Poland - Country Commercial Guide

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-03-29

Capital:  Warsaw

Population:  38.2 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $1.223 trillion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency:  Polish zloty (PLN)

Language:  Polish        


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

Poland has 25,092 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.


CIA World Factbook   

24.6% of Poland’s population is under 25 years old.



Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Poland enjoyed consistent and uninterrupted economic growth for more than 20 years. Poland’s GDP per capita, a major factor indicating the country’s purchasing power, reached $33,844 in 2019, representing 72 percent of the EU average. Public expenditures for education currently amount to 4.6% of Poland’s GDP, including 1% spent on higher education.

Due to COVID-19, Poland’s economy changed dramatically, even though Poland was less affected than most of Europe. In 2020, Poland’s GDP declined by 2.7 percent, and indications show a projected recovery and growth rate of 5.0 percent in 2021 and 2022. With a 55.4% vaccination rate, Poland is ranked 23rd in the European Union and is one of the most affected countries in terms of COVID-related deaths.   

The societal effects of COVID-19 are severe, with the first lockdown in Spring 2020 exposing the shortcomings of Poland’s school’s organization, technology, and teaching methodologies. The situation has since improved and during the 2021-2022 school year, schools and universities generally stayed open and turned to online or hybrid teaching class-by-class when faced with rising COVID cases or a need to quarantine.    

Public education is free at all levels in Poland, and the public system is supplemented by private and community schools and universities.

Poland’s ruling government, elected in 2015, carried out educational reforms of the school and higher education systems. In Autumn 2020, government restructuring led to consolidated education responsibilities under the umbrella of a newly established Ministry of Education and Science. The government modified school programs and drafted regulations, which would undermine the autonomy of both public and private schools, however, these have yet to be discussed by Poland’s parliament.

The school system is currently composed of eight years of primary school and four years of general high school, or five years of technical high school. Middle schools were phased out in 2019, and high schools will continue to teach a combination of old and new programs until the end of the 2021/2022 school year.

Of the approximately 14,500 primary schools, more than 90% are public. Poland’s 7,600 secondary schools have a 77% public, 23% private mix. 87.7% pupils attend high schools that culminate with final exams, allowing the students to apply for university education. An International Baccalaureate certificate is offered by 44 general secondary schools, making an IB certificate available to just over 1% of all pupils. Over the last decade, private schools experienced a 17% growth. The interest in private education boomed in 2020 as the repeated lockdowns of schools revealed the shortcomings of Poland’s public educational system, technology, and quality of teaching. Monthly tuition fees for non-public schools vary from less than $300 for community schools, to $600-$700 for private schools, and $2,700 or more for high-end international schools. Approximately 40% of Polish families with children attending private schools have a yearly income exceeding the equivalent of $40,000, confirming the population’s growing interest and ability to invest in private education. The turbulence caused by recent education reforms further increased the interest in private schools, as well as education opportunities abroad.

More than 45.7% of Poles between the ages of 30-34 attended higher education institutions, making Polish society one of the best educated in the region and surpassing EU education targets.

The Polish government’s reforms of the higher education system, launched in 2018, aimed to improve the potential of Polish science and the quality of education of students and doctoral students. The reform also changed funding rules for universities and academic career paths and was supposed to focus on strengthening the ties between the science and business. Though recently introduced, Poland’s higher education reforms are currently under review. The Minister of Education and Science issued a statement that Polish universities should focus on formative, intellectual and educational work and that the system should steer toward “Polonization” which raised concerns in academia. 

There are more than 300 higher education institutions located in 97 Polish cities, educating approximately 1.2 million students in total, including 150,000 postgraduate students. A majority of students, 75%, study at public universities. In 2021, more than half of students chose technology studies, such as information technology, automation and engineering. Other popular faculties included green technologies, psychology, management, medicine and law.

The number of students has decreased slowly but steadily over the last decade. The unfavorable demographic trend is expected to continue and become fully visible in 2022, once the former higher education cycle has been phased out. Polish universities continue to benefit from the interest of foreign students, the majority of whom come from the Ukraine (50.1% of all foreign nationalities), Belarus, India, Norway, Germany and Sweden. In 2019, there were 899 students from the United States, but last year the number dropped by 75.6%, to 219 students.

English is the most common foreign language taught at schools at 1-12 grades and in universities. It is commonly spoken by youth and young adults that have attended high school or higher education institutions. Private language schools offering English courses and summer programs are also popular, and it is estimated that some 240,000 students study English at these schools.



Higher Education: Poland was the 9th largest country in the European Union for sourcing students to study in the U.S., and the outbound mobility ratio of Polish students stands at 1.8%. Most Polish students take advantage of European programs, making Western Europe the primary destination for studying abroad. The United States is the fifth most popular destination country for Poles studying abroad, following the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, the number of EU citizens studying there dropped by 43%, from 49.6 thousand in 2020 to 28.4 thousand in 2021. In Poland’s case, the number of students studying in the UK decreased by 73%, or 8,520 students.  

According to the 2021 Open Doors Report, in the 2020/2021 academic year there were 1,328 Polish students studying in the U.S., a 12.2% decrease over the previous year. This change is reflected by an 82.35% decrease in the J category and a 54.09% decrease in F category visas issued in Poland. The top five destination states are New York, California, Massachusetts, Florida, and Pennsylvania.


Polish Students Studying in the US

Students in U.S. by
U.S. Institution Type


Associate’s (2-year) Colleges


Baccalaureate (4-year) Colleges


Doctorate-granting Universities


Master’s Colleges and Universities


Special Focus Institutions


Public Institutions


Private Institutions



Students in U.S. by Academic Level



% Year-to-Year Change

















Source: 2021 Open Doors Report


Undergraduate: According to the Open Doors Report, almost half of all Polish students in the U.S. pursue undergraduate studies.                             

Community College: Despite EducationUSA and Fulbright’s promotion efforts, knowledge of community college opportunities are still limited in Poland.   

Graduate Education: Polish students usually obtain institutional support for graduate studies in the U.S., and seldom bear the costs themselves. Graduate education and post-graduate studies have strong support from the Fulbright Commission. Since 2016 the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission has facilitated links between Polish and U.S. higher education institutions through Study Abroad initiatives funded by State Department Study Abroad grants. Additional details about this program are available on the Fulbright website (https://en.fulbright.edu.pl/news/).

Partnerships between Polish and U.S. universities, and their faculties, provide for curriculum cooperation, exchange of lecturers, and student exchanges or scholarship programs.

Secondary Education: The reform of Poland’s education system has resulted in an increased interest in a non-public education. It has also contributed to growing interest in investing, on a commercial basis, in studying abroad.

The United States is the second most popular destination for high school pupils studying abroad, following the United Kingdom. Polish youths usually attend school abroad allowing them to master their English language skills, including specialized vocabulary necessary for their future academic experiences.   

Online Programs: Before COVID-19, online programs were not very popular in Poland, though universities allowed up to 60% of programs to be delivered through the e-learning system. Some universities offer comprehensive online studies of selected programs to Polish students, thanks to a direct cooperation between U.S. and Polish universities. Despite cost-efficient e-learning abroad gaining popularity, it is generally less attractive to students than regular studies.

Research and Development: Recent higher education reforms and new innovative laws are aimed at boosting the scope and quality of research and development programs. In 2019, ten research universities were selected to receive increased education subsidies in 2020-2026, allowing them to further improve the quality of research and education programs and allow them to compete and cooperate at foreign markets. 

The Polish government also introduced robust tax incentives for commercial enterprises investing in research and development, encouraging them to closely cooperate with universities. 

Professional Training Services: In cooperation with business, universities started offering dual education as well as degrees based on project implementation programs.

The development of new technologies and shortages of qualified employees has forced employers to provide training services for their existing and future personnel, especially in the emerging professions. 



Best Prospects

High School


Boarding Schools


Community College






Law School






Online Degree


Summer/Certificate Programs



As of November 11, 2019, Poland became eligible for the visa waiver status, making the United States more accessible for Polish citizens. Even though Polish students still need visas to study, participate in the Summer Work Travel Program and other exchange programs, it is expected that a boom in tourist and business travel will eventually translate into increased interest in acquiring U.S. education, though COVID-19 related travel restrictions have delayed expected gains. 

Poles hold U.S. education in a high esteem, although, they need more information to successfully navigate the U.S. education system, admission and visa procedures, and scholarship opportunities. EducationUSA programs run by the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, the U.S. Consulate in Krakow and the Poland Fulbright Commission, play an instrumental role in promoting U.S. education, while the U.S. Commercial Service assists individual U.S. education institutions with help in locating Polish partners, schools, universities, or commercial companies, through cost-effective, fee-based services.          

The main barriers preventing more Polish students from studying in the U.S. is the cost of study and the physical distance. Most Polish students seek direct scholarship opportunities or academic exchange programs.

Specialized travel agencies and language schools recruiting for short-term education programs usually also include offers for regular studies. There is a very limited number of education agents that are active in Poland. These are mainly international organizations working in multiple markets.  

Polish universities are usually reluctant to support student recruitment, unless this is done under their existing university-to-university cooperation or a wider program. Polish universities usually list their foreign education partners on their websites.

Best Student Recruitment Methods

Education Agents




Student Outreach


Online Outreach




Facebook is used by almost all young people in Poland. For them, Facebook is the most important source of information, making it a good tool for education recruitment purposes. 

The majority of Polish universities use the locally developed USOS platform, by the Inter-Academic Information Technology Center, of which most universities are either a shareholder or associated member. Universities usually interface their individual platforms with USOS.



  • Poland International Education Fair, Warsaw, March 18-19, 2022: http://perspectives.pl/

  • There are also many smaller fairs with regional outreach; information is available upon request.  





Maria Kowalska, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Warsaw, Poland

Phone: +48 22 625 4374

Email: Maria.Kowalska@trade.gov