Poland’s traditions of academic education go back to 1364 when King Casimir the Great established the Cracow Academy, known today as the Jagiellonian University. The Cracow Academy, one of the oldest in the world, based itself on academies in Bologna and Padua, and, after the school in Prague, was the second university in Central Europe. About two centuries later, in 1579, King Stefan Batory transformed the existing Jesuit College in Vilnius into the Vilnius Academy and in 1661 John Casimir, King of Poland, transformed the Jesuit College into the Lvov Academy. Thus, by the end of the 17th century, the Kingdoms of Poland-and-Lithuania had three flourishing universities providing academic education to both national and international students.
Today, the Polish higher education system is developing dynamically. Poland holds fourth place in Europe (after the United Kingdom, Germany and France) in terms of the number of people enrolled in higher education. The total student population at over 450 higher education institutions numbers almost 2 million. Each year almost half a million young people begin their education at universities and colleges. Polish universities offer more than 200 high quality study programmes as an integral part of the European Higher Education Area. Most schools offer their courses also in foreign languages.
Poland plays an active part in the Bologna Process. Owing to the introduction of three-stage education as well as the European Credit Transfer System, both Polish students and foreigners studying in Poland remain fully mobile and can continue education elsewhere in the European Union without any problems. Within the Erasmus Programme alone, which has been running for over 20 years now, almost 30 thousand foreign students have come to study in Poland while almost 100 thousand students from Poland have taken part of their education in another country within the European Union. Foreign students coming to Poland can expect a most attractive and diversified education offer meeting the high European standards. They can study medicine, biotechnology or engineering, but also art and business. The diploma awarded to them upon graduation is recognized not only Europe-wide but also in most countries of the world.