Croatia

Croatia is a country in Southeast Europe. Croatia’s national legislation and national education, science and technology strategy recognise higher education as an area of special interest to the country. Its strategic goals include quality higher education that is accessible to everyone on identical terms and science, expanding the global corpus of knowledge while contributing to the general well-being of society in Croatia. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy; openness to public access and community; student social responsibility and the social responsibility of other members of the academic community; inseparability of teaching and scientific and artistic research and creation; humanist and democratic tradition; honouring of human rights; compliance with the European system of higher education; training for special professional knowledge and skills, and lifelong learning are principles at the foundation of higher education in Croatia.

RegionSouthern Europe
CapitalZagreb
LanguageCroatian
Population4,076,246
Expenditure on higher education3,1 %
Unemployment6,1 %
EuroUniversities in top 1001
EuroUniversities in top 2502
EuroUniversities in top 5004
EuroUniversities in top 10008
Students159,800
Foreigner students0,6 %
Enrollment rate in higher education71,6 %

Croatia joined the Bologna Process in 2001 by initiating reforms to integrate the national system of higher education with the European Higher Education Area. In accordance with the Act on Scientific Activity and Higher Education of 2003, all university programmes were restructured in line with the principles of the Bologna Process. As a result, three cycles of higher education, the ECTS system, and diploma supplement were introduced, among other changes. From the academic year of 2005/2006, Croatian students have been able to enrol only in those university programmes that had been reformed through the Bologna Process.

Modern higher education in Croatia is provided at universities and their constituents (faculties, academies of arts, departments), polytechnics, and colleges, through university and professional study programmes at different qualification levels (5, 6, 7, and 8) that correspond to the European Qualifications Framework.

University studies provide competencies for pursuing careers in science, arts, higher education, business, the public sector, and society in general, preparing students for the development and implementation of scientific, artistic and professional achievements. These studies can be attended in three cycles: undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate (doctoral or specialist). In certain exceptional cases, study programmes may integrate undergraduate and graduate studies, rather than be delivered as either of the two (integrated undergraduate and graduate studies).

Professional studies equip students with the skills necessary for their immediate inclusion in the labour market. They are provided by colleges, polytechnics, and universities. Professional studies include the short-cycle professional undergraduate programme and undergraduate and specialist graduate professional studies.

Based on data in the Directory of Study Programmes (accessed on 10 December 2019) of the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education, there are total 1,682 accredited study programmes in Croatia.

Most important laws and regulations for higher education in Croatia:

The academic year is divided into semesters or trimesters, depending on individual higher education institution’s rules, with lectures beginning on 1 October of the current year and ending on 30 September of the next calendar year.

Quality assurance in Croatia’s higher education system is a responsibility of higher education institutions, the Agency for Science and Higher Education, and the Ministry of Science and Education. In accordance with national regulations and Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area, the Agency is partly responsible for external quality assessment in the process of formation of higher education institutions, namely private universities, polytechnics, and colleges, while in the case of initiation of study programmes at public universities the responsibility lies on university senates. Reaccreditation of all study programmes and institutions is also the Agency’s responsibility. The Ministry issues licences/certificates for study programmes and institutions on the basis of results of external assessment carried out in public universities or in the Agency, then it enters them into the official directory of study programmes and higher education institutions, and secures support to their operation (by financing the activities of public institutions, covering a portion of costs of studying for full-time students attending undergraduate and graduate study programmes in public institutions of higher education, with the “student standard” support, scholarships, etc.). For more on higher education quality assurance, go to Quality Assurance in Higher Education.

References for chapter Higher Education:

Legal provisions, official publications:

  1. European Commission, 2015. ECTS User’s Guide 2015 (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  2. Ministry of Science, Education and Sport of the Republic of Croatia, 2015. Strategija obrazovanja, znanosti i tehnologije Nove boje znanja. Zagreb: Ministry of Science, Education and Sport (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  3. Pravila o uvjetima, postupku prijave, provedbi ispita za upis i rangiranju kandidata na studijske programe(accessed on 18/09/2019)
  4. Pravilnik o sadržaju diploma i dopunskih isprava o studiju, Official Gazette (NN), 77/08, 149/11(accessed on 18/09/2019)
  5. Zakon o osiguravanju kvalitete u znanosti i visokom obrazovanjuOfficial Gazette (NN), 45/09 (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  6. Zakon o znanstvenoj djelatnosti i visokom obrazovanju, Official Gazette (NN) 123/03, 198/03, 105/04, 174/04, 02/07, 46/07, 45/09, 63/11, 94/13, 139/13, 101/14, 60/15, 131/17) (accessed on 18/09/2019)

Directories:

  1. Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia. Directory of Study ProgrammesZagreb: Ministry of Science and Education (accessed on 10/12/2019)

Studies, reports, academic publications

  1. Agency for Science and Higher Education, 2014. Izvješće o tematskom vrednovanju doktorskih studija u Republici Hrvatskoj. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  2. Bezjak S., Matešić M., Herold D., Dragojević Đ., Plužarić Ž., Vrgoč S., 2018. Visoko obrazovanje u RH – Vodič za članove stručnih povjerenstava u postupcima vrednovanja visokih učilišta i znanstvenih organizacija. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  3. Đorđević, M., 2017. Izvješće o istraživanju aktualnog stanja i izazova u pogledu djelovanja centara karijera i profesionalnog usmjeravanja na visokim učilištima. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  4. Đorđević, M., Dubroja, M., Plužarić, Ž., Bezjak, S., 2019., Studirati u Hrvatskoj – Rezultati istraživanja studentskog iskustva u generaciji studenata upisanih ak. god. 2012./2013. na preddiplomske, diplomske i integrirane studijske programe. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  5. Havranek, J., Petrušić, I., 2017. Analiza petogodišnjeg ciklusa reakreditacije 2010.-2015., Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  6. Matešić M.,  Dragojević Đ., Briški M., Plužarić Ž., 2017. Osiguravanje kvalitete doktorskih studija u Hrvatskoj – preporuke i primjeri dobre prakse. Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  7. Pažur Aničić K., Šimić D., Divjak B., 2018., Što nakon diplome? Rezultati istraživanja o zapošljivosti studenata koji su diplomirali akademske godine 2015./2016., Zagreb: Agency for Science and Higher Education (accessed on 18/09/2019)

Official websites:

  1. Agency for Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Croatia (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  2. Croatian Qualifications Framework (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  3. Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia (accessed on 10/12/2019)
  4. Postani student (accessed on 18/09/2019)
  5. Studij.hr (accessed on 18/09/2019)

Bachelor

Branches of study

The first cycle of study, leading to a bachelor’s degree, includes university and professional undergraduate studies. Undergraduate studies are available in all areas of science: biomedical and health science, biotechnology, social sciences, humanities, natural science, technical science, interdisciplinary and artistic areas.

Undergraduate university studies are delivered by universities only and they take from three to four years. Their completion will earn a student from 180 to 240 ECTS credit points and an academic bachelor’s degree or baccalaureate including a field of specialization. It corresponds to level 6 of the European and the Croatian Qualifications Framework (CROQF).

Undergraduate professional studies are delivered by polytechnics, colleges, and universities and they last from three to four years. Their completion earns a student 180 to 240 ECTS credit points and a professional bachelor’s degree including a field of specialization. They correspond to level 6 of the CROQF.

Admission requirements

University colleges announce their terms of enrolment in public calls that are published at least six months prior to the beginning of the academic year. They stipulate the terms of enrolment, enrolment capacity, the application procedure, the information and documentation required, and the application and enrolment deadlines. Applicants’ previous achievements and current level of knowledge are graded in line with colleges’ internal regulations on degree credit.

State graduation exam at the end of the four-year secondary education was introduced into the Croatian education system in 2010, along with the electronic applications procedure in higher education institutions that includes the results of state graduation exam in the ranking procedure for applicants. In most cases, this new system of admission has replaced previous entrance exams, although some higher education institutions still require applicants to take additional exams. Applicants for undergraduate and integrated undergraduate and graduate studies apply via the National Information System for Applications to Higher Education Institutions (NISpVU) at www.postani-student.hr. This website provides information on the application procedure and level of interest in specific study programmes, enables applications for state graduation exam and access to exam results, enables applications for study programmes and access to results per selected study programme, as well as access to feedback on eligibility for enrolment. This system is managed by the Central Applications Office of the Agency for Science and Higher Education and the central information point is at www.studij.hr.

Higher education institutions are free to define their own criteria for the grading and selection of applicants, which may include previous education record, the type of completed secondary education, results from the entrance or some other exam, specific knowledge, skills or capabilities, and so on.

In certain exceptional cases, specified by a higher education institution itself, it is possible to enrol in a study programme even without the required level of previous education if a student is exceptionally talented and believed to have the capacity to master a study programme successfully despite the lacking previous education.

Terms of enrolment for foreign nationals are identical to the terms of enrolment for Croatian citizens, but they may be required to cover the cost of their study partially or in full, in accordance with relevant regulations (relating to students from outside the EU and the EEA).

Numbers of applicants who will be enrolled are determined by higher education institutions themselves.

There are two admission and enrolment periods for higher education institutions in Croatia – the first one is in the summer (July) and the second one, in case of under-enrolment, in September (unless the institution makes a different decision).

Curriculum

Every higher education institution needs to adopt its study programme on which a course will be founded. A study programme contains the name of academic or professional degree obtained by its completion; terms of enrolment for the course and every next semester or trimester; intended learning outcomes per each individual obligation during a course, the course model, and the overall study programme; ECTS credit points for each obligation in the course of study; the course model; methods for the assessment of learning outcomes and finalisation of the study. A study programme will also define the terms under which a student who interrupts or withdraws from their study may re-enrol.

Higher education institutions also need to adopt their curricula.

The curriculum is published before the beginning of lectures and higher education institutions are obligated to post their curricula on their official webpages. The adoption of a curriculum is also a prerequisite for beginning a course at the start of the academic year.

The curriculum defines the lecturers and associate lecturers for courses, specifies the place, time and module of each course (lecture, seminar, tutorial, practical, consultation, formative test, etc.), the ways in which exams are taken, examination periods, lists the required reading, states the possibility of taking a course in a foreign language, and contains other important course-related information.

When a study programme is open for enrolment to part-time students, the curriculum also states how a course will be structured for them and what their obligations will be.

Studying in Croatia is possible in the form of distance learning as well (online courses), following a special approval by the National Council for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development. Based on the records kept by the Ministry of Science and Education in 2019, there are 12 online study programmes in Croatia.

Teaching methods

The form that a course will take (lecture, seminar, practical, etc.) is defined by the higher education institution responsible for it, more precisely its academic staff, and it is contained in the curriculum that needs to be made publicly available before the beginning of the next academic year.

In most cases, courses are performed as lectures, seminars, and practicals, depending on the nature of a study programme. In line with the Bologna Process goals, small student groups and student-centred learning approach are preferred. During the re-accreditation process that every higher education institution in Croatia is subject to once in five years, reviewers assess ratio between students and their teaching staff, the appropriateness of study groups, the appropriateness of teaching methods for achieving the intended learning outcomes, the levels of interactivity, and the inclusion of students in decision-making processes, and they look at practical work done by students and the support given to them in the course of study.

Apart from reference publications in print (textbooks, manuals, science journals, etc.) that are available from higher education institutions’ libraries, students also have access to electronic resources for studying, databases, and online scientific periodicals. Practical sessions are held in spaces designated for conducting scientific research and experiments and for implementing knowledge in practice – laboratories, experiment stations, practical teaching bases, skill labs; spaces equipped with digital technology are also provided.

Progression of students

A progress that a student is making in acquiring the learning outcomes during a specific course is monitored throughout the year in ways stipulated by the study programme and curriculum.

Each course will end with examination-taking that earns the student a certain number of ECTS credits. The number of ECTS credit points is awarded in line with individual student’s total workload. The decision on how many times an exam can be taken is up to each higher education institution, but the number is usually limited to four. The fourth time the oral exam takes place before a commission and those students who fail their exam this last time are required to re-enrol at the beginning of the next academic year.

Student advancement through the course of study is affirmed with their progress to the next course level (academic year), provided they have earned the required number of ECTS credit points.

Employability

With the aim of furthering the employability of students, higher education institutions make so-called career centres available to them at the undergraduate level. Other career counselling services for supporting students have been developing in recent years as well. In those institutions that offer this kind of service, students are provided with information about ways to contact potential employers, about career fairs, they can attend workshops for enhancing their transferable skills, for writing resumes, practising self-introduction in job interviews, and so on. Not all higher education institutions in Croatia have career development centres, but the effort is being made to raise awareness about their importance and eventually increase their number.

The first round of reaccreditation (2010-2015) that was conducted in all the higher education institutions in Croatia has identified the problem of a mismatch between the education system and the labour market and the need to connect bachelor’s degree holders with employers. Most students enrol in graduate studies because the undergraduate level of education does not guarantee them a job in the Croatian labour market.

Practical training is part of study programmes for a certain number of undergraduate studies, but other study programmes do not require it. However, it is evident from a study based on student experience survey and released in 2019 that students consider the lack of practical training during their studies as a shortcoming of study programmes.

Systematic collection of information about the employability of graduates on the national level is a responsibility of the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education. In 2018, the Ministry appointed the National Group for Development of System for Tracking Qualified Persons, tasked with the implementation of activities based on the goals stipulated by the Education, Science and Technology Strategy (Official Gazette 124/2014) and the Council of EU’s Recommendation on Tracking Graduates (COM (2017) 249 final). Furthermore, the Agency for Science and Higher Education also collects periodically certain employability information in cooperation with higher education institutions and makes sure through external quality assurance procedures that every individual institution of higher education keeps a record of the employability of its former students.  

Student assessment

Students’ performance is graded after they had taken all the lectures and fulfilled all their student obligations, following a written or oral examination or assessment. In the case of written exams, students are most frequently required to take essay-type, objective-type, and problem-solving exams.

During a course, the taking of one of more midterm exams may be required as a condition for the final exam. Another option is to arrive at a final grade that is the average of attained midterm grades.

Students’ performance in exams and other knowledge assessments is graded one to five, with one (“insufficient”) as the lowest grade and the equivalent of “F” (fail). Only passing grades (2, 3, 4, 5) are entered into the student record book (indeks) and other relevant documentation for recording student performance.

The curriculum may stipulate that a certain type of course is performed without grading, or that evaluation is descriptive only.

A student has the right to complain about how their performance has been graded.

Certification

Upon the completion of undergraduate university studies, higher education institutions issue diplomas to students to confirm that they have completed their studies and obtained a bachelor’s degree or baccalaureate. In accordance with the Bologna Process, each student is also issued a diploma supplement in Croatian and English languages, listing the exams they had passed and the grades attained for them, and including other information necessary for a complete understanding of their qualifications. The content of diplomas and diploma supplements is prescribed by the minister responsible for higher education, whereas every higher education institution determines the document formatting and its final design.

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of study

The second cycle of higher education in Croatia – the graduate level of studies – may be either professional or academic. Studies at this level are available in the areas of biomedical and health sciences, biotechnology, social sciences, humanities, interdisciplinary, natural and technical sciences, and in arts.

They are either university graduate studies or specialist professional graduate studies.

University graduate studies last one to two years. Their completion earns 60 to 120 ECTS credit points and the academic master’s degree, or a doctoral degree in the case of study programmes in medical science. This degree corresponds to level 7 of the CROQF. According to the Ministry of Science and Education’s Directory of Study Programmes (accessed on 10 December 2019), total of 475 study programmes were available at the university degree level in Croatia in 2019.

Specialist professional graduate studies last one to two years. Their completion earns 60 to 120 ECTS credit points and the title of a professional specialist, including a specialization, which corresponds to level 7 of the CROQF. According to the Ministry of Science and Education’s Directory of Study Programmes (accessed on 10 December 2019), total of 99 study programmes for specialist professional degrees at graduate level were available in Croatia in 2019.

Admission requirements

Completed undergraduate studies and a certain number of ECTS credit points are prerequisites for enrolling in a graduate-level university course or a specialist professional graduate course. The terms of enrolment and the type of completed undergraduate course required for enrolling in a specific graduate course is determined by each higher education institution independently. Academic credit for all previously accomplished achievements and acquired knowledge is awarded in accordance with each institution’s internal regulations.

Applicants with degrees in undergraduate professional studies may apply for enrolment in graduate university courses in accordance with the general act of the university providing them. Higher education institutions may require testing of competencies and/or supplementary examination in case of cross-listed courses at the initiation of a study programme.

Higher education institutions admit students on the basis of a public call, which they normally publish three months before the beginning of lectures and in which they are obligated to state the terms of enrolment and enrolment capacity, explain the procedure, list the required application documentation, and specify application and enrolment deadlines.

Electronic applications for graduate studies were first made possible in Croatia in 2015 via the National Information System for Applications to Graduate Studies. Since higher education institutions are not obligated to conduct the application procedure electronically, only some of them accept online applications for now; they are listed at Studij.hr. Taking into consideration academic credit from the previous level of study (undergraduate), results of additional assessments (special knowledge, skills, capabilities), and other achievements, this system ranks candidates for enrolment in graduate study programmes.

The plan is to gradually introduce the electronic application system to remaining institutions of higher education in Croatia as well since this will lower the cost of applications, reduce the burden on administrative staff, and increase the transparency of enrolment procedure and the availability of statistical data and other information pertaining to application and enrolment procedures for graduate studies. 

Numbers of applicants who will be enrolled in graduate courses in Croatia are determined by higher education institutions themselves.

Terms of enrolment for foreign nationals and stateless people are identical to the terms of enrolment for Croatian citizens and fees for studying are defined by higher education institutions independently.

Curriculum

Higher education institutions also need to adopt curricula for graduate studies.

The curriculum defines the lecturers and associate lecturers for courses, specifies the place, time and module of each course (lecture, seminar, tutorial, practical, consultation, examination, etc.), the ways in which exams are taken, examination periods, it lists the required reading, states the possibility to take a course in a foreign language, and contains other important course-related information.

Teaching methods

The form that a course will take (lecture, seminar, practical, etc.) is defined by the higher education institution responsible for it, more precisely its academic staff, and it is contained in the curriculum that needs to be made publicly available before the beginning of the next academic year.

In most cases, courses are performed as lectures, seminars, and practicals, depending on the nature of a study programme. In line with the Bologna Process goals, small student groups and student-centred learning approach are preferred. During the re-accreditation process that every higher education institution in Croatia is subject to once in five years, reviewers assess ratio between students and their teaching staff, the appropriateness of study groups, the appropriateness of teaching methods for achieving the intended learning outcomes, the levels of interactivity, the inclusion of students in decision-making processes, and they look at practical work done by students and the support given to them in the course of their study.

Apart from reference publications in print (textbooks, manuals, science journals, etc.) that are available from higher education institutions’ libraries, students also have access to electronic resources for studying, databases, and online scientific periodicals. Practical sessions are held in spaces designated for conducting scientific research and experiments and for implementing knowledge in practice – laboratories, experiment stations, practical teaching bases, skill labs; spaces equipped with digital technology are also provided.

Progression of students

The progress that a student is making in acquiring the learning outcomes during a specific course is monitored throughout the year in ways stipulated by the study programme and curriculum.

Each course will end with examination-taking that earns the student a certain number of ECTS credits. The number of ECTS credit points is awarded in line with individual student’s total workload. The decision on how many times an exam can be taken is up to each higher education institution, but the number is usually limited to four. The fourth time the exam takes place before a commission and those students who fail their exam this last time are required to re-enrol again at the beginning of the next academic year.

Student advancement through the course of study is affirmed with their progress to the next course level (academic year), provided they have completed all their obligations and earned the required number of ECTS credit points.

Employability

Most students in Croatia opt for graduate studies in order to acquire competencies for jobs with a higher degree of complexity and responsibility, to advance professionally, or as part of a career change.

With the aim of furthering the employability of students, higher education institutions make so-called career centres and other kinds of support service available to them at the graduate level. Although this kind of support is provided only by a small number of higher education institutions, they offer students information about ways to contact potential employers, information about career fairs, hold workshops for enhancing their transferable skills, for writing resumes, practising self-introduction in job interviews, and so on. The effort has been made in the past few years to raise awareness about the importance of this kind of support centres and to eventually increase their number.

Professional training during graduate studies in Croatia is generally considered lacking, both after the second round of re-accreditation of institutions and by students, who say it should be mandatory and given more time. Also, the recommendation after the first round of accreditation was to involve employers in the process of defining curricula with the aim of reducing the mismatch between the education system and the labour market. Accordingly, the Ministry of Science and Education has secured financing from the European Social Fund to increase the volume and improve the quality of professional training in study programmes.

Systematic collection of information about the employability of graduates on the national level is a responsibility of the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education. In 2018, the Ministry appointed the National Group for Development of System for Tracking Qualified Persons, tasked with the implementation of activities based on the goals stipulated by the Education, Science and Technology Strategy (Official Gazette 124/2014) and the Council of EU’s Recommendation on Tracking Graduates (COM (2017) 249 final). Furthermore, the Agency for Science and Higher Education also collects periodically certain employability information in cooperation with higher education institutions and makes sure through external quality assurance procedures that every individual institution of higher education keeps a record of the employability of its former students. 

Student assessment

Students’ performance can be assessed based on their activities throughout the course and/or in an exam if it had been included in the curriculum, either in written or oral form. In the case of written exams, students are most frequently required to take essay-type, objective-type, and problem-solving exams. Curricula also define the extent to which a student’s active involvement (participation in debates, field research, writing of essays, involvement in some specific project, for example) during the course will contribute to their final grade.

During a course, the taking one of more midterm exams may be required as a condition for the final exam. Another option is to arrive at a final grade that is the average of attained midterm grades.

Students’ performance in exams and other knowledge assessments is graded one to five, with one (“insufficient”) as the lowest grade and the equivalent of “F” (fail). Only passing grades (2, 3, 4, 5) are entered into the student record book (indeks) and other relevant documentation for recording student performance.

Curriculum may stipulate that a certain type of course is performed without grading, or that evaluation is descriptive only.

A student has the right to complain about how their performance has been graded.

Certification

Graduate studies are completed by fulfilling all obligations that are required, by passing all exams, and by writing a thesis, or creating/performing a work of art in accordance with a study programme. Students’ theses are published in the national DABAR database, which is available on the website of the National and University Library.

Specialist professional graduate studies are completed by fulfilling all obligations that are required, by passing all exams, and by writing a thesis or taking a final exam in accordance with the relevant study programme.

Upon the completion of university graduate and specialist professional graduate studies, higher education institutions issue diplomas to students and award them master’s degrees or the title of specialist, including a specialization.

In accordance with the Bologna Process, each student is also issued a diploma supplement in Croatian and English languages with his/her personal data, specifying the named award and qualification details, including information about the possibilities of employment or inclusion in further study programmes, information about the higher education system in Croatia and other information.

The content of diplomas and diploma supplements is prescribed by the minister responsible for higher education, whereas every higher education institution determines independently the document formatting and its final design.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of doctoral studies

Postgraduate university or doctoral studies are provided in all fields – biomedical and health science, biotechnology, social sciences, humanities, natural science, technical science, interdisciplinary and artistic fields. According to the Ministry of Science and Education’s Directory of Study Programmes, most doctoral studies are available in social sciences, humanities and technical science.

Doctoral studies take three years minimum and normally award 180 ECTS credit points. Meeting all required conditions and publicly presenting their dissertation makes one eligible for the academic degrees of doctor of science or doctor of arts, corresponding to level 8.2 of the CROQF (level 8 of the European Qualifications Framework).

The institution of higher education that is providing doctoral studies should have study programmes vertically aligned within the same area or field. A programme in the interdisciplinary area that is not performed at undergraduate and graduate levels must be vertically aligned with those areas and fields that constitute the interdisciplinarity. Doctoral studies are conducted by universities or their constituents, independently or jointly. Also, several doctoral studies within one or several scientific and/or artistic areas may be joined in a doctoral school.

Doctoral studies do not require lectures, but they must include original research in either science or arts that has a satisfactory level of credibility, depth, and quality. The research is most often presented in the form of a dissertation or published papers and its content and requirements are regulated by internal regulations of universities and their constituents. All doctoral dissertations and papers must be publicly available at database DABAR

Admission requirements

Terms of enrolment are defined by higher education institutions and a public call is normally published one month before the beginning of lectures. Formal requirements for postgraduate doctoral studies include completed adequate university graduate studies (level 7 of the CROQF), a certain minimum level of achievement on the preceding level of education, and other terms defined by the higher education institution. Academic credit for all previously accomplished achievements and acquired knowledge is awarded in accordance with each institution’s internal regulations.

In most cases, elements that are taken into account during the assessment procedure include past academic credit (including the candidate’ average grades from the graduate level), the research draft, the number and quality of published papers, letters of reference from mentors or some other scientist, interview, foreign language proficiency, involvement in some scientific project, and others.

Doctoral studies’ enrolment quotas are determined by higher education institutions themselves depending on the availability of mentors and infrastructure, needs of the society, and candidates’ interest. The usual way to attract (talented) students to doctoral studies is to make an announcement through daily newspapers and the institution’s web pages.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

One becomes a doctorand – candidate for a doctorate – by enrolling in doctoral studies.

The amount of tuition for a doctoral study is determined by the higher education institution organising it. Most doctorands pay for it themselves or have their employer cover the cost and in most cases, the employer is a higher education institution or some other research institution hiring this doctorand as a teaching/research assistant. The institution providing a doctoral study can also enrol its assistants in doctoral studies without tuition. Other potential sources of financing doctoral studies are research projects, such as the Croatian Foundation for Science, which covers project owners’ costs of salaries and tuitions for doctorands/assistants involved in a project.

Doctoral studies can be full-time or part-time.

Postgraduate students are not entitled to standard student benefits available at lower levels of studying (subsidized meals, subsidized housing in student dormitories or in private accommodation, student employment contracts concluded via intermediaries, i.e. student centres or state scholarships).

An exception to this rule are postgraduate students with a disability, who are entitled to financial assistance for accommodation in student dormitories, a transport allowance covering part of their transportation costs, and a means-tested scholarship.

Employability

Most students attending doctoral studies are already members of the academia or have a job in the field of science, in the real sector, or in public sector/administration.

The employability of doctorands is encouraged with their inclusion in research projects, teaching at graduate and undergraduate levels and involvement in joint projects by higher education institutions and the business sector.  

Furthermore, most programmes at the level of doctoral studies also include the acquisition of transferable skills that are useful for further development of careers in scientific research and other areas. Doctorands are generally encouraged to work on their presentation and lecturing skills by giving seminar presentations, participating in course debates, and presenting at national and international conferences.

Assessment

Students of doctoral studies may enrol in the next year of study if they have completed all their obligations stipulated in the study programme by a specified deadline.

Doctorands’ progress and compliance is monitored through their mentors’ reports, at the meetings of the doctoral studies Council, and through their own progress report.

If the Council of doctoral study concludes on the basis of an annual assessment that a doctorand’s performance has been unsatisfactory, they may deny to the doctorand the right to continue studies.

A doctoral dissertation must be an original and independent product of scientific work, which is assessed by the mentor, the higher education institution, and the university before an oral examination by the examining commission who will grade it.

Dissertations must be publicly defended and after that they are made publicly available. Higher education institutions providing doctoral studies need to permanently archive all their dissertations in the National and University Library’s online repository for graduation theses and doctoral dissertations with public access – DABAR.

Certification

A doctoral study is considered completed after the doctorand has fulfilled all relevant obligations and successfully defended the doctoral dissertation, earning the academic title of doctor of science (dr. sc.) or doctor of arts (dr. art.), including the designation of scientific area and field. All rights under labour law applicable to doctors of science/arts take effect from this point on.

Doctor of science/arts diplomas are issued by the University.

Organisational variations

There are certain differences in the practice of carrying out doctoral studies depending on the institution providing them and on the scientific area or field in question. Furthermore, there is the option of doctoral studies in arts, which in most cases includes a final work of art together with dissertation. Despite various operational approaches to doctoral studies, they all have in common the requirement for making a scientific/artistic contribution to the candidate’s field of interest, in the form of dissertation/work of art or published scientific papers.

Doctoral studies come in different forms. In its standard and most frequent form, a doctoral study is organised by one or more university constituents or the university itself. Doctoral studies may be conducted as joint study programmes of several universities in Croatia or as joint international programmes, with universities from several countries participating. Joint/combined doctoral study programmes allow for the possibility of multiple diplomas, one joint diploma, or a single diploma, issued by the institution in which the doctorand enrolled and where the dissertation was defended. Some universities also offer dual or cotutelle doctoral programmes; doctorands are awarded two personal mentors during studies at two institutions and therefore earn two diplomas. However, in most cases, these are not formally joined/combined programmes in the strict sense.

Mobility and Internationalisation

Croatia strives for international cooperation at all levels of education from pre-school to higher education, including adult education. National priorities are in line with Education and Training 2020, Bologna Process and Copenhagen process.

Internationalisation of education, especially higher education, is an integral part of all strategic documents at national and institutional level. The legislative framework is being developed so as to facilitate and stimulate internationalisation in all its aspects, mobility aspect included. Through programmes and funds, both national and EU, funds are secured to implement initiatives and measures to increase the internationalisation of education, learning mobility and working mobility.

Strategic framework for mobility and internationalisation

In accordance with the „Youth on the Move” initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the young people’s opportunities for learning mobility have been recognized as an important instrument and factor for accomplishing better employability of young people. The guidelines for education, science and technology strategy, which the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports released in April 2012, emphasize the international dimension of education as an element of quality.

Internationalisation and mobility are also among the strategic goals chosen by public higher education institutions when negotiating with the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports on signing pilot-programme contracts by which new outcome-based funding models are initiated.

At general education level, National Framework Curriculum (2010) has taken into account the European trends by integrating European key competences for lifelong learning in a way that they represent a central part of basic education and preconditions for lifelong learning.

European dimension of education initiated by the Council of Europe and strongly promoted by the European Union, has become even more relevant for the education system in Croatia with the perspective accession of Croatia to the European Union. During the preaccession period, European dimension of education has been developping by participation of Croatian institutions in various international, EU and other multilateral inititives, and supported more particularly by EU funds and programmes. With the accession of Croatia to the European Union, it becomes important that education and training contribute to the integration of Croatia to the EU. Croatia is expected to become an EU member state on July 1st 2013.

Legislative framework

Legislative framework for achieving mobility and internationalisation of education contains legal regulation in the field of education, including recognition of foreign qualifications and quality assurance. Furthermore, the legal framework which regulates a foreign citizen’s stay in Croatia, his/her rights in Croatia, and the Croatian tax system and benefits/deductions are also relevant. Since 2009 the legislative framework has been developing so as to become a motivating factor for mobility and internationalisation.

Recognition of foreign qualifications is regulated by the Law on Recognition of Foreign Qualifications and the Law on Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Regulated Professions. The adoption of the Law on Croatian Qualifications Framework (expected to be adopted in December 2012) will initiate a number of legislative changes, including changes in recognition of foreign qualifications. With the Law on Croatian qualifications framework (CroQF), Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, as one of the coordinating bodies in the development and implementation of CroQF, is responsible for improving the policy on recognition of foreign qualifications. According to the line jurisdiction, changes are planned to the law which regulates the recognition of foreign qualifications in a way that, while respecting the principles and recommendations of the Lisbon Convention, quality and reliability of the recognized foreign qualifications is ensured at the same time.

Academic recognition, on the other side, recognition of studies abroad as part of the regular studies, is under the competence of higher education institutions. The system of recognition is developed by each higher education institution itself primarily in the framework of inter-institutional agreements. Relying on their institutional autonomy, educational institutions themselves strive for establishing and improving international contacts using the community tools created by the Lifelong Learning Programme, which enhance their cooperation with different countries.

In 2009 the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports set up a Working Group with the objective of smoothing the progress of increasing international mobility in education sector. The Working Group for removing obstacles to learning mobility is composed of representatives from various governmental and public institutions namely the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior, Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes, Agency for Science and Higher Education, higher education institutions, Institute for Development of Education and the students’ representative. Main tasks of the Working Group, defined in the Action Plan for removing obstacles to learning mobility for the period 2010-2012, have been to prepare proposals for amendments to the existing legislation regulating temporary residence of foreign pupils, students, teachers and non-teaching staff in Croatia, and regulating the awarding of scholarships to pupils, students, teachers and non-teaching staff for study trips abroad. On the basis of the evaluation of measures implemented in the framework of the first Action Plan, revised Action Plan will be developed with the objective to address main obstacles to mobility and to propose most effective measures to increase both learning and working mobility.

Initiatives and programmes supporting mobility

The promotion of learning mobility and the enhancement of the international dimension of education as well as the development of international relations between educational institutions has been one of the most important strategic objectives. In order to achieve these objectives, a set of tools has been set up, of which the most important are the EU funds and programmes, intergovernamental bilateral and multilateral programmes and initiatives. Croatia fully exploits the Community programmes supporting learning mobility.

Tempus

During the long pre-accession period, Croatia has participated in the Tempus programme for 9 years. For a long period of time this has been the major programme and instrument for mobility and internationalisation. Over 30 million euros that have been allocated to more than 100 joint European projects implemented in Croatia have provided strong support for the implementation of the Bologna Process in Croatia. Moreover, these TEMPUS projects have contributed to the preparation of higher education institutions in Croatia for the participation in the Lifelong Learning Programme. Majority of the mobility flows today thus run under the umbrella of the Union Programme, Lifelong Learning Programme. Moreover, European Union Structural Funds are foreseen to be used in order to raise the volume of mobility.

Lifelong Learning Programme

Croatia has been participating in the Lifelong learning programme since 2009. In the first two years of preparatory measures, the higher education institutions and students in Croatia participated only in some of the activities of the Lifelong learning programme. In that period the newly established Agency for mobility and EU programmes (2007) was undergoing preparations in order to obtain European Commission’s accreditation to manage EU funds, i.e. to implement Lifelong learning and Youth in Action programmes.

The Agency for Mobility and EU programmes, established in October 2007 as the National Agency (NA) for the management of the Community programmes – the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) and the Youth in Action (YinA) programme – on the basis of the Act on the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (OJ 107/07), in January 2009 concluded a grant agreement with the Commission for preparatory measures covering period 1 June 2008 – 31 December 2009. As part of these preparatory measures, the NA started to equip and train its staff, to inform the beneficiaries about the possibilities and ways of participating in the LLP, and to implement some pilot projects within the LLP.

The Agency also pursues activities of some other European programmes in the area of education and training, including Erasmus Mundus, TEMPUS, as well as the Europass and Euroguidance initiatives. The agency also offers administrative support to the National Bologna Expert Group and to the National ECVET Experts. Within the activities of the European Research Area (ERA) the Agency also acts as a bridgehead organisation of the EURAXESS National Centre.

Intergovernmental agreements supporting learning mobility

The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports has concluded intergovernmental agreements on higher education with 29 countries: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, India, Israel, Japan, Canada, China, Hungary, Macedonia, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Romania, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine i Great Britain. As of 2011, the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes has become responsible body for implementation of bilateral mobility programmes.

The implementation of bilateral programmes of higher education mobility is based on bilateral agreements, programmes and other implementation acts and includes scholarships’ exchange. Within these programmes, an annual average of 500 months of scholarships for Croatian citizens abroad is provided and as well as over 400 months of scholarships for foreign students and researchers on Croatian higher education and scientific research institutions. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports also provides scholarships for students attending Croatian language instructorships abroad, whether the Ministry is directly in charge of the instructorship or not.

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.