Education System of Croatia

Croatia is located South-eastern Europe and shares the borders with Slovenia in the north-west, Italy and Slovenia on the Adriatic Sea, Hungary in the north, Montenegro in south, Serbia in the north-east, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Education is a constitutional right in Croatia. According to the section 65 of the Constitution of Croatia, elementary education is compulsory and free of charge. Also, secondary and tertiary education is available to all.  In Croatia, education is largely offered by the public sector. The Ministry of Education of Croatia is responsible for elementary and secondary education and is free. The Croatian government finances all the public universities. 

Croatian Educational Background

Education in Croatia dates back to 10th century, and till the 18th century was associated to the Church and priesthood.  During the rule of Maria Theresa started the systematic education. Maria Theresa issued a decree in 1774 on the General School Order, thus starting a reform in education with importance on elementary/primary education. Since then, every area with a parish church was required to open a school, which was compulsory for children beginning at age 7 and continuing to age 12.

In 1849, the first public teacher training college was established in Zagreb. The first Croatian Education Act was issued in 1874 by the Croatian Diet, as per which education was made compulsory for 5 years and Croatian became the official language.  In 1945, 7-year education became mandatory, and in 1958, 8-year education was made compulsory for children aged 7 to 15.

Education Profile of Croatia

The education in Croatia is divided into following levels:
  • Preschool education
  • Elementary education
  • Secondary education
  • Higher education
The education system in Croatia starts with preschools, followed by compulsory elementary education that lasts for 8 years, then secondary and higher education.

Pre-school Education/ Early Childhood Education

Pre-school education in Croatia is not compulsory and is offered by preschool institutions that are managed by the local authorities, kindergartens and nursery schools. Nursery schools in Croatia provide short and full-day educational, social and health care programmes to children aged 6 months to 6 years. In Croatia, there are state-run and private kindergartens available. 

Compulsory and Free Education

In Croatia, education is compulsory for 8 years and is free for all K-12 educational levels. 

Elementary Education

In Croatia, elementary education is mandatory to attend and is for children aged 6 to 14. This educational level lasts for 8 years and is divided into two levels:
  • Grades 1-4: These grades are taught by a single teacher per class.  Subjects covered are mathematics, physical education, Croatian, visual art, religion, nature and society, foreign language (generally English), and music education.
  • Grades 5 to 8: These grades are taught by different teachers. There are different teachers for different subjects.  The subjects covered are biology, geography, informatics, history, chemistry, English and a second language-can be Italian, German or French; and physics.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Croatia is not compulsory and lasts for 4 years. Secondary education is split up into:
  • Gymnasiums: These secondary schools are subdivided into: classical high schools, general education high schools, language high schools, and schools specializing in informatics, science and maths. 
  • Vocational schools: The vocational school studies lasts for 3 years and prepares students for work. These are mainly industrial and crafts schools.
  • Arts schools: These schools offer studies in the field of music, arts and dance.
Examination: Upon successful completion of the secondary education, students must take State Matura exams in order to gain admittance into the Croatian higher education institutions undergraduate degree programme.

Higher Education

Higher education in Croatia is offered by universities and polytechnic schools. 

Higher Education Institutions: Snapshot

  • Polytechnic schools (veleučiliste): These schools provide professional skills and knowledge required for a professional vocation. The studies at these institutions last for 2-3 years and is conducted in the college of applied sciences or polytechnics. 
  • Universities (sveučiliste): Universities in Croatia comprises of several independent faculties. This type of higher education provides undergraduate and graduate studies. 
  • Schools of professional higher education/Colleges of Applied Sciences

Higher Education Qualifications

Following are the Croatia higher education qualifications:

Undergraduate studies: This studies lasts for 3-4 years and lead to the title of Bachelor.

Graduate studies: Comprises of master and doctorate degree programmes.
  • Master’s degree requires 1-2 years of full-time studies. The title of Master (mag.) is awarded after the completion of course.
  • Doctoral degree requires 3 years of full-time studies and ends with a defence of a doctoral thesis. The academic title of Doctor of Arts (dr. art.) or Doctor of Science (dr. sc.) is conferred after the completion of the course.

Admission Requirements

For admittance to a higher education institution in Croatia, there are a few general and institution-specific requisites. The requirements vary depending on the study level and programme. 

To enter the undergraduate programme, candidates must have completed high school studies. In Croatia, for undergraduate admission, there is a centralised online application system, in which candidates must fill out a form and choose up to 10 courses. For admission to the master and doctoral degree programmes, the individual higher education institution manages the process. Candidates must apply directly to the institution of their choice. 

To get detailed information on admission requirements, click here.

International Students

Study and Living Expenses

Tuition Fees: The tuition fee is decided by each higher education institution in Croatia, and it varies depending on the study level and programme.

Living Expenses: Students can expect to spend between 400 and 700 EUR per month, including accommodation, food, travel and other necessary things.


The Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports offers scholarships for international students through bilateral programmes, university bilateral agreements, and through programmes managed by the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes. 

Student Visa & Residence Permit

International students are required to get an entry visa for Croatia- Visa C. Also, if their stay in Croatia is for a period of more than 90 days, they must apply for temporary residence permit.

Health Care

International students are offered health care services in Croatia, under certain conditions. To get detailed information on health care for students in Croatia, click here
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