Croatia is very proud of its strong academic tradition. Some of its universities are the oldest in South-East Europe. There are 133 higher education institutions in Croatia, including 10 universities (8 public and 2 private), 15 polytechnic (11 public and 4 private), and 24 colleges of applied sciences (3 public, 21 private).
Croatia is a member of the Bologna process. All programs of study in Croatia are aligned with this structure.
Enrolling in a higher education institution in Croatia is not limited only to students who speak Croatian or are from Croatia. There are a variety of educational programs available for international students who do not know Croatian and do not have the intention to learn it. Medical studies are one of the most prominent programs and are taught in English.
In this article, we cover:
- Higher education institutions in Croatia
- International student exchange programs in Croatia
- Studying in Croatia as an EU national
- Studying in Croatia as a non-EU national
- Qualifications to study in Croatia
- Scholarships and financial subsistence
- How to get a student residence permit
- Can your family come with you to Croatia?
The facts are these…
There are 3 types of higher education institutions in Croatia:
- Universities (sveučilište)
- Polytechnics (veleučilište)
- Colleges of applied sciences (visoka škola)
The official register of all study programs implemented in Croatia is available here.
Croatian universities (sveučilište) are institutions of higher education that organize and implement university studies in at least 2 scientific or art areas in a large number of fields and interdisciplinary studies.
Universities consist of the following units that conduct teaching and research:
- Faculties (fakultet)
- University departments (sveučilišni odjel)
- Art academies (umjetnička akademija)
- University institutes (sveučilišni institut)
Polytechnics (veleučilište) are institutions that organize and implement at least 3 different professional study programs in at least 3 fields. Sometimes they are called “University of Applied Sciences”.
Colleges of applied sciences
Colleges of applied sciences (visoka škola) are institutions that also organize and implement specialized professional study programs but in fewer fields. Sometimes they are called “University College” or “School”.
The Agency for Mobility and EU Programs (AMEUP) implements student exchange programs and initiatives in Croatia. Below are the biggest programs for which they are responsible.
Students that are enrolled in a higher education institution outside of Croatia can spend one or two semesters in Croatia within the Erasmus+ program. These programs enable student traineeships, study mobility, virtual mobility, and blended mobility. Erasmus+ programs are implemented on the basis of an agreement between the sending and the receiving institution.
Learn more about the Erasmus+ programs here.
European Solidarity Corps
The European Solidarity Corps is a program that enables young people to volunteer in projects outside of their country of residence.
Learn more about the European Solidarity Corps here.
CEEPUS is an abbreviation for the Central European Exchange Program for University Studies. The main goal of this program is networking between at least three universities from 3 different countries that operate among joint programs.
This program is available to students from the following countries:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
Students coming from the above-mentioned countries can apply for CEEPUS scholarships. However, students coming from countries that are not on this list can apply for mobility programs that are outside of the CEEPUS network.
Full-time students from the EU Member States are entitled to access the same education as the students of the Republic of Croatia – meaning they have the right to pay the same amount of tuition as Croatian students. Regular EU students also have the right to subsidized food just as students of Croatia.
It is also important to note that EU nationals have the right to live and work in any member state, including Croatia. Due to this privilege, they do not need to apply for a residence permit on the basis of their studies.
They can instead apply on the basis of being an EU national, which is a much easier process and comes with more privileges. [Read: How EU citizens can get temporary residence in Croatia]
Non-EU nationals may enroll in a university within Croatia and must pay the tuition fees as dictated by the respective institution. For a program to qualify a person for student residence, they must be enrolled in a high school, a university, or participate in an internship program.
Students can also study in Croatia as part of student exchange programs.
Croaticum and similar language programs do not qualify for student residence. If you are planning to enroll in this type of program, you must apply for residence under “other purposes” (called “u druge svrhe” in Croatian). [Read: How to apply for residence based on prepayment of rent]
There are two types of qualifications recognized in Croatia:
- Academic recognition
- Professional recognition
Academic recognition is for those wanting to further their education in Croatia. Professional recognition is for those hoping to gain employment in Croatia post-education.
All higher education institutions that accept international students usually have an office dedicated to working with foreign applicants. Prospective students should contact this office at their selected institution well before applying in order to obtain the necessary requirements for acceptance.
If a student earns a degree in Croatia, they will need to find out if it will be recognized in the country where they intend to live and work after graduation.
If English is not your first language, then you will need to show that your English language skills are at a high enough level to succeed in your studies.
Each higher education institution determines the amount of tuition fees for their study programs. The amount of tuition fees depends on the study program and the duration of the program. The amount of tuition fees for international students also depends on the higher education institution.
Below are approximate annual fees depending on the different degree programs:
- Humanities and social sciences – 1.100€ – 10.400€
- Natural and technical sciences – 1.000€ – 6.000€
- Medical studies – 10.000€ – 12.000€
- Additional application fees – 60€ – 300€
Currently, the majority of the Croatian higher education institutions do not offer any scholarships or financial aid to international students. However, some of them might offer some financial aid or partial tuition fee waivers for international students.
The scholarships are offered through bilateral and university bilateral agreements and through programs such as Erasmus and CEEPUS administered by the Agency for Mobility and EU programs.
In order to study at Croatian higher education institutions, international students must prove they have sufficient financial means for the duration of their study in Croatia, either from personal sources and/or scholarships. Student scholarships can be approved in their home countries or internationally.
They must possess monthly financial means in the amount of 25% of the average monthly salary in the previous year. You must possess return funds in the amount of 60% of the average monthly salary in the previous year. You may view the latest amounts in this post.
To prove financial means from personal sources, you may show that you have these funds in a foreign or Croatian bank account.
At this time, non-EU students are not allowed to work. There is a proposed change to the law currently in discussion in parliament. If this changes, we will update this post here.
International students are not allowed to attend classes at a Croatian university until they have procured a temporary residence permit. Application for a residence permit is based on your term of study within Croatia.
Nationals of countries that require a visa to enter Croatia must apply for student residence abroad. Once granted, they must apply for a D visa to enter Croatia as well. Both applications can be submitted at the closest diplomatic mission or consulate of the Republic of Croatia. You can find out if a visa is required for your nationality here.
Below are the steps on how to obtain a residence permit based on a study in Croatia.
#1 Enroll in an approved program
To begin a residence permit application, international students must first have student status in Croatia.
International students can have one of the following student statuses:
- Degree-seeking student
- Exchange student
- Bilateral agreements
- Guest student
- Short-term study
The admission processes vary by status and program.
To apply for a study program in Croatian, you must apply directly to the institution.
Please note that some Croatian programs require knowledge of the Croatian language at Level B2, in which case you must pass a test beforehand. [Read: Biggest Croatian language schools in Croatia]
If you want to pick a program that is conducted in English or another foreign language, universities may have additional requirements. It is best to contact the specific institution to get the latest requirements.
A Register of Study Programs in Croatia is available here.
#2 Collect the documentation
To apply for a student residence permit, you must provide:
- Completed application – provided by the police or available here
- Passport photo 35×45 mm
- Valid passport (If it is not in English, then a copy must be apostilled/legalized, officially translated)
- Proof of secured housing
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
- Proof of admittance to a higher education institution in Croatia
A fee of ~500 kuna must be paid to receive your student residence permit.
Foreign students (or professors and researchers) that have acquired scholarships from the Agency for Mobility and EU Programs are exempt from paying this fee but they are still required to pay for the cost of the issuance of the residence card in the amount of 240 kuna and the duty stamp fee of 70 kuna.
The usual duration of the student residence permit is one year or it can be tied to the academic year. A student who studies full-time in Croatia must renew the permit each year. Start the process for your next permit at least 30 days in advance (but up to 60 days in advance is recommended).
#3 Submit the temporary residence permit application
If you’ve collected all the required documentation, it is time to apply for temporary residence.
The application can be submitted at:
- Diplomatic mission or consulate of the Republic of Croatia in the foreign national’s home country
- Administrative police department located in the jurisdiction where you plan to study
Students submitting an application to the diplomatic mission or consulate of the Republic of Croatia in their home country should do so prior to their scheduled arrival in Croatia.
Students submitting the application to the appropriate police department or police station in Croatia should do so upon entering Croatia during their short-term stay.
Terms of permanent residence
From 2021, student residence counts as half time towards permanent residence.
The law says:
(2) Državljaninu treće zemlje kojem je odobren privremeni boravak u svrhu studiranja u vrijeme potrebno za odobrenje dugotrajnog boravišta iz članka 150. stavka 1. ovoga Zakona računa se samo polovica vremena provedenog na temelju odobrenog privremenog boravka u svrhu studiranja.
Which translates to…
(2) A third-country national who has been granted temporary residence for the purpose of studying at the time required for the approval of long-term residence referred to in Article 150, paragraph 1 of this Act shall be counted only half of the time spent on the basis of approved temporary residence for study.
Learn how third-country citizens can apply for permanent residency here.
Find a list of all types of residence permits for Croatia here.
If you have been accepted to a Croatian institution AND have received a residence permit, your immediate family may not join you in Croatia for a period of two years.
If you are a minor child studying in Croatia, you may bring your parents to Croatia. In this case, your family may apply for residency under “Family Reunification”.
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.