institutions manage their applications by an online platform where applicants are expected to submit all their documents, required essays, and a confirmation of the (relatively reasonable) handling fee in the platform before the effective deadline.
Usually, doctoral schools expect their candidates to cooperate with their potential supervisor already at the stage of preparing their application. Applicants should submit a short (on average 2000 words) research project proposal in which they summarize their research questions, the significance of their study, tentative research plan with methodology and the most important bibliography positions. It is advisable to start working on your application at least a few months before the deadline to polish the application and avoid unnecessary tension.
⇒ in doctoral schools
PhD candidates (only those without a PhD degree) receive a monthly stipend for the duration of their studies which is four years, excluding necessary breaks in education (i.e. maternal/paternal leave, health issues or an internship abroad, among others). The amount of the scholarship depends on the minimum monthly remuneration of the professor at a public university in Poland. In practice, it means 37% of the remuneration before the mid-term evaluation and 57% after the positive assessment. The Doctoral School of Social Sciences of the University of Warsaw awards its students with PLN 2371,70 before the mid-term evaluation and 3653,70 after the mid-term evaluation. The supplement for persons with disabilities amounts to PLN 711,51. The mandatory contributions (social security services fee and health insurance) are deducted from the scholarship. The scholarship is reduced by approximately 11%.
It is possible to receive funding, grants, or financial support from other institutions, including the university’s additional financial tools, local and national governmental scholarships, or merit-based ministerial scholarships for outstanding achievements. Do not forget about grants made available by professional associations in your own respective field.
⇒ during doctoral studies
Participants of doctoral studies are also eligible to receive financial support from their university. The doctoral scholarship for the first year of doctoral studies can be awarded to the doctoral student who achieved excellent enrolment proceedings. The doctoral scholarship for the second and subsequent years of doctoral studies can be awarded to the doctoral student, who implements the study curriculum on a timely basis and shows commitment to the university’s affairs. The doctoral scholarship is usually awarded for 12 months, and applications can be resubmitted every year. Moreover, doctoral students can be granted social, financial assistance based on their current financial situation or other determinants alike.
Getting familiar with relevant deadlines is a good practice for a PhD candidate. The most valuable links where you can read and apply for research grants are:
- The National Science Centre: https://ncn.gov.pl/ where PhD candidates (before being granted the degree) are eligible for grants in the frameworks of PRELUDIUM, OPUS, and microgrants MINIATURA
- Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange: https://nawa.gov.pl/en/
- The National Centre for Research and Development: https://www.gov.pl/web/ncbr-en
- The Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission:
- Individual Fellowships by the European Commission Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: https://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/actions/individual-fellowships_en
- Euraxess: https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/
- And a Polish platform: https://edoktorant.pl/granty/
The Ministry of Science and Higher Education has introduced a particular track for deployment or implementation of doctorates (in Polish: Doktorat Wdrożeniowy). The program consists of two modules:
Module I – under which the preparation of doctoral dissertations by candidates conducting scientific research is supported by institutions or private companies that may benefit from the project results and do not include the thematic scope of module II below.
Module II – Artificial Intelligence – supports research pertaining to artificial intelligence in technological or social processes, including cybersecurity.
Significant advantages of such a scheme are double remuneration, which includes a scholarship from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and a salary for research carried out in a given company and greater impact of one’s research.
Naturally, a PhD title can be earned by a person with a Master’s degree or an equivalent, who has been qualified by the Polish Qualification Framework and knows a foreign language on level B2 at least. Another requirement is a relevant publications record. By the end of their study period, PhD candidates are expected to have produced at least one scientific article in a journal approved by the ministerial list*, and a monograph or a chapter in a monograph published by a publisher also included in a ministry-attested list**. Achievements may consist of a piece of art of significant importance.
*current list: https://www.gov.pl/web/edukacja-i-nauka/nowy-rozszerzony-wykaz-czasopism-naukowych-i-recenzowanych-materialow-z-konferencji-miedzynarodowych (the second attachment)
**current list: http://www.bip.nauka.gov.pl/inne2/komunikat-ministra-nauki-i-szkolnictwa-wyzszego-z-dnia-29-wrzesnia-2020-r-w-sprawie-wykazu-wydawnictw-publikujacych-recenzowane-monografie-naukowe.html (the attachment)
A doctoral dissertation contains general theoretical knowledge represented by the candidate in a selected discipline or disciplines. It constitutes proof that the candidate can independently conduct scientific research or artistic projects. A dissertation presents an original idea and a solution to the scientific problem or original artistic achievements. It can be in the form of a written work, including a scientific monograph, a collection of published and related scientific articles, a design or a project, technological implementation or a piece of art, and an independent part of a collective work. Irrespective of its form, the final product should be supplemented by a summary in English or a Polish summary if the projects have been prepared in a foreign language. If the dissertation is not a written piece of work, the necessary description is both in Polish and English.
The assessment of the submitted work is prepared by a scientific committee of three members who are not employed in the entity where the PhD candidate has studied or worked. The committee offers their opinions within two months after they receive the work.
Notably, the final oral exam – the ‘defense’ – can be conducted in person or online in an interactive formula.
A person who was granted a PhD title receives a diploma and a copy of this diploma. The granting institution can prepare the document in English, French, Spanish, German, Russian or Latin upon request. Diplomas and their duplicates and write-offs are authenticated at the request of the head of NAWA in the case of universities, the director of the Polish Academy of Science in case of its institutes or the relevant minister in case of other research institutions. The authentication is processed for a fee.