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In accordance with the Bologna system, higher education in the Republic of Croatia has a three-cycle study model, including undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate level of study.

Like several other European higher education systems, the Croatian system has a binary structure comprising the professional and university profile of study programmes and institutions. 

Unlike higher education institutions that run university programmes up to the doctoral level, professional studies are primarily delivered at polytechnics i.e. universities of applied science at undergraduate and graduate levels and as short-cycle studies. 

Professional studies primarily focus on the labour market and an immediate participation in the workforce, and they lead to the acquisition of primarily professional competences. University study programmes qualify students for developing and applying scientific and professional achievements and lead to the continuation of academic education. 

Types and levels of study programmes delivered in higher education institutions in the Republic of Croatia are prescribed by the Act on Higher Education and Scientific Activity (OG 119/22). 

University study programmes are organised and implemented at the university and comprise the following: 

  • university undergraduate study programmes, 
  • university graduate study programmes/ university integrated undergraduate and graduate study programmes, 
  • university specialist study programmes, 
  • doctoral study programmes. 

Professional study programmes are organised and delivered at polytechnics and universities and include the following: 

  • professional short-cycle study programmes, 
  • professional undergraduate study programmes, 
  • professional graduate study programmes.

Higher education institutions may set up professional development programmes for the purposes of lifelong learning, leading to competences that are consistent with an occupational standard or a set of competences and a qualification standard or a unit of learning outcomes entered in the Croatian Qualifications Framework Register as well as the differential requirements for the purposes of changing a study programme or enrolment in a study programme, completing the previously started study programme and for recognising competences acquired outside the study programmes, which are a prerequisite for enrolment in the study programme. 

A professional development programme for the purpose of lifelong learning shall not be considered a study programme, and may be funded through the voucher system for the purpose of participation in the workforce.