Both state and private institutions of higher education exist in Poland. The latter began to appear after 1990. A private school of higher education must receive permission to operate from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. It acquires a legal status when registered by the Minister of Science and Higher Education.
In 1998 the first state and private vocational schools began to appear. These schools train students within given specializations and prepare them for specific professions by including 15-week internships and school practice in the mandatory curriculum.
Study programs can take the form of full-time, evening or part-time studies and distant learning courses. Full-time studies is the prevalent form.
To qualify for admission to an institution of higher education, the applicant must hold the secondary school diploma (świadectwo dojrzałości). The rules of admission to the first year of study are determined autonomously by each institution. Some organize competitive entrance examinations, others use ranking procedures based on the final grades listed in the diploma, still others admit all who apply.