The Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) emphasises that, while it understands the necessity of adapting university programmes to changing realities, the overriding concern is that students must be assured that any changes do not lead to lower quality of education.

The draft regulations concerning university-level studies prepared by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, currently in the consultation phase, envisages the possibility of adjusting university programmes – beginning with the new educational cycle as well as in the course of the now-current cycle (...)

The yeas and the nays

Experts share the view of the regulator. “I agree with the concerns voiced by the President of UOKiK – especially as regards the potential changes in the course of the educational cycle”, says Michał Strzelecki, attorney and author of the PrawoReklamy.pl blog. As he points out, universities stand to receive sweeping powers in this scope, also due to lack of a specified percentage of permitted modifications.

“The President of UOKiK applies similar criteria in assessing standard form agreements used by business enterprises. There is no doubt in my mind that such clauses would be deemed inadmissible”, Strzelecki emphasises.

At the same time, Strzelecki notes that voicing reservations concerning the current draft of the regulations is, in essence, the only opportunity that UOKiK will have to improve the consumer protection standard in this regard. “Once the relevant issues have been addressed in the regulation, [UOKiK] will not be able to put into question lawful actions of the universities”, he explains.

Bernadeta Kasztelan-Świetlik, partner at GESSEL, strikes a similar tone. “UOKiK does well to emphasise that introduction of changes taking into account the state of the art is necessary. But students cannot be ambushed with these changes on a surprise basis”, she notes.

Universities have adopted a starkly different view. “The rules concerning changes to study programmes now proposed by the Ministry are similar to those presently in force. I believe that they are well structured. If rights of this sort were not guaranteed to universities, it would be impossible to, for instance, change instruction methodologies in the course of the academic year”, explains Prof Piotr Stec, dean of the Faculty of Law and Administration at the University of Opole.