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Poland, Academic Career Structure




The academic structure of Poland resembles to the transitional Central Eastern European model characteristic of many countries of the former Soviet block. Starting from the 1990s the government began to introduce the principles of the Bologna Process and to decentralise the system of public higher education giving universities more autonomy in setting their own principles for recruiting academic staff, including the number of faculty members.

At the same time, public authorities remain responsible for fixing the minimum amount of teaching hours with respect to specific positions although universities are free to increase salaries by drawing on their own resources. The law fixes also the criteria for career advancement.

Polish Acreditation Committee (Polska Komisja Akredytacyjna), established in 2011, is responsible for the quality of higher education In Poland. The Committee's main task is to evaluate the degree courses counducted in all public and private universities.

The 1990 reform liberalised the higher education system. An astonishing number of non-state higher education institutions have been established. Another reform, which took place in 2011, inrtroduced further radical changes in the Polish system of higher education.

In terms of gender, Polish academia is considered 'feminized' in comparison to the other EU countries. This has been explained by the fact that since the 1990s, many highly skilled academics have taken positions in private companies. Women, considered as a secondary bread winner, have been more able to purse academic career and invest their life in science and academia. For futher information on this topic check here.  


Higher Education in Poland

The higher education system comprises both state and non-state institutions. The latter are created on the basis of the 1990 Higher Education Act. Before that, there were only state higher education institutions (with the exception of the Catholic University of Lublin).

Most higher education institutions are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Some, however, are under the control of other competent Ministries.

Apart from the universities, scholars can develop an academic career in the scientific and research-development units. Among them there are scientific units of Polish Academy of Science.

Recently, there has been an effort to establish a ranking list of Polish universities in natural science and humanities, similar to the German Exzellenz Initiative.


Career Curriculum 

Research and didactic positions:

1. Asystent (teaching assistant, without a PhD degree)
2. Adiunkt (assistant professort, with a PhD degree)
3. Profesor nadzwyczajny (associate professor)
4. Profesor zwyczajny (professor)

Didactic positions:
1. Instructor
2. Lecturer
3. Senior Lecturer (With PhD degree)

The average age for obtaining the PhD degree in Poland is 33. The period between the PhD and habilitation lasts, on average, 13 years. Habilitation, on average, is awarded at the age of 46 for female researchers and two years earlier for male researchers (2011). One can expect that this is going to change in the future, since now there are strict time contraints for both PhD (8 years) and habilitation (8 years).

The number of doctoral students in Poland increased dramatically in the 1990s. The problem however is that people often write the PhD without any support and teaching obligations during the doctoral studies are usually not paid.


Requirements for Positions

In accordance with the Act on Academic Degrees and the Title as well as the Degrees and the Title in the arts of 14 March 2003, there are two academic degrees and one academic title of Professor awarded in Poland. The academic degrees in a given discipline of science or arts are the following:

Doktor/ PhD (doctoral degree)
Doktor habilitowany/ Habilitation (post-doctoral degree often translated as doctor habilitatus or habilitated doctor).


The academic degree of doctor is normally obtained through postgraduate studies, lasting usually 3-4 years. In exceptional cases, postgraduates combine their professional work with academic research and elaboration of a dissertation. All candidates must hold the professional title of Master or equivalent. To be awarded the degree of doctor. The candidate must submit and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation assessed positively by two supervisors, pass doctorate examinations and have at least one publication in a peer-reviewed journal (Polish or international). The degree of doctor can be conferred either by higher education institutions or by research institutes entitled to award it.

Habilitatus doctor

The degree of doktor habilitowany is awarded to candidates who already hold the degree of doctor. It can be obtained either by academic staff of higher education institutions and research units, or (more rarely) by persons who combine their research work with other professional activities. To be awarded the academic degree of doktor habilitowany the candidate must: have remarkable scientific or artistic achievements; submit a habilitation dissertation which contributes to the development of a given scientific discipline; receive a favourable assessment of his/her dissertation from three supervisors; pass a habilitation examination and deliver a favourably assessed habilitation lecture.

The habilitation thesis should be also published as a whole or in its fundamental part. The dissertation may also constitute single-thematic series of publications. The dissertation may also have a form of original project, constructional, technological or artistic achievement, provided that it contributes significantly to the development of a specified scientific or artistic discipline. The candidate also has to have a record of publications in peer-reviewed journals.


The title of Professor is conferred by the President of the Republic of Poland upon a motion of the Central Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles. Universities can also grant their professorships.
This title may be awarded to a person who: has obtained a degree of habilitated doctor; has scientific or artistic achievements, which fall far beyond the requirements for the candidates applying for the degree of habilitated doctor; has an excellent didactic record, among other things, within the scope of training of academic or artistic staff.

The Central Commission may, in exceptional cases, upon a motion of the competent organizational unit entitled to confer the degree of habilitated doctor, grant its permission to start a proceeding leading to the award of the title of Professor to a person, who has obtained a degree of doctor and has remarkable scientific and artistic achievements.

The entry level for an academic career is usually the position of Assistant. To become an assistant, one needs to pass a competition. Although now (except for some disciplines) the interest for working at academia is not very high; mainly because of the low salary levels. On the other hand, there is a very limited number of new positions available in the vast majority of disciplines. The competitions are local and organised by the university that offers a vacancy. After obtaining PhD one is promoted or takes part in a competition for Adjunct post.


Research Career

In Poland there is a three-module organizational structure of science, which means that research activities are conducted by institutions belonging to one of the three bodies:

  • Polish Academy of Science
  • Higher Education Institutions
  • Research & Development Institutes

When employed in higher education institution one has to combine teaching and research activities, while working in research units there are no teaching duties.


Barriers to Career Advancement

The main barrier for career advancement in Polish academia is the low salary levels. Consequently academics have additional employments in the private sector, usually at private universities where they are better paid. The usual situation of employment is full time employment in a public higher education institution plus part time employment in the private sector.

On the other hand it is unusual to leave the public institution for working in the private institutions alone. The advantage of existing two parallel sectors is felt especially by senior academics because of high demand from private institutions. Academics from the public sectors are rectors, vice-rectors, deans etc. in the private sectors.

Polish academia is a relatively closed system. There is a very limited number of new positions available in the vast majority of disciplines. There is hardly any internal mobility, one usually retires from the university where the career started out.

One also has to be prepared for bureaucracy since, for example, after publishing one’s Habilitation it takes about one year to complete the whole procedure.


Job Security

Until now, security in Polish academia has been very high. Once appointed at the higher public institution, the faculty has had full-time employment more or less guaranteed. It has been very rare that a contract was not extended even if the maximum period for obtaining higher degree was not satisfied.

This is changed now and professors usually have temporary contracts for 5 years. There is also a specified maximum period to obtain the degree - 8 years for doctoral degree and 8 years for habilitation. 


Contracts and Duties

Teaching duty is expected only in academic position in the universities not in research-development units. The minimum teaching time depends on the position, 240 hours per year for assistants and adjuncts then for professors a bit less. Most academic staff have additional work at private universities (better paid). If the position is solely didactic (e.g. instructor, lecturer, senior lecturer) the load of minimum teaching hours is larger; between 240 and 540 per year.

The minimum teaching time comprises of only scheduled courses, other teaching activities such as organisation, preparation of courses and exams etc. are not included in the minima and are not extra paid but has to be fulfilled.

In addition to teaching most of teaching staff (except instructors and lecturers) are expected to persuade their research and produce academic articles, monographs, books etc.

The university gets points for each article and research work and according to the total sum of  these points is ranked and then the State’s subsidies for research activity depends on the ranking. When one enters the academic career whether as an Assistant or Adjunct it is usually on a 1 year temporary contract. Then the contract is renewed either to a permanent or now, more common, for 5-9 years. The maximum time to obtain doctoral degree is 8 years, habilitation 9 years. If the degree is not obtained during this period the authorities are obliged to fire the employee.


Sabbatical Opportunities

There are no sabatical opportunities for assistants. Adjuncts are entitled to 6 months for preparation of the Habilitation thesis. After 7 years of teaching one is entitled to have 1 year off without teaching duties.


Gross Salaries

The final salary is established by the Rector of each institution but according to the guidance of ministry providing basic salary brackets for each academic position.

Gross monthly salary at the public universities is calculated as the percentage of a base amount stated in the official Budget Act and changeable each year. For 2006/2007 the base amount was 1795.80 PLN. (1 Euro = 3.9 PLN).

Gross monthly salary levels from 2006/2007.


Assistant, Instructor, Lecturer


586,25 €/month
(2345.31 PLN)



1.127,50 €/month
(4690.63 PLN)



1.758,75 €/month
(7035.94 PLN)

Source: Based on Ustawa Prawo o szkolnictwie wyzszym (Dz. U. z dnia 30 sierpnia 2005 r.) and Ustawa Budzetowa na rok 2007 (Dz. U. z dnia 1 lutego 2007 r).

Note : These salaries are gross and include insurance, pension fund etc. for about 40%. Academic teachers in the public sector are financed by the central budget and have some specific working conditions. They are guaranteed raises in salaries each year (usually 1% above the expected level of inflation), they have prolonged holidays as compared to other professions, one additional salary each year and some support for summer holidays.

The above does not apply to the private universities. In the private sector, working conditions are different and are terms and conditions of a given institution with the exception of some nominal state requirements.

Academic community is entitled to pay lower income taxes on their salaries (treated as a 'creative' profession).

PhD candidates can apply for scholarship awarded maximum for 2 years of around 700 PLN (180 €) but this amount is also subject to taxes.

In general, salaries paid at Polish universities are uncompetitive, both from the national and international perspective. According to the aggregate statistics from Eurostat, the mean monthly earnings in Poland in 2010 for services in the total economy were 812 € but only 786 € for the education sector, while the average in the EU-27 for the education sector was 2441 €. 


Number of Existing Positions

The number of existing positions (in full-time equivalents) in higher institutions is over 100,000 as academic teachers plus research positions in scientific and research-development units.

Employment in Higher Education Institutions 2006-2007

--WomenPublic UniversitiesTotal

















Source: Central Statistical Office, Concise Statistical Yearbook Of Poland 2007 and 'Higher Schools in Academic Year of 2006/2007', Central Statistical Office, Warsaw 2007.


Internal Recruitment

There are no exact figures for the internal recruitment in universities. Generally it is reported that mobility between universities in Poland and international mobility is very low. It is usual that one develops his career at the same institution from the very beginning until retirement.

Then there is so-called internal mobility connected with parallel positions held in several institutions, especially public university where one has full time position and private ones with part time employment. In this sense scholars are very mobile and academics are travelling to other institutions.

Very few senior academics leave the country to begin international careers except for short-term contracts or fellowship lasting up to one year. On the other hand, international mobility at the undergraduate level is very high. At the higher lavel, having an international profile could be even problematic, due to the low level of mobility in Polish academia in general.


Accessibility for Non-Nationals

In general foreigners coming to Poland in order to conduct research in Polish research institutions (the Polish Academy of Sciences, higher education sector or Research and Development Institutes) may perform their work without a work permit, regardless of their nationality. In other types of organizations (including enterprises) a work permit is obligatory.

However, if you are not a citizen of one of the EU Member States, you should remember that even being exempt from the work permit requirement you still need to possess a visa for employment purposes in order to legally enter and work in Poland.

Although Polish academia is generally open for foreign applicants there is very little interest for permanent contracts from foreigners. The situation is somewhat better at private universities, where foreigners have better chances mainly due to the fact that private universities offer courses in English. For information on opportunities for foreigners check here and here.


National Universities

For full list of Polish Universities and Higher Education Institutions, both public and non-state, see the webpage of Ministry of Science and Higher Education here. For the ranking of Polish universities, check here.


Research Institutions

In 2005, 1.097 research units were registrered in Poland. For a full list, see the webpage of Ministry of Science and Higher Education here.


Info for History

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Info for Economics

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Info for Law

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Info for Social and Political Science

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Postdoctoral Information

After obtaining a PhD, doctoral students have a very slim chance of being employed in the public academic sector. A survey shows that only 20 % of current doctoral students indicate are interesting in pursuing an academic career and very few are interested in academic teaching.


Websites for Job Postings

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.



  • Klepek, K., Jarkiewicz, J. and Szóstek, A (2011). Qualitative Analysis of Post-doctoral Careers of Polish Researchers with Habilitation Degree. Institute for Information Processing
  • Kaszubowski, M. and Wolszczak-Derlacz, J. (2014). Salaries and Reservation Wage Gender Gaps in Polish Academia. GUT Faculty of Management and Economics, Working Paper No.1/2014 (19)
  • Bureau for Academic Recognition and International Exchange
  • Concise Statistical Yearbook Of Poland 2007, Central Statistical Office
  • Dabrowa-Szefler, M., Jablecka-Pryslopska, J. (2007), 'OECD Thematic Review of Tertiary Education: Country Background Report for Poland'
  • 'Higher Schools in Academic Year of 2006/2007', Central Statistical Office, Warsaw 2007
  • Jablecka, J. (2007), 'Poland', in P. J. Wells, J. Sadlak and L. Vlasceanu (eds.), The Rising Role and Relevance of Private Higher Education in Europe, UNESCO-CEPES, pp. 257-311.
  • Jung –Miklaszewska J., (2003), 'The System Of Education in the Republic of Poland', Warsaw
  • Kwiek M. (2004), 'The Academic Workplace Country Report Poland' in Enders J., The International Attractiveness of the Academic Workplace in Europe ed. by J. Enders and E. de Weert, Frankfurt/Main: GEW, 2004, pp. 332-349
  • Kwiek M. (2003), 'Academe in Transition: Transformations in the Polish Academic Profession', Higher Education , Vol. 45, No. 4. pp. 455-476
  • 'Poland Step-by-Step, Guide for Foreign Researchers', Poland, Polish Network of Mobility Centres, 2006
  • Researcher’s Mobility Portal Euraxess Poland
  • Szkoly Wyzsze i ich Finanse w 2006r., Glówny Urzad Statystyczny, Warszawa 2007

Special thanks to:

Magdalena Malecka, Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow 2013/2014, EUI

Joanna Wolszczak Derlacz, Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow 2007/2008, EUI 

Page last updated on 28 August 2018

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