The huge wave of Polish migration to the UK after the accession of the country into the EU back in 2004 has been well documented. But over the past few years, the traffic between the two nations has become increasingly two-way, with a reported rise in the number of Brits moving to the Eastern European country. Some of these are students, drawn to the country for its low tuition fees and similarly low cost of living.
There are over 400 courses offered in English in Poland, many of which are at undergraduate level.
In particular, the country’s medical schools are attracting an increasing number of overseas students who have been unable to get into a medical training programme in their own country. However, while many medical courses are conducted in English, Polish language skills are likely to become necessary by the time students begin consultations with patients.
Like many other EU countries, Poland offers inexpensive or even free tuition to EU students. But the cost of living is much lower than Western or Northern Europe, meaning the total cost of a university education can be significantly less.
Poland has some well-respected universities, although on an international scale, it is perhaps unsurprising it fails to make the same type of impact on international rankings as universities in the US, the UK and Western Europe.
Entry and visa regulations
EU/EEA students do not need a visa to study in Poland.
Students must register with the local administrative office if they intend to stay more than 90 days — at that time proof of public healthcare insurance (a European Healthcare Insurance Card will suffice) and enough funds to cover their stay in Poland must be provided.
Prospective students should apply directly to their chosen institution. Deadlines for admissions vary, but in most cases require students to apply in the spring for an autumn intake. The exception is medicine, where applications are usually required around one year in advance of the course start date.
Funding your study
Fees vary wildly among institutions, with some offering free tuition for EU students and others charging a fee.
The University of Warsaw, for example, charges between £1,300 and £2,500 per year for its English language courses. Generally, most courses cost substantially less than in the UK, although medicine courses are a notable exception with fees of around £10,000 per year.
Students of EU/EEA countries are eligible to work in Poland without a work permit but finding work without Polish language skills could be difficult. Even for those who do secure employment, wages are low and student jobs typically pay the equivalent of around £2 per hour. Many foreign students therefore return to their home country to work during summer breaks.
Most universities provide some type of student accommodation, although demand is high due to the cost, which can be as low as £80 per month for a shared room. Contact your university as soon as you have an acceptance letter if you wish to pursue university housing. Many students living in shared apartments or houses, with costs ranging from £100–£200 per month depending on location.
The cost of living in Poland is among the lowest in the European Union. Typical costs (GBP, March 2015) include:
Apartment rent, 1 bedroom: £179 - £245 per month
Meal, inexpensive restaurant: £3.15
Meal at McDonalds: £2.97
Domestic beer (0.5 litre draught): £1.05
Imported beer (0.33 litre bottle): £1.22
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle): £0.65
Water (0.33 litre bottle): £0.50
Loaf of bread: £0.45
One-way ticket local transport: £0.52
Cinema ticket: £3.85
Health and safety
Poland is a relatively safe country in comparison to other EU member states. European Commission data from earlier this year showed that in particular, violent crimes were decreasing in Poland. It also singled out Poland as one of the countries in which the fall in crime had been most noticeable since 2006.
In larger cities such as Warsaw, however, street crime can be a problem so keep your wits about you.
Students are eligible to access the healthcare system in Poland using their European Healthcare Insurance Card so long as they use public rather than private healthcare providers. Those operating under the public health system can be identified by their use of the NFZ logo. Generally the standard of care is adequate, though services may be limited in rural areas. Most GP and hospital treatment is free, although some dental care is not.
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