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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.

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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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