Tourism Tertiary Education and Research in Poland

By Bialk-Wolf, Anna | European Journal of Tourism Research, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Tourism Tertiary Education and Research in Poland


Bialk-Wolf, Anna, European Journal of Tourism Research


Introduction

Higher education in Poland in the political and economic context

As a result of the contract after World War II, the Polish People's Republic was established as a communism satellite state. This period is characterized not only by many turbulences with very difficult stages, but also with so-called political 'thaws'. The guiding spirits of the transition in Poland were the Polish pope, John Paul II, and Lech Walesa, who founded and led the Solidarity trade union after a shipyard strike in Gdansk in 1980. Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, in June 1989 'almostfree' elections took place in Poland.

Since the collapse of communism Poland's economy has grown more than in any other country in Europe. Moreover, Poland was the only EU country not to fall into recession during the 2008-09 global financial crisis. As reasons for Poland's economic miracle, Piqtkowski (2013) has mentioned the concerted efforts towards European integration from the beginning of the transformation, expansion of both quantity and quality of education and the benefit from inflows of EU funds.

The history of higher education in Poland dates back to the fourteenth century - at which time the Cracow Academy was established. The current status is shaped by the time after the World War II. The situation of the tertiary education system in the period from 1945 to 1989 reflects the state of the political circumstances. Interlaced times of repression of independent scientists with times of relative freedom have influenced educational institutions (Dqbrowa-Szefler & JabteckaPrystopska, 2006, p. 13). The situation in Poland was mostly better than that in other Soviet bloc countries, evidenced by the fact that Polish scientists participated in many international exchanges. In the time from 1946 to 1989 the number of tertiary education institutions grew from 54 to 97. Simultaneously, the number of tertiary students grew from 86,500 to 378,000. The political and economic transition in Poland has also influenced tertiary education by enabling more freedom and autonomy.

As Dqbrowa-Szefler and Jabtecka-Prystopska (2006) state, the crucial trends in the first years of the transformation after 1989 contain:

* extended autonomy of tertiary education institutions

* a high rate of growth in the number of students

* commercialization

* changes in the structure of tertiary education (ownership structure, types of tertiary education institutions, types of programs and fields of study, diversification of education models)

* increasingly manifested contradictions between the quantitative expansion

* the need to maintain quality standards.

Characteristic for that period is also an increased demand for the tertiary sector, which is a result of the linkage between the level of qualification and the level of wages. The emergence of many non-public education institutions and a shift of part of the education costs onto students as a cause of financial problems in the education sector has been observed. The tuition fees were implemented not only for non-public education, but also for studying extramural and evening (part-time) programs in public institutions. The Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Central Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles at the Office of the Prime Minister and The State Accreditation Committee can be regarded as important central-level institutions. One of the main current problems of the tertiary sector is a low expenditure on higher education as a percentage of GDP. Table 1 shows the situation between 2000 and 2013.

As one can see in this table, the absolute value of public expenditure on higher education has risen both continuously and immensely within the considered timeframe. Zooming in on the rather small portion of the local selfgovernment, a quite different picture emerges: while here the expenditure had increased even more impressively until 2007, this trend sharply reversed after 2009. …

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