The higher education system in the Republic of Croatia is currently undergoing a comprehensive reform aimed at the harmonisation with the European Higher Education Standards and the Bologna Process, embarked upon by Croatia in 2001.
The Croatian higher education system comprises six universities (the University of Zagreb, the University of Rijeka, the University of Osijek, the University of Split, the University of Zadar, the University of Dubrovnik) with some eighty faculties, art academies and schools of professional higher education; six polytechnics (two in Zagreb, Karlovac, Rijeka, Dubrovnik, Požega); six independent schools of professional higher education and eleven private accredited schools of professional higher education.
The Scientific Activity and Higher Education Act (Official Gazette 123/03) came into force in August 2003 and established a mixed system which supports the specialist education offered in polytechnics, independent schools of professional higher education and universities on one hand, and academic education which is conducted solely in universities on the other hand. The Act treats private and public higher education institutions equally.
Under the new Act, higher education is organised according to the system of transferable points and has three levels: 1) undergraduate courses, which typically last for three to four years and bring 180 to 240 ECTS points. Undergraduate courses provide students with training for graduate courses and the possibility of finding employment in certain specialised jobs. Upon the completion of the undergraduate courses, students are awarded the academic title baccalaureus or baccalaurea, with their profession also indicated, unless the law specifies otherwise; 2) graduate courses, which typically last for one or two years, bring 60 to 120 ECTS points – 3) postgraduate courses can be taken after completing a graduate university course – they typically last for three years, and the academic title doctor of science (dr.sc.) or doctor of arts (dr.art) is awarded upon completion. The university can also offer postgraduate specialist courses which last for one to two years, by which one can acquire the title of a specialist (spec.) in a certain specialist field.
Professional degree courses are offered at polytechnics and independent schools of professional higher education but also at the university. Professional degree courses last for two to three years and bring 120 to 180 ECTS points upon completion. Upon completion of a professional degree course, the students are awarded the title professional baccalaureate, with the indication of the profession. Polytechnics and schools of professional higher education can organise a specialist professional graduate degree course for people who have completed a professional degree course or an undergraduate university course. The specialist professional graduate degree course lasts for one to two years after which the title of specialist of a certain profession (spec.) is awarded.
The process of establishing the above-mentioned studies in higher education institutions will begin from the academic year 2005/2006 and the ECTS system will also be implemented as a compulsory one. The implementation of the postgraduate courses initiated in accordance with the provisions of the new Act started with the academic year 2004/2005.
According to the former Higher Education Institutions Act, budgetary financing of higher education in Croatia is centralised at the level of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, which directly distributes funds among faculties i.e. university units and all other public higher education institutions. The funds for higher education and research work are obtained from the state budget and from other sources like foundations, funds, donations, tuition fees and scholarships.
The 2003 Scientific Activity and Higher Education Act provides for a radical change in the financing of public universities. Effective January 1, 2006 state funds will be transferred to the central university account (lump sum funding) and consequently distributed to university units taking into account their capacities, the price of a particular course and a quality assessment based on evaluation. Except from the founders and the state budget, the funds for higher education institutions are also obtained from the budget of the counties, towns and districts, the National Foundation for Science, Higher Education and Technological Development of the Republic of Croatia, the institution’s own funds generated from tuition fees, research, art and expert projects, surveys, expert opinions, publishing and other activities, university and other foundations, individuals' direct investments, companies and other legal persons, and from donations.
Private higher education institutions can also be financed from the state budget according to the rules set by the National Council for Higher Education.
Access to Higher Education
Citizens of the Republic of Croatia and persons of Croatian nationality domiciled outside the Republic of Croatia, as well as foreign nationals and stateless persons permanently residing in Croatia, have the right to enrol at a course of study under equal conditions. Foreign nationals and stateless persons who are not permanently residing in the Republic of Croatia have the right to enrol at a course of study under the terms set by the Ministry, on the basis of intergovernmental agreements and treaties. The Ministry decides on the level of tuition fees. Students who are foreign nationals, and who will pursue their studies with the status of a full-time student, pay annual tuition fees that are no more than three times higher than those of a full-time study (unless differently specified by a treaty). In private schools, all categories of students bear the costs of their tuition fees.
Under the 2003 Scientific Activity and Higher Education Act, enrolment in a course of study continues to be performed on the basis of a public competition announced by the university or by an independent school of professional higher education or polytechnic. The classification and the selection criteria for the enrolment of candidates are established by the university or by the independent school of professional higher education or polytechnic. Foreign nationals may enrol in a course under conditions equal to those of Croatian nationals, but, in conformity with the decision of the authorised government body or higher education institution, they may be required to partly or fully bear the cost of their studies. Admission to studies may be limited or denied to foreign nationals if the course in question concerns military or police education or other studies of interest to national security.