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Studying abroad in Europe

Since the tuition fee cap was lifted and university fees went up a few years ago, more and more British students have been looking at paths which do not necessarily end at the doors of a university in the UK.

While some have sought alternative qualifications, apprenticeships, school-leavers schemes and gap years, others have looked further from home to Europe for their university education instead.

Contents

Why study in Europe?

It’s cheaper – as a member of an EU/EEA country, British students are eligible to subsidised tuition fees which are significantly cheaper than those you would pay if you stayed in the UK and went to university. In fact in some countries, there are no tuition fees for EU/EEA students, such as Sweden (although students still need to have the funds to finance living in that country).

You get to travel – many British students plan to travel to and around Europe anyway. So studying on the continent is a bit like killing two birds with one stone (or “prendere due piccioni con una fava” as the Italians would say): you get an education AND you get to see the world (which is an education in itself). Europe has so much history and culture running through its veins! The architecture, the food, the people….the list goes on. While it’s very close to Britain spatially, the differences are always still astounding. You’ll certainly make your friends jealous when you post your pictures of your exploits.

Mobility – and it’s not just the country you study in which you can roam around! With a European passport, it’s easy to enter different countries within Europe. You can take the train and “interail” (where you buy a one-off ticket which allows you to jump on and off); or you can drive (though you might need to get a valid driving licence, plus familiarise yourself with driving on the other side of the road). 

Not too far away – it’s also very cheap to fly between European countries too; so if you do need to travel home at short notice, you can. Knowing that you’re just a few hours away from family can be very comforting for students when homesick. Theoretically, you can visit home once a month and do it pretty cheaply if you plan wisely.

As for the language barrier, well, keep reading… 

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    Where can you study?

    English is widely spoken throughout Europe so you need not struggle to learn the lingo (though it does help, and can be something useful to your LinkedIn or pull out when you’re on holiday). There are also a huge number of degrees (undergraduate and postgraduate) taught in English at institutions across continental Europe. The Netherlands offer one of the best selections. 

    To give you an idea of what’s out there, we’ve put together a table showing what’s available where, and how much it will cost. However note that important the subsidised tuition fees for EU students only apply to public universities: private universities can charge pretty much what they like, regardless of where they are.
     
    Country Proportion of English-taught degrees Annual tuition fees for EU students?
    Austria

     
    15% of Austrian students are international, but the vast majority of courses taught in German.

     
    Free

     
    Czech Republic

     
    Very common

     
    EUR 2000+ (free if you want to study in Czech)
     
    Denmark

     
    Very common

     
    Free

     
    Finland


     
    Common in newer ‘polytechnics’ – not so much so in more traditional universities

     
    Free


     
    France


     
    Reasonably common


     
    EUR 188+ (although a lot of admin fees)

     
    Germany

     
    Very common

     
    Free

     
    Greece

     
    Very few, other than some specialist courses

     
    Free
     
    Hungary

     
    Very common

     
    EUR 5,000+

     
    Iceland


     
    Growing number


     
    EUR 100 registration, then EUR 30 a module

     
    Italy




     
    Very limited number of English language courses, although the Politchnico di Milano has just announced all courses will be taught in English.

     
    EUR 680+




     
    Luxembourg


     
    All courses must be at least bilingual (at least 2 of English, French and German)

     
    EUR 200 (semester registrations)

     
    Netherlands

     
    Over 2,100 courses taught in English

     
    EUR 1906

     
    Norway


     
    Growing number, especially in international studies

     
    Free


     
    Portugal

     
    Very few

     
    EUR 950-1250

     
    Slovenia

     
    Very common

     
    Free

     
    Spain

     
    Almost none

     
    EUR 9.50 a module

     
    Sweden


     
    Reasonably common – there are over 100 English-taught bachelor’s

     
    Free

     
    Switzerland


     
    Most degrees require a high level of French or German       

      
    EUR 1500-6000


     
     

    Things you should remember

    Entry conditions As an EU citizen, you are entitled to study at any EU university under the same conditions as nationals in that country, including what you pay. When applying, the admissions staff will look at your academic results and decide whether they are equivalent to the local language qualifications in that country to meet the entry requirements. Of course, entry requirements will vary from one university to another just as they do in the UK.

    Local language – while courses are taught in English at some universities, knowledge of the home country language may be required at others. Therefore you may be asked to take a language test and meet a certain standard in that test. And while your course may be in English, do some research into how universal English comprehension is throughout that country. For example, English isn’t as widely spoken in Spain compared to say, Germany. You may have to learn the local language fast if you want to live comfortably.

    Living costs  the cost of living varies wildly in Europe, both country-to-country and across different cities. A general rule of thumb is that the capital and more touristy cities are the most expensive areas in the country. Consider whether you want to live in these more populated, cosmopolitan areas and feel a bit more “connected”; or if you’d prefer to be further out in areas which not everyone who visits experiences – this may be where you see the “real” side of that country. 

    Often universities will ask you to prove you can afford to live in that country. You’ll need to demonstrate this through bank statements, notifications of financial aid you’ve received etc., when applying. Usually universities will state a minimum amount which you must have in your bank account before they make you an offer. 

    Health cover – Some countries will also require that you are covered by health insurance which you have to purchase yourself, providing evidence that you have done so. 

    Registering once you arrive – You may also have to register with local authorities once you arrive in the country, whether the local council or police. Don’t be scared and think it’s because they want to spy on you! It’s usually just a formality so they their immigration authorities can track who is in the country. 

    Working while studying – different countries have different labour laws for students which you should be aware of. Generally as an EU citizen you’ll be able to work at least to some extent while studying. Check that any work you do perform keeps in line with what you are entitled to do as an EU student in that country. Remember that you’ll need a grasp of the local language to be in with a chance of getting a job that is somewhat pleasant.
     

    How to find a course

    The best way to find courses is to use a European course search engine. Below are the best ones we’ve found:

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