Culture / education
In our detailed overview of the educational framework in Croatia, we outlined the main elements and structure of higher education. The long tradition of obtaining higher education in Croatia began in 1396 with the University of Zadar as the first university established in the country. Today, 7 public and 2 private universities are pillars of the higher education system in Croatia.
Binary system and the Bologna Process
When choosing their area of study, students can pick between two types: university or professional studies. University studies are made up of academic programmes held exclusively at universities and are the foundation for postgraduate programs and certain career paths. Professional studies are conducted at polytechnics and colleges and give a more specialised knowledge with specific skills relevant to their industry.
Since 2005, Croatia’s higher education system has been aligned with the Bologna Process (the European system for consistency in higher education). The Bologna Process saw a complete reform of curriculum and structure in higher education in Europe, Croatia included.
Higher education has tiers that are divided into three levels: undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate. Each subject carries a number of transferable credits (ECTS). They represent the required workload within study programmes, and usually, one year is worth 60 ECTS credits.
ECTS allows international students the chance to study abroad and have their completed workload recognised in their home country. This credit system also allows students from outside the EU to transfer ECTS into their standardised equivalent back home.
University of Zagreb
The University of Zagreb is the biggest in South-Eastern Europe. It was founded in 1669 by King Leopold I and was the first official public institution for higher education. It is the oldest in Croatia, and is still operating today.
Many prominent and historic figures of Croatia attended this university, including famous skier and Olympic medalist Ivica Kostelić, and Nobel-award winning writer Ivo Andrić. The university consists of 29 faculties, 3 art academies and has over 70 thousand students in attendance.
University of Split
Founded in 1974, after more than a decade of having several higher education schools in Zadar and Split. In 2005, the university became what it is today, with 11 faculties, 1 art academy and more than 180 different university programs. More than 20 thousand students currently attend the university and according to the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings in 2020, the University of Split was declared as the best Croatian university.
University of Rijeka
Higher education institutions were present in Rijeka from the 17th century. In 1973, as a logical step towards uniting all of them, the University of Rijeka was formed as part of the national higher education system reform. It has 10 faculties, 1 art academy and 4 departments. The university’s goal is to follow a dynamic development and remain open to student mobility. Currently, more than 45% of the students are coming out of Rijeka, making the university a valuable part of the city’s economy.
University of Osijek
The long history of higher education began in Osijek in the early 18th century when a Higher Theological school was founded in the city. In 1959 the University of Zagreb founded a part-time studies branch in Osijek which led to the initiative to officially form the University of Osijek in 1975.
It is organised into 11 faculties, 1 art academy and numerous organisational units. In 1990, the University of Osijek took its new official name from a famous bishop born in Osijek in 1815, Josip Juraj Strossmayer. According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, in 2018, it was ranked as the fourth-best university in Croatia.
University of Zadar
Zadar is the hometown of the oldest university of Croatia’s current and historical regions, dating back to 1396. Zadar was chosen as the location for the university due to its prominence as the most important naval point of the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom.
In 1807, French authorities abolished the university during the Napoleonic Wars, however various higher education institutions operated over the years until the officially restored University of Zadar was founded in 2002.
Today, it is the largest completely integrated university in Croatia, with 27 departments and 4 scientific and research centres. As of 2020, more than 6000 students are in attendance with more than 422 professors.
University of Dubrovnik
The University of Dubrovnik was founded in 2003 and is among the youngest universities in Croatia. The strong higher education tradition in Dubrovnik which has existed for more than 300 years was also the basis for forming the university originally.
Advantages of studying at the University in Dubrovnik are the innovative curriculum, smaller study groups, modern equipment, student exchange programs and many perks given by the city of Dubrovnik. There are 7 departments and various other organisational units with more than 3000 students attending.
Currently, there are two private universities, Vern and Libertas. Vern was founded in 1990 as the first business school in Croatia. After many years of successful operation, in 2007 they established the first private business in Croatia. Today they have merged with the School of Management in Zagreb and form an integrated university. They also started Vern Island School on Vis in 2012 as they continue their growth and expansion. More than 1800 students attend the university.
Libertas is an international private university founded in 2016. It is the only private higher education institution that offers both university and professional studies. It is divided into 4 faculties and 1 business school.
The Catholic University is the youngest university in Croatia, founded in 2006 by a Decree of cardinal Josip Bozanić and is also a private institution. The first academic year was in 2010 with the first 40 students studying history. Today, the Catholic University has 5 departments, more than 1200 students and 142 professors.
Programmes in English
In recent years, the rate of foreign students applying to Croatian universities is growing more than ever. Deans of most universities have recognised the increased interest and now at the Universities of Split, Zagreb, Rijeka and Dubrovnik, it is possible to attend studies in the English language. Here is a full list of available studies in English issued by the Ministry of Education and Sport.