The Romanian Educational System
Note: the links in this sub-section are in English if not otherwise stated.
High School level:
In Romania, high school starts in the 9th grade and generally takes 4 years to complete; vocational high schools take 5 years. Public high schools significantly outnumber private ones. Public institutions do not charge tuition fees and offer scholarships to students with academic merit or/and need.
The Romanian secondary education system includes:
• National colleges: the most prestigious, well equipped, and internationally-connected secondary institutions in Romania;
• Military colleges: administered by the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Justice and other such ministries, alongside the Ministry of Education;
• Economic and technical colleges: both offer academic programs geared towards technical/service industry training;
• High schools: usually a high school’s name is indicative of its academic focus: theoretical high schools, economic high schools, etc.;
• School groups: two schools that have teamed up, generally a high school offering technical or service industry programs and a School of Arts and Trades
Note: the above information is inspired by a NAFSA material on Romania that was produced by FEAC. The document is available here.
Secondary education is highly centralized and admission to high schools is determined by the students’ performance in the nation-wide tests organized by the Ministry of Romanian Education and Research. In recent years the national exam for admission to high school was administered at the end of the eighth grade. However, acceptance to a certain high school depends on the type of institution as well. Some secondary schools may have their own admissions requirements, on top of the national ones.
The Romanian high school curriculum usually consists of 12 to 14 subjects taught each semester: Romanian Literature, History, two foreign languages (generally English, French, German, Italian, Spanish), Religion, Mathematics, Physics, IT, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Physical Education, Art, Music. In addition, students choose a subject from the elective courses, which also counts for their GPA. The choice is made by all the students in the same grade/clasă – a cohort of 25-30 students all taking the same courses throughout high school – which means that all students will take one extra course in Geography, say, instead of History.
As a rule, high school studies span 4 years, out of which only the first two are compulsory (school years 9 and 10). However, graduating high school and passing the National Baccalaureate exam at the end of the secondary education cycle are prerequisites to entering higher education. Students attending high school night classes and students who start their secondary studies at a School of Arts and Trades usually complete their studies in 5 years.
As mentioned before, Romanian students go through high school in the same grade (clasă) of about 25-35 students where they are taught in lock-step fashion. During the school day, students normally stay in the same classroom, where teachers come in for every course hour. Each grade has its own individual curriculum, different from others in terms of both subject matter and level. Transfer is possible between sections, but it often proves a tedious process.
In every grade’s curriculum, all subjects are mandatory and the teaching content and pace are the same for all students. Classes are block-scheduled: in most Romanian high schools students study either in the morning or the afternoon shift, during which they can have between 5 and 7 back-to-back classes of 50 minutes each. Unlike in American secondary schools, high-achieving Romanian students have no option of skipping a grade, as the Romanian system puts them in lock-step with all their classmates. Also, because students in different grades have different curricula and different teachers (with different grading policies), class rank is oftentimes a lopsided content.
There are no Advanced Placement or Honors courses. Romanian students have limited access to the IB program which is currently available at only two schools in Bucharest, according to the information at www.ibo.org.
Each grade is assigned a mentor (diriginte) who is one of the class teachers. This mentor meets with the students for general guidance once a week. Class teachers act remotely as school counselors, although they are not able to devote a lot of personal attention to students. Following a set curriculum, during the "general guidance" class, mentors only seldom discuss the students' academic future; most class-time is dedicated to administrative issues, such as discussion of grades and absences, as well as general ethical or admin issues.
The information above is authored by Bogdan State, Amherst College, MA, class 2009, currently PhD student at Stanford University.The text has been edited by FEAC.
In the wake of the Bologna Agreement most Bachelor’s programs take 3 years to complete. However, some programs take longer to complete, for example those in some technical fields, medicine, and architecture.
Master’s programs take 2 years beyond the Bachelor’s degree. Master’s programs are a prerequisite for admission to PhD programs.
PhD programs usually take 3 years to complete. Under special circumstances, the duration of study may be extended by 1 or 2 years.
According to a Ministry of Education report of 2007 (http://www.edu.ro/index.php/resurse/7942), in Romania higher education is provided by universities (universități), institutes (institute), study academies (academii de studii), schools of higher education, and other similar establishments, collectively referred to as higher education institutions (HEIs) or universities. HEIs can be state-owned or private; they are non-profit, apolitical in nature and focused on the public interest. (http://www.fulbright.ro/media/pdf/Monograph%20on%20Higher%20Education%20in%20Romania.pdf)
Starting with the summer of 2011 and the implementation of the new Education Act, universities were divided into three tiers (http://chestionar.uefiscdi.ro/) (info in Romanian):
• Universities focusing on education (which offer only Bachelor degrees);
• Universities focusing on education and scientific research and universities focusing on education and art (offering Bachelor’s and Master’s programs);
• Universities with an advanced research and education focus (which offer Bachelor’s, Master’s, as well as PhD degrees.
Based on this classification, the Ministry of Education has published a detailed ranking of Romanian universities: http://www.edu.ro/index.php/pressrel/16071 (info all in Romanian). Some of the most prominent Romanian universities are the University of Bucharest, “Babeș Bolyai” University of Cluj-Napoca and “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iași.
Since multiple-major programs are not available at Romanian universities, a student wishing to specialize in several areas of study is allowed to simultaneously attend several universities as a full-time student.
According to the Ministry of Education’s website, there are currently 56 accredited state institutions, 36 private ones and 21 enjoying temporary accreditation. (http://www.edu.ro/index.php/articles/c108/) (info in Romanian). A list of accredited universities from around the country can be found on the site of the Ministry of Education: http://harta.bdne.edu.ro/bdne/index.html (general info in English, specific info on universities in Romanian).
Accreditation and diploma certification is in the hands of the National Center for Diploma Certification and Equivalency http://www.cnred.edu.ro/ (all info in Romanian) and the Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education http://www.aracis.ro/, both coordinated by the Ministry of Education.
At the end of high school, students take the national examination called Bacalaureat, which includes oral and written tests in 6 subjects. A student needs a minimum cumulated grade of 6 in order to pass the Bacalaureat. This exam is mandatory for admission to Romanian universities (http://bacalaureat.edu.ro/2012/) (info in Romanian). Students are considered to have passed the Baccalaureate exam and can receive their Baccalaureate diploma only if they scored a minimum 5 out of 10 in each individual test included in the exam and if their overall score is no lower than 6.
Passing the Baccalaureate exam is a prerequisite for admission to higher education. Students apply to a school or department (facultate in Romanian) within a university. Admissions usually depend on one’s Baccalaureate grade and yearly GPA in secondary education, the student’s score in the university-organized admissions exam, an interview, and more (usually a mix of these factors) (https://www.nafsa.org/_/File/_/ges/Romania.pdf)
At the end of the Bachelor’s cycle, a student will take either only a written exam (Licență), or take both a written exam and give an oral presentation of a thesis they wrote over their last year in college. Usually the minimum score required to pass the BA exam is 6. These exams can differ from university to university, because in this respect each institution functions autonomously after its own rules. The higher education diploma is usually called Diplomă de Licență (with some variations: Diplomă de Inginer for engineers, Diplomă de Doctor for med school graduates). Students are also issued a “Diploma Supplement” in Romanian and English, free of charge. Usually at the end of their study program, after the BA graduation exam, students are issued an attestation detailing their results in the university-leaving exam, with the official Diploma and Diploma Supplement issued about a year after the exam. Both documents are issued as single copies.
With prestigious public universities, applicants must sit an entrance exam that includes oral and/or written tests. Private universities generally select students based on their average cumulated grade in the Bacalaureat exam; they may also require an interview. For fields like foreign languages, architecture, music or physical education, students may also be required to take an aptitude test.
Education is free for top students admitted to undergraduate degrees at public universities. By law, these top students are waived the tuition fees for a BA, a MA, and a PhD. However, if a student decides to enroll on more than one Bachelor’s program, for instance, even if they would normally qualify for the merit-based fee waiver, they are eligible for fee waiver in only one of the study programs. There is a limited number of free tuition spots in each department. Students are usually ranked academically annually, so it is possible for a fee-paying student to receive free tuition in their second year if they excelled academically, for example, and the other way round.
Other students who meet the admissions requirements pay tuition fees in the area of $1,000-1,500 per year. Private universities charge similar fees.
At graduate level, students pay fees around $1,000 per year.
A range of MBA programs are available in Romania. They are usually joint programs with universities in Canada, the U.S., and France and their fees range from $3,000 to $14,000 per program.
As a result of the Bologna process, Romanian students are eligible for the Erasmus grant program and can study for one or two semesters at a wide range of universities in the European Higher Education Area.
The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) is now compulsory in Romanian universities. For each year of studies, the student receives 60 ECTS (slightly more if they take on, say, all electives instead of just picking the compulsory amount; also if they take teacher training modules), an average of 30 ECTS per semester. The undergraduate program will have from 180 to 240 ECTS and the MA program from 90 to 120 ECTS.
Each semester is followed by 3-4 weeks of exams when visits by international schools are not recommended.
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