Growing numbers of international students are turning to Poland for their study abroad experience, with the latest figures from the Polish education foundation Perspektywy showing that over the past decade, the number of international students in Poland has tripled, reaching a record-high of 105,404 in the 2022/23 academic year.

In 2022/23, students from 179 countries studied in Poland accounting for 8.4% of all higher education students, up from 7.1% in 2021/22. These figures are a sharp increase from 2004, when Poland joined the European Union (EU) and had just 8,800 international students, who comprised just 0.5% of the student population.

Students from Ukraine account for just under half of all international students (48,150), with numbers having risen significantly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Other major sending countries include Belarus (12,011), Zimbabwe (3,598), Turkey (3,435) and India (2,744). Polish university, the Vistula Academy of Finance and Business, hosts almost 6,000 international students, comprising more than half (56%) of the university’s total student population.

Analysis by ICEF highlights that in 2022/23, “there were more Zimbabwean students in Poland than in Canada (1,425), the US (1,790), or Australia (1,665), despite these destinations’ more intense recruiting in Zimbabwe over the past couple of years”.  According to Times Higher Education, the influx of students from Zimbabwe and other African nations into Poland is partly the result of students who would have studied in Ukraine choosing Poland as an alternative.

One of the key attractions of studying in Poland is its affordability. Both the cost of living and tuition fees in Poland are significantly lower than in many other EU countries. Tuition fees range from €500-€8,000 per year for undergraduate degrees. Importantly, these fees are often the same for both EU and non-EU students, making Poland an attractive option for international students. For instance, the Vistula Academy of Finance and Business charges €500-€1000 per year for both domestic and international students, according to Poland also offers more than 300 English-taught university programmes. Polish medical schools, in particular, have a long tradition of offering medicine degrees in English to attract international students.

However, like many countries, Poland faces a shortage of student housing and a general housing crisis. Cushman & Wakefield figures show that Poland currently has 115,300 university-owned student dorm beds, accounting for approximately 9% of the student population of almost 1.2 million. There are also 11,500 beds in private halls of residence and another 6,000 in the pipeline.

In January 2024, the Polish government announced that it had allocated EURO 34.5 million for the renovation of student dorms around the country. This funding will be given to the 87 Polish universities that operate student dorms, with universities receiving up to 920,000 to refurbish their accommodation.

A November 2023 Cushman & Wakefield report notes that regardless of growing investment in student housing in Poland, “supply of public and private halls of residence fails to keep pace with growing demand. In addition, halls of residence remain very popular among students in Poland despite rising rental rates, which in turn is making the PBSA (Purpose-Built Student Accommodation) sector attractive for international investors.”