Poland:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

From Eurydice

Jump to: navigation, search

Overview Poland

Contents

Poland:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Poland:Historical Development

Poland:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Poland:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Poland:Political and Economic Situation

Poland:Organisation and Governance

Poland:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Poland:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Poland:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Poland:Organisation of Private Education

Poland:National Qualifications Framework

Poland:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Poland:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Poland:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Poland:Funding in Education

Poland:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Poland:Higher Education Funding

Poland:Adult Education and Training Funding

Poland:Early Childhood Education and Care

Poland:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Poland:Assessment in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Poland:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

Poland:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

Poland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Poland:Primary Education

Poland:Organisation of Primary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Poland:Assessment in Primary Education

Poland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Poland:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Poland:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Poland:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Higher Education

Poland:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Poland:First Cycle Programmes

Poland:Bachelor

Poland:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Poland:Second Cycle Programmes

Poland:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Poland:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Poland:Adult Education and Training

Poland:Distribution of Responsibilities

Poland:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Poland:Main Providers

Poland:Main Types of Provision

Poland:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Poland:Teachers and Education Staff

Poland:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Poland:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Poland:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Poland:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Management and Other Education Staff

Poland:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Poland:Management Staff for Higher Education

Poland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Poland:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Quality Assurance

Poland:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Poland:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Educational Support and Guidance

Poland:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Poland:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Poland:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Poland:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Poland:Mobility and Internationalisation

Poland:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Mobility in Higher Education

Poland:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Poland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Poland:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Poland:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Poland:National Reforms in School Education

Poland:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Poland:National Reforms in Higher Education

Poland:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Poland:European Perspective

Poland:Legislation

Poland:Institutions

Poland:Glossary

Quality of education and quality assurance have been among the key issues tackled recently in both public debates and draft strategies for the development of higher education (see the Introductory page to Topic 11 ‘Quality Assurance’). However, there is no single official document defining overall objectives of the quality assurance system. The objectives behind different quality assurance arrangements are included in mission statements and tasks of the institutions directly responsible for external quality assurance.

The Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC) (Polska Komisja Akredytacyjna) (before 1 October 2012, the State Accreditation Committee, Państwowa Komisja Akredytacyjna) performs both supervisory and advisory roles. On the one hand, as the only accreditation body operating on the basis of the national legislation which carries out compulsory programme evaluations in all fields of study at all higher education institutions (HEIs), PAC is responsible for ensuring that HEIs comply with various requirements laid down in the national legislation. On the other hand, pursuant to recent amendments to the Law on Higher Education (in force since 1 October 2012) and its own mission statement, PAC works for quality enhancement in higher education, with its programme evaluations extending beyond ‘yes/no’ accreditation. The National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery (NACSN&M) (Krajowa Rada Akredytacyjna Szkół Pielęgniarek i Położnych) (before 1 January 2012, the National Accreditation Council for Medical Education, Krajowa Rada Akredytacyjna Szkolnictwa Medycznego), which also operates on the basis of the national legislation, focuses primarily on the supervisory function related to the mandatory accreditation of only two medical fields of study, nursing and midwifery.

An advisory role, supporting HEIs in the development of quality culture and quality improvement, is also performed by so-called peer accreditation commissions which were established independently by the academic community. Currently, they operate under the auspices of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (CRASP) (Konferencja Rektorów Akademickich Szkół Polskich) (representing university-type HEIs), and their activities cover individual types of HEIs or groups of fields of study. Peer accreditation commissions grant accreditations, but formally they do not perform a supervisory function as they do not operate on the basis of the national legislation. They carry out quality evaluations on the basis of applications submitted voluntarily by HEIs, and their accreditation decisions do not entail any legal consequences.

A major change in the quality assurance system at the beginning of the previous decade was the establishment of the State Accreditation Committee (SAC) in January 2002 on the basis of the Higher Education Act amended in 2001 and the Act on Schools of Higher Vocational Education. Until then, some responsibilities related to quality (incl. opinions given on applications for a permit to establish a new HEI or programme) had been carried out by the General Council for Higher Education (GCHE) (an elected representative body in higher education, currently the General Council for Science and Higher Education, Rada Główna Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego). Moreover, there existed the above-mentioned peer accreditation commissions and the State Accreditation Commission for Higher Vocational Education (SACHVE), the latter established in 1997 on the basis of the relevant legislation. The activities of the SACHVE covered only higher vocational education schools offering exclusively Bachelor's degree (first-cycle) programmes. SAC took over accreditation tasks of the SACHVE and the responsibilities of the GCHE as regards giving opinions on applications for permits to establish new institutions and programmes, and its remit covered the higher education sector as a whole. This made it possible to put in place uniform and mandatory arrangements in the area of external quality assurance for all types of HEIs and all fields of study.

Quality assurance arrangements have been considerably strengthened in the recent years by the amendments to the Law on Higher Education (LoHE) which came into force on 1 October 2011, and detailed regulations issued on this basis. The amended provisions of LoHE place strong emphasis on internal quality assurance systems in line with the principle adopted in the European Higher Education Area that HEIs themselves are primarily responsible for the quality of education. Currently, Rectors of HEIs are responsible for supervising the implementation and further development of an internal quality assurance system; legislation defines certain compulsory elements of the internal system; and the performance of the system is a major criterion in external evaluations conducted by the Polish Accreditation Committee. Moreover, the responsibilities of PAC have been extended to include institutional evaluation. The new provisions also state explicitly that the responsibilities of the Conferences of Rectors include, among other things, supporting efforts related to quality assurance systems.

Furthermore, the amended LoHE links for the first time the quality of education with funding insofar as the so-called pro-quality subsidy within the State budget is used by the Minister of Science and Higher Education to award additional funding to organisational units of HEIs which have been given an outstanding quality rating by PAC as a result of a programme evaluation. The pro-quality subsidy also provides additional funding to organisational units of HEIs to support the implementation of their internal quality improvement systems and the National Qualifications Framework. In the former case, as from 2012, the Minister grants additional funding for three years to a maximum number of 25 organisational units of HEIs (e.g. 21 units in 2015) with an outstanding rating. Every unit receives an amount of 1,000,000 PLN (ca 238,000 euro according to the National Bank of Poland exchange rate in September 2015) in the first year, and the amount may be indexed in the next two years. In the latter case, funding is granted through an open competition for the implementation of a new or modified study programme and the development of a quality improvement system.

Responsible bodies

Bodies responsible for external quality assurance

In accordance with the legislation, the responsibility for external quality assurance rests with the following institutions: the Minister of Science and Higher Education, the Polish Accreditation Committee, the Minister of Health, and the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery. Moreover, there are peer accreditation commissions, established on the initiative of the academic community and currently working under the auspices of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland, which do not operate on the basis of national legislation.

Minister responsible for science and higher education

The main powers of the Minister of Science and Higher Education, who carries out his/her responsibilities in cooperation with the Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC), include:

  • granting permits for the establishment of non-public HEIs after consultation with PAC (a procedure which may be considered a type of ex-ante institutional evaluation/accreditation, though the term ‘evaluation’ or ‘accreditation’ is not used in the legislation);
  • granting HEIs authorisations to provide first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in individual fields of study after consultation with PAC (in cases extending beyond the autonomy of HEIs) (a procedure which may be considered a type of ex-ante programme accreditation);
  • withdrawing or suspending HEIs' authorisations to provide first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in individual fields of study on the basis of a negative quality rating given by PAC, and re-granting such authorisations after consultation with PAC (ex-post programme accreditation);
  • requesting PAC in justified cases to carry out a programme evaluation in a given HEI or its organisational unit which is not included in a schedule for a given year prepared independently by PAC (ex-post programme accreditation).

Polish Accreditation Committee

The Polish Accreditation Committee was established in 2002 (as the State Accreditation Committee) on the basis of amendments to the Higher Education Act and the Act on Schools of Higher Vocational Education then in force. Currently, it functions on the basis of the Act of 27 July 2005, The Law on Higher Education, which defines its responsibilities and general operational rules, and the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 3 October 2014 on the basic criteria and scope of programme evaluation and institutional evaluation. PAC is the only statutory body responsible for mandatory external evaluation in all HEIs. Its main responsibilities include:

  • conducting compulsory programme evaluations (first-, second- and long-cycle programmes) and presenting their findings to the Minister of Science and Higher Education (ex-post programme evaluation); where a negative quality rating is given by PAC, the Minister may take a decision to withdraw or suspend an authorisation of the HEI concerned to provide a given programme;
  • conducting compulsory institutional evaluations in units of HEIs which fulfil certain conditions (see section ‘Approaches and methods of quality assurance’ below) (ex-post institutional evaluation);
  • giving opinions to the Minister of Science and Higher Education on applications for permits to establish non-public HEIs (an advisory function in ex-ante institutional accreditation);
  • giving opinions to the Minister of Science and Higher Education on HEIs' applications for an authorisation to provide first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in individual fields of study (in cases extending beyond the autonomy of HEIs) or for the re-granting of an authorisation (an advisory function in ex-ante programme accreditation).

PAC also undertakes various other activities intended to improve the quality of higher education. For example, it (co-)organises ‘Quality Forum’ conferences which bring together representatives of the national authorities, the academic community and employers, and produces publications promoting good practice, e.g. ‘Selected good practice in managing the quality of education in Polish higher education institutions’

The independence of PAC was confirmed by an external review conducted in 2013 in accordance with ‘The European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area’ (ESG), developed by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). PAC is an autonomous institution for which administrative and financial services are provided by the PAC Bureau, financed from the State budget; the director of the PAC Bureau is appointed, following a competition, and dismissed by the President of PAC. Although (80 to 90) members of PAC are appointed for a 4-year term by the Minister of Science and Higher Education, candidates are proposed by various independent institutions. These include: the General Council for Science and Higher Education, the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (university-type HEIs), the Conference of Rectors of Non-University Higher Education Institutions in Poland, the Students’ Parliament of the Republic of Poland, the National Representation of Doctoral Students, senates of HEIs, and national academic associations and employers’ organisations. Members of PAC may be dismissed only at the request of its Presidium. While the responsibilities and the general operational framework for PAC, the basic criteria and scope of its evaluations are laid down in the national legislation, PAC adopts independently its operational procedures, including evaluation procedures and detailed criteria, draws up a list of experts participating in evaluations, appoints evaluation panels and takes decisions to award individual quality ratings.

PAC has been a full member of the Central and Eastern European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CEENQA) since 2002, the European Consortium for Accreditation (ECA) since 2005, the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) since 2007, and the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) since 2009. In 2009, it was included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).

Minister of Health and National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery

The Minister of Health and the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery (NACSN&M) (formerly the National Accreditation Council for Medical Education, NACME) are responsible for accreditation in two medical fields of study: nursing and midwifery (ex-ante and ex-post programme accreditation). The Ministry of Health grants programme accreditation on the basis of evaluations carried out by NACSN&M. NACME was established on the basis of the amended Act on the Nursing and Midwifery Professions of 5 July 1996 and the Regulation of the Minister of Health of 31 July 2001 on the National Accreditation Council for Medical Education and the accreditation procedure. Currently, NACSN&M operates on the basis of the new Act on the Nursing and Midwifery Professions of 15 July 2011 and the Regulation of the Minister of Health on the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery. In accordance with the legislation, the responsibilities of NACSN&M include:

  • carrying out evaluations concerning HEIs' compliance with the standards laid down in the national legislation;
  • assessing on an on-going basis HEIs' compliance with the national standards for programmes;
  • submitting to the Minister of Health proposals for granting accreditation or withdrawing accreditation in cases where a given HEI does not comply with the national standards for programmes.

Like in the case of PAC, (up to 12) members of NACSN&M are appointed by the Minister of Health for a 4-year term, with 50% of candidates proposed by schools of nursing and midwifery (HEI units offering first- and second-cycle programmes) and 50% by professional self-government bodies for nurses and midwifes, nurses' and midwives' associations and professional organisations. NACSN&M defines independently detailed evaluation criteria and takes autonomous decisions concerning the extent to which HEIs comply with the national standards for programmes. However, the Minister of Health lays down, by regulation, NACSN&M's operational rules and the procedure for evaluation which provides a basis for accreditation, and takes final accreditation decisions, though they are based on NACSN&M’s resolutions giving its positive or negative opinion on the HEI’s application for accreditation. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health provides administrative support to NACSN&M. The important role of the Minister of Health can be explained by the fact that evaluations carried out by NACSN&M focus on HEIs' compliance with the standards for programmes which are set in the national legislation.

NACSN&M is not subject to an external review, is not a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and is not registered in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).

Peer accreditation commissions

Peer accreditation commissions were established between 1993 and 2001 by the academic community and do not operate on the basis of the national legislation. There are currently the following eight commissions responsible for quality assurance in specific types of HEIs or specific fields of study: the Accreditation Commission for Academies of Physical Education, the Foundation for the Promotion and Accreditation of Economic Education, the Accreditation Commission for Higher Art Education, the Accreditation Commission for Medical Universities, the Accreditation Commission for Pedagogical Universities, the Accreditation Commission for Agricultural Universities, the Accreditation Commission for Technical Universities and the University Accreditation Commission. These commissions carry out programme evaluations on the basis of voluntary applications from HEIs. Accreditations granted on the basis of their evaluations do not entail any legal consequences. The commissions work under the umbrella of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (CRASP), which established the CRASP Accreditation Commission, involving the chairs of all peer commissions, in 2001. The CRASP commission serves as a forum for cooperation among the peer accreditation commissions, and its main task is to prepare and present opinions on the quality of education and the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework.

The peer accreditation commissions are not members of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), and are not included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).

Bodies responsible for internal quality assurance

The amended Act of 25 July 2005, The Law on Higher Education (LoHE), entrusts the Rector of an HEI with the responsibility for supervising the establishment of, and improvements in, an internal quality assurance system. Detailed internal quality assurance arrangements are laid down in HEIs’ Statutes and other internal regulations.  HEIs appoint representatives of Rectors, coordinators or other persons, committees or other bodies and / or establish units directly concerned with internal quality assurance.

Approaches and methods of quality assurance

External quality assurance

Current arrangements in external quality assurance include:

  • procedures which may be considered a type of institutional evaluation/accreditation: assessment of applications for permits to establish non-public HEIs; and institutional evaluation carried out in units of public and non-public HEIs which fulfil certain pre-conditions defined in the legislation); 
  • programme evaluation/accreditation: assessment of applications for an authorisation to provide a programme in a given field and at a given level of study (in cases extending beyond HEIs’ autonomy), and evaluation of programmes provided in public and non-public HEIs.

Institutional evaluation/accreditation

Ex-ante institutional evaluation / accreditation

The legislation currently in force does not refer to ‘institutional accreditation’, but it lays down a mandatory procedure for granting permits to establish non-public HEIs (public HEIs are established on the basis of national legislation). The responsibility for such ex-ante institutional evaluation/accreditation rests with the Minister of Science and Higher Education, supported by the Polish Accreditation Committee (PAC). Applications are submitted by legal entities or natural persons to the Minister of Science and Higher Education and subsequently forwarded to PAC which gives its opinion. Permits for the establishment of non-public HEIs are granted by the Minister for an indefinite period of time. The Minister is not required by law to take a decision which is in agreement with PAC’s opinion. However, in practice, the Minister’s decisions differ from those recommended by PAC only in exceptional cases, justified by reasons other than the quality of applications (e.g. a refusal to grant a permit in spite of PAC’s favourable opinion in view of the fact that there is no demand for graduates in the field of study concerned in a given region).

PAC normally gives its opinion on an application on the basis of documents submitted by the applicant, but its procedure provides for a site visit in justified cases. In assessing applications, it takes into account the elements discussed under ‘Ex-ante programme evaluation / accreditation’ below as HEIs to be established also apply for an authorisation to provide programmes in specific fields and at specific levels of study. The criteria are published on PAC’s website.

Ex-post institutional evaluation / accreditation

The amended Law on Higher Education (LoHE), with the relevant provisions in force as from 1 October 2011, has provided the basis for the Polish Accreditation Committee to carry out ex-post institutional evaluation. Institutional evaluation does not cover an HEI as a whole, but units of HEIs where a programme evaluation has already been conducted in the majority of fields of study in which first-, second- and/or long-cycle programmes are offered, and which were not given a negative rating as a result of a programme evaluation during the 5 years preceding an institutional evaluation; where a conditional rating was given to a programme, its justification did not refer to the design and functioning of the internal quality assurance system..As part of its institutional evaluation, PAC also assesses the quality of third-cycle (doctoral) programmes and non-degree postgraduate programmes (programme evaluation covers only first-, second- and long-cycle programmes).

In accordance with the criteria, ex-ante institutional evaluation conducted by PAC covers the following eight aspects:

  1. Compliance of the Unit’s activities with the mission and development strategy of the Institution
  2. Functioning and enhancement of the internal system for quality assurance of education
  3. Effectiveness of the human resources policy pursued by the Unit
  4. Measures ensuring the development of teaching / learning and research facilities in line with the development strategy of the Unit
  5. Cooperation with the social, economic or cultural environment, and cooperation with academic and research institutions in the country and abroad
  6. Functioning of the support system for students and doctoral students
  7. Quality of doctoral programmes
  8. Quality of non-degree postgraduate programmes

The criteria, together with detailed sub-criteria, are published on the PAC website.

Evaluations also take into account accreditations and certificates awarded by sectoral committees / agencies, both national and international, conducting evaluations in selected areas of education, and by accreditation agencies which are registered in the European Higher Education Area or with which PAC has concluded agreements on the recognition of accreditation decisions.

As a result of an evaluation, PAC awards an outstanding rating (for 8 years), a positive rating (for 6 years) – unless there are reasons justifying an earlier evaluation, a conditional rating (with the date set for a follow-up evaluation) or a negative rating. Where a conditional rating has been given, PAC carries out a follow-up evaluation, assessing outcomes of remedial measures related to individual shortcomings and reservations mentioned in the first evaluation, and the relevance and implications of other changes introduced in a given unit. Units of HEIs which have received an outstanding or positive institutional rating are exempt from programme evaluations for the validity period of the rating. As a result of a negative institutional rating, PAC continues conducting programme evaluations in a given unit.

Institutional evaluations are based on the same procedure as programme evaluations (see below) except that evaluation panels have a larger number of members and include not only academic experts, formal and legal compliance experts and students-experts, but also doctoral students-experts and representatives of employers.

Programme assessment/accreditation

The arrangements currently in place cover both ex-ante and ex-post programme evaluation/accreditation.

Ex-ante programme evaluation / accreditation

Ex-ante programme evaluation conducted by the Polish Accreditation Committee involves granting authorisations to provide first-cycle, second- and long-cycle programmes in individual fields of study to basic organisational units of public and non-public HEIs which are not allowed to launch programmes independently as they do not meet certain conditions laid down in the legislation (concerning the authorisation to award post-doctoral degrees). Like in the case of ex-ante institutional evaluation/accreditation, a decision to grant an authorisation is taken by the Minister of Science and Higher Education, supported by PAC which gives its opinions on applications.

Again like in the case of ex-ante institutional accreditation, PAC's opinion-giving process normally includes only an analysis of documents submitted by applicant HEIs and reviews, but PAC may undertake a site visit in the case of justified reservations concerning the validity of the information provided. HEIs applying for authorisations should demonstrate in their applications that they comply with the requirements laid down in the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 3 October 2014 on the requirements for the provision of degree programmes in individual fields and at individual levels of study. The requirements refer to, among other things, the study programme (including a description of expected learning outcomes and ECTS credits), the number and qualifications of academic staff, infrastructure, and an internal quality assurance system.

In assessing applications, PAC takes into account the following six elements: 1) study programme(s): intended learning outcomes; study programme(s), including the process leading to the outcomes and methods for the verification of achieved outcomes; compliance with the national requirements concerning minimum staff resources and qualifications of academic staff; access to teaching and learning facilities and literature; 2) conditions for providing distance education (where applicable); 3) relevance of intended learning outcomes to labour market needs: use of feedback from social and business partners in the development of study programmes, and intended learning outcomes defined for student practical placements; 4) compliance of study programmes and schedules with national standards (where these are laid down); 5) compliance of study programmes and schedules with national standards for initial teacher training (where applicable); 6) the internal quality assurance system. Detailed criteria used by PAC in the review of applications are available on its website.

As part of its ex-ante programme evaluation, the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery assesses compliance with the national standards for first- and second-cycle programmes in the fields of nursing and midwifery by HEIs which are launching new programmes. Evaluation, which provides a basis for accreditation granted by the Minister of Health, is conducted by NACSN&M in accordance with the same criteria as ex-post programme evaluation (see below). The criteria are available on the NACSN&M website.

Ex-post programme evaluation / accreditation

Ex-post programme evaluations are carried out by the Polish Accreditation Committee, the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery and peer accreditation commissions. The approaches adopted by these institutions differ, to some extent, from one another, depending on their status and scope of activities.

Evaluations conducted by the Polish Accreditation Committee

Mandatory programme evaluation in all fields of study and all HEIs is carried out only by the Polish Accreditation Committee. Evaluations are conducted in accordance with a schedule adopted annually by PAC, but they may also be undertaken at the request of the Minister of Science and Higher Education or the HEI concerned. The frequency of evaluations is defined in PAC's statutes, published on its website, and depends on the rating given as a result of the previous evaluation.

PAC gives four quality ratings: outstanding, positive, conditional and negative, thus putting greater emphasis on levels of quality than it is normally the case in evaluations leading to ‘yes/no’ accreditation decisions. Unless there are circumstances justifying an earlier evaluation, a programme is re-evaluated after 8 years in the case of a previous outstanding rating, and after 6 years in the case of a previous positive rating; where a conditional rating has been given, PAC defines the time-frame for a follow-up evaluation in each individual case. Programmes which have received one of these ratings are automatically considered accredited. Where a negative rating is given by PAC, the Minister of Science and Higher Education may suspend or withdraw the authorisation of the HEI concerned to provide a given programme. A suspended authorisation may be re-granted by the Minister after consultation with PAC; in the case of a withdrawn authorisation, the programme may be launched again in accordance with a procedure laid down in the legislation for new programmes and is subject to evaluation as a new programme according to PAC's evaluation schedule.

Evaluations are carried out by teams which are composed of PAC members and experts appointed by PAC, and which are chaired by PAC members. The requirements concerning the composition of evaluation teams are not laid down in the national legislation or PAC's internal regulations. However, in addition to PAC members, evaluation teams normally include: 

  • academic experts: academic teachers (including, though less frequently, foreign teachers) with recognised research or artistic achievements and considerable teaching experience, proposed by PAC's Sections for the Fields of Study;
  • student experts: students who have knowledge and experience related to the organisation of HEIs and provision of programmes, proposed by the President of the Students’ Parliament of the Republic of Poland;
  • formal and legal compliance experts (evaluating the compliance of programmes with the legislation): persons with thorough knowledge of the legal and organisational framework for HEIs, proposed by the Director of the PAC Bureau. 

Experts are appointed in accordance with the procedures and criteria published on PAC's website and are obliged to complete relevant training. Both PAC members and all experts are full and equal members of an evaluation teams, which analyse self-evaluation reports from HEIs, undertake site visits and prepare evaluation reports, including their opinion on the quality of education, for PAC.

PAC conducts ex-post programme evaluations according to the following six criteria, which take into account the specificity of two programme orientations (‘profiles’), academically-oriented and practically-oriented:

  1. The Unit has developed a conceptual framework for education and implemented a curriculum for the programme under evaluation which enables the achievement of intended learning outcomes.
  2. The number and quality of research and teaching staff and the research conducted by the Unit ensure the implementation of the curriculum for the programme under evaluation and the achievement of intended learning outcomes by students.
  3. Cooperation with the social, economic or cultural environment in the education process
  4. The Unit has teaching / learning and research infrastructure which enables the delivery of an academically-oriented programme / teaching / learning infrastructure which enables the delivery of a practically-oriented programme, the achievement of intended learning outcomes by students and the conduct of research (for academically-oriented programmes only).
  5. The Unit provides support to students in the process of learning, conducting research (for academically-oriented programmes only) and entering the labour market.
  6. The Unit has in place an effective internal system for quality assurance of education, geared towards assessing learning outcomes achieved, improving the curriculum and enhancing quality within the programme under evaluation.

The criteria, together with detailed sub-criteria, are published on the PAC website.

Internal quality assurance systems are assessed with regard to the standards defined in the above-mentioned ‘European Standards and Guidelines’ (ESG). Evaluations also take into account accreditations and certificates awarded by sectoral committees / agencies, both national and international, conducting evaluations in selected areas of education, and by accreditation agencies which are registered in the European Higher Education Area or with which PAC has concluded agreements on the recognition of accreditation decisions.

Where a conditional rating has been given, PAC carries out a follow-up evaluation, assessing the effectiveness of remedial measures related to individual shortcomings and reservations mentioned in the first evaluation and the relevance and implications of other changes introduced in a given unit. The overall assessment includes conclusions concerning the effectiveness and completeness of introduced changes.

The evaluation procedure is based on the stages recommended in the ESG and includes: a self-evaluation report (or a report on remedial measures in the case of a follow-up evaluation) prepared by the HEI concerned; a site visit undertaken by an evaluation team; a report prepared by the evaluation team and provided to the HEI; feedback on the report from the HEI; a rating proposed by the relevant Section for Academic Areas in PAC; a resolution with a quality rating adopted by the PAC Presidium; the publication of the quality rating together with its justification and the evaluation report.

Quality ratings given by PAC, including negative ones, together with their justifications are made available on its website and in the Public Information Bulletin. Detailed individual evaluation reports are also obligatorily published on the PAC website. Further, PAC publishes annual reports with a summary analysis of evaluations and analytical reports on individual groups of the fields of study. They enable overall evaluation of the quality of education in HEIs and provide a basis for planning quality improvement activities.

A questionnaire which may be completed by all evaluated HEIs, introduced in 2009, is one of the mechanisms designed to ensure appropriate quality of PAC’s own evaluation procedures and criteria. It enables HEIs to assess the arrangements adopted by PAC and propose changes. Results of the surveys are published on PAC’s website and in its annual activity reports. In line with the ESG, PAC is also subject to external review at least every five years (the last one in 2013). Moreover, it is supported by a consultative and advisory body, the Advisory Board, which was established in 2009 and which is composed of the President of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (representing university-type HEIs), the Conference of Rectors of Non-University Higher Education Institutions, representatives of employers’ organisations, the former President of PAC and international experts.

Evaluations conducted by the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery

Ex-post programme evaluations carried out by the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery concern only two fields of study, nursing and midwifery. They are subject to compulsory accreditation granted by the Minister of Health on the basis of NACSN&M's evaluations. Evaluation carried out by NACSN&M is not referred to in the legislation as ‘quality evaluation of education’, but as the assessment of HEIs' compliance with the national standards for programmes. Consequently, NACSN&M's evaluations serve as a basis for ‘yes/no’ accreditation decisions, with no distinction between quality levels of evaluated programmes.

The frequency of evaluations is determined by the validity period of accreditation which is granted for 3 to 5 years. Where accreditation is withdrawn, the HEI concerned may no longer enrol students until a given programme is re-accredited.

Evaluation is carried out by an evaluation team composed of academic teachers training nurses and midwives. Evaluation teams do not include teachers from the evaluated HEI. The regulations concerning NACSN&M do not require the participation of students or international experts.

Like ex-ante evaluations, ex-post evaluations are conducted by NACSN&M according to the following four blocks of criteria, based on the national standards for the two fields assessed, which are available on the Council’s website:

  1. Methods for the implementation of the study programme (incl. the study programme, learning outcomes, the link between the curricular contents, types of classes and teaching methods on the one hand and learning outcomes on the other hand, the compliance of the study programme and the programme of internships with the standard, course load requirements, ECTS credits, documents concerning students' progress, the final exam);
  2. Teaching staff (incl. compliance with the requirements concerning the minimum staff resources, teachers' qualifications, the ratio of students to teachers);
  3. Learning and teaching facilities (incl. organisational structure, learning and teaching facilities, arrangements for student internships);
  4. Evaluation of the quality of education and achievements of the HEI (incl. a quality assurance system developed, the functioning of an internal quality assurance committee, its evaluation criteria and tools, the scope of internal quality evaluation, the analysis of findings to improve the education process and the assessment of the graduate's employability / graduate career tracking).  

Accreditation for a period longer than 3 years is awarded to units which comply with several additional criteria in each of the four blocks (e.g. a modular structure of the programme and provisions for international cooperation within the programme in the first block; international cooperation in the area of teaching and research in the fourth block).

The evaluation procedure includes the following stages: an application for accreditation submitted by a HEI; review of the application by NACSN&M; a site visit; a site visit report prepared by the evaluation team and forwarded to the HEI for feedback; a resolution adopted by NACSN&M with its positive or negative opinion on the HEI's application; a motion to grant, refuse or withdraw accreditation put forward by NACSN&M to the Minister of Health; an accreditation certificate awarded by the Minister of Health or the Minister's decision to refuse or withdraw accreditation. NACSN&M publishes only the names of HEIs and the fields of study which have been granted accreditation together with its validity period.

The regulations concerning NACSN&M do not lay down any specific arrangements to ensure the quality of its own procedures and, though it is recommended in the ESG, do not provide for periodic external review of this institution.

Evaluations conducted by peer accreditation commissions

Each of the eight currently existing peer accreditation commissions operates on the basis of its own internal regulations which determine procedures, areas and detailed criteria of evaluation, taking into consideration the specificity of the types of HEIs and fields of study evaluated. This information is published on the websites of individual commissions. Regardless of some differences between the approaches adopted, evaluations carried out by the peer accreditation commissions cover, among other things, teaching and research carried out by evaluated HEIs; teaching staff; teaching and learning facilities; student affairs; and internal quality assurance. The accreditation procedure includes: a self-evaluation report prepared by the HEI concerned; a site visit; a report prepared by an evaluation team and provided to the HEI for feedback; the publication of information about the accredited fields of study in individual HEIs, together with the validity period of accreditation. Evaluation ends with a decision granting or refusing accreditation, but these decisions do not entail any legal consequences as the peer accreditation commissions do not operate on the basis of the national legislation and thus do not take legally binding decisions.

Internal quality assurance

The amended Law on Higher Education of 2005 (LoHE) requires that HEIs implement an internal quality assurance system and entrusts the responsibility for establishing and improving the system to the Rector of an HEI. Organisational units of HEIs which establish a new programme are required to implement an internal quality assurance system as from the start date of the programme pursuant to the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 3 October 2014 on the requirements for the provision of degree programmes in individual fields and at individual levels of study. An internal quality assurance system should cover the entire education process, including methods for the verification of learning outcomes, arrangements for using findings from student assessment of teachers’ performance, the assessment of achieved learning outcomes, the use of findings from graduate career monitoring, and measures undertaken to prevent and detect plagiarism.

LoHE also obliges HEIs to assess the performance of academic staff at least every two years, or every four years in the case of teachers holding a professorial title who are employed at an HEI on the basis of appointment. Assessment is conducted by a body specified in the Statutes of the HEI and covers, in particular, the performance of statutory duties as well as the observance of intellectual and industrial property rights by the academic teacher concerned. Assessment presented by students, including doctoral students, is obligatorily taken into account.

Detailed internal quality assurance arrangements are adopted by individual HEIs in their Statutes and other internal regulations. They are taken into consideration in mandatory external evaluations conducted by the Polish Accreditation Committee and the National Accreditation Council for Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, as well as in evaluations carried out by the peer accreditation committees.

Summary reports on quality in higher education

At national level, annual reports of the Polish Accreditation Committee are the main source of summary information on the quality of higher education. Reports include statistical data on applications reviewed as part of ex-ante assessment / accreditation and ex-post evaluation / accreditation and more detailed analyses of institutional and programme evaluations, the latter in a breakdown by academic areas or groups of fields of study. In analytical chapters, PAC discusses, among other things, strengths and weaknesses of HEIs, changes and trends and the impact of its own activities on quality improvement. Reports are sent to, among others, the competent Ministers, the Parliament, Rectors’ Conferences and the General Council for Science and Higher Education, and are published on the PAC website (http://www.pka.edu.pl). Findings are used to inform policy decisions relating to quality assurance in higher education, as well as by PAC itself to improve its processes.