Poland - Commercial Guide

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

Last published date: 2020-03-10


Capital:     Warsaw
Population: 38,282,325 (July 2020 est.)    
GDP:      524.8 Billion USD (2017 est., )
Currency:     Polish zloty (PLN)
Language:    Polish    

UNESCO Student Mobility Number: 
Poland has 24,918 students studying abroad according to UNESCO. 

CIA World Factbook:    
24.63% of the Polish population is under 24 years old.


Poland has been undergoing a consistent and uninterrupted economic growth throughout the last 20+ years.  The GDP per capita, which is a major factor indicating the Polish society’s purchasing force, has been increasing systematically and reached $29.600 in 2017.  Poland’s public expenditures for education currently amount to 3.7% of GDP, and almost 30% of Poles (35.3% women and 24.5% men) hold higher education diploma and 62.2% completed high school-level education.  Aiming at building a stronger education system, Poland’s current government has introduced reforms of the primary/secondary education system as well as the higher education system.

In general, Polish schools offer a good level of education.  Polish schoolchildren were among top nations in recent PISA tests (the Program for International Student Assessment) for 15-year-olds around the world -- the third best in math and science and fourth best at reading comprehension. In Europe, Poland placed behind only Estonia, Finland and Ireland.  

In the 2018/2019 school year, there were 14500 primary schools, 93.4% of which were public, and 7600 secondary schools, including 77% public and 23% private.  An International Baccalaureate Certificate is offered by 44 general secondary schools, thus making IB certificate available to 1.2% of all pupils. According to official data, during the period of 2014-2018, the private education base experienced a 17% growth. Also, some 40% of families with children attending private schools have an income that exceeds the equivalent of $40,000, which confirms a growing interest and ability to invest in private education.    

Following a 2019 educational system reform, lower secondary schools were phased out and the school system is now composed of 8 years of primary school and 4 years of general high school, or a 5 year long technical high school program.  The 2019/2020 school year marks a transition period for high school freshmen who entered two different high school tracks: lower secondary school graduates who started a 3-year high school program, and primary school graduates who are starting the new 4-year or 5-year program. 

A reform of the higher education system launched in 2018 with the aim to improve the potential of Polish science curriculum and the quality of education.  The reform, which was aimed at strengthening the ties between the science and business, has changed funding rules for universities and academic career paths, increased their autonomy.  After reviewing all universities in 2019, the government selected the top ten with the highest science and research potential and named them as research universities.  The list of research universities may change over time as the government plans to reevaluate the universities systematically.

Poland has 369 higher education institutions, located in 97 cities throughout the country.  At the end of 2018, there were approximately 1.2 million students, 73% of who studying at public universities.  The number of students decreased by almost 5% compared to 2017 alone, following a slow but systematic decrease throughout the decade.  The unfavorable demographic trend is expected to continue and become fully visible once the former higher education cycle is completed in 2022.  Polish universities benefit from the interest of foreign students, who’s number increased from 57,000 in 2015 to 78,300 in the 2018/19 academic year, almost half studying at private universities.  Poland’s top foreign student suppliers are Ukraine (50.1% of all foreign nationalities), Belarus, India, Spain and Turkey.  In 2018, there were 976 students from the United States, indicating 17% increase over 2017.

The most popular fields of study are business and administration and law, followed by technology, industry and construction.  Other popular fields of study include social sciences, journalism and information as well as health and social care.  

Polish students willingly take advantage of the mobility projects.  In 2017 alone, Poland received approximately $100 million grants from the European Erasmus program and 15,000 Polish students had the opportunity to study abroad, usually for a semester or an academic year.  The United States ranks fifth in popularity as a destination country for Poles studying abroad, following the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Denmark.  

English is commonly spoken by youth and young adults with high school or higher education and prevails as the foreign language taught at schools at 1-12 grades and universities.  Also popular are private language schools offering English courses and summer programs.  It’s estimated that some 240 thousand pupils and students additionally learn English at these schools. 


Higher Education 
According to the 2020 Open Doors Report, in 1918/2019 academic year, there were 1,526 Polish students studying in the U.S., which is a 3.3% increase over the previous year.  This increase is reflected by the number of the category J (student) visas issued in Poland.  

Poland was the 9th largest country in the European Union for sourcing students to study in the U.S.  The United States is the fifth-ranking popular destination country for Poles studying abroad, following the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Denmark.  The top five receiving U.S. states were New York, California, Massachusetts, Florida and Illinois.

Source: 2020 Open Doors Report

Students in U.S. by 
U.S. Institution Type    %
Associate's (2-year) Colleges     10.58%
Baccalaureate (4-year) Colleges     5.94%
Doctorate-granting Universities    65.07%
Master's Colleges and Universities    14.35%
Special Focus Institutions     4.06%
Public Institutions     50.87%
Private Institutions    49.13%
Source: EducationUSA, Poland

According to the Open Doors Report, almost half of all Polish students in the United States pursue undergraduate studies.                              

Community College
In general, despite the EducationUSA and Fulbright’s promotion efforts, the knowledge on the community colleges’ is still limited.  
Graduate Education       
Graduate and post-graduate studies have strong support from Fulbright.  Since 2016 the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission has facilitated linkages between Polish and U.S. higher education institutions through Study Abroad initiatives funded from a competitive State Department’s Study Abroad grant, more details available at: fulbright.edu.pl/study-abroad-2019/.  

Also, a partnership between Polish and US universities, or their faculties, sometimes provides not only for cooperation on curriculum or exchange of lecturers, but also in student exchange or student scholarship programs.

Secondary Education
The turbulences with the reform of the education system in Poland results in a growing interest in a non-public education.  Thus, it also contributes to growing interest in investing, on a commercial basis, in study in the U.S., that usually lasting one school year.    
Online Programs
Online programs are still not very popular in Poland although universities commonly allow up to 60% of programs delivered through e-learning systems.  In addition, some universities offer comprehensive on-line studies of selected programs. Some online programs are available to Polish students thanks to a direct cooperation between U.S. and Polish universities.  Cost-efficient              e-learning is becoming more popular and is generally seen as a training tool rather than a way of regular studies. 

Research and Development 
The recent higher education reform and the new Innovation Law aim at boosting the research and development programs. The top 10 science and research universities will receive increased education subsidies from 2020 through 2026, allowing them to further improve the quality of research and education programs and allow them to compete and cooperate in foreign markets.  Additionally, the Polish government has introduced robust tax incentives for commercial enterprises that invest in R&D, encouraging them to closely cooperate with universities.  

Professional Training Services
The education reform provides for closer cooperation between universities and businesses.  As a result universities could grant academic degrees based on project implementation achievements as well as offer dual education programs which allow students to gain knowledge and practical skills all at the same time. 

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


As of November 11, 2019, Poland has become eligible for the visa waiver status, which makes the United States more accessible for Polish citizen. Even though Polish students still need visas to participate in the Summer Work Travel Program and other Exchange Programs, it is expected that a boom in tourist and business travels will eventually translate into increased interest in acquiring US education.  

Poles hold U.S. education in high esteem, although they need more information in order to navigate the U.S. education system, admission procedures, visa procedures and scholarship opportunities.  EducationUSA programs supported by the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, the Consulate General in Krakow and the Poland Fulbright Commission play an instrumental role in promoting U.S. education generally, while the U.S. Commercial Service assists individual American education institutions to locate Polish partners, schools, universities or commercial companies, through fee-based services.         
The main barrier preventing students from studying in the U.S. is the cost of study.  Thus, most Polish students seek direct scholarship opportunities or academic exchange programs. 

Specialized travel agencies and language schools recruiting mainly for short-term education programs, usually also include offers for regular studies.  As far as education agents active in Poland, these are mainly international organizations working on multiply markets.   

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


•    Poland International Education Fair, Warsaw, March 6-7, 2020: http://perspectives.pl/

There are many smaller fairs with regional outreach.  Information can be made available upon request.  


•    Ministry of Science and Higher Education: https://www.gov.pl/web/nauka 
•    Polish National Agency for International Exchange (NAWA): https://nawa.gov.pl 
•    Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission: http://www.fulbright.edu.pl/ 
•    Kościuszko Foundation's Program for Advanced Study, Research and/or Teaching: https://www.thekf.org/kf/scholarships/exchange-us/ 
•    EducationUSA advising centers in Poland: https://pl.usembassy.gov/education-culture/; https://educationusa.pl/
•    Ministry of National Education: https://www.gov.pl/web/edukacja 
•    The National Centre for Research and Development: https://www.ncbr.gov.pl/en/


Maria Kowalska, Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service –  Warsaw, Poland 
+48 22 625 4374