Europe is one of the most attractive destinations for international students. From sunny weather to cheap universities, from friendly communities to affordable travel, Europe seems to have it all.
One of the best things in Europe is the European Union (EU). It has been the basis of numerous improvements across areas like education, work, immigration, and equal rights for all people.
What you need to know about the EU/EEA before applying
The European Union isn’t the same thing as Europe. While the EU is a very complex social-political entity, Europe is a whole continent. That’s why, although they are geographically within Europe, countries and states like Turkey, Ukraine, and the Vatican City State are not in the EU/EEA.
The European Economic Area (EEA) can be considered an extension of the EU, allowing several non-EU states (Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland) — which don't want to be part of the EU — to enjoy benefits like the free movement of goods and people, improved trade and economic relations, and so on.
And because things aren’t complicated enough, here comes Switzerland, which is neither EU nor EEA, but is still inside the single market, which means that countries can trade between themselves without extra tariffs or restrictions.
Now that you know so much about these political and economic entities, here’s how you can apply to a Master’s degree in the different regions of the EU/EEA.
1. Applying to a university in Northern Europe
Everybody has a special relationship with Northern Europe, the ‘cool kids’ of Europe. Notoriously beautiful and cold, the Scandinavian countries — Sweden, Norway (not actually part of the EU, but is part of the EEA - European Economic Area), Denmark, Finland — are always the top destinations for international and even EU students.
First of all, you might not have to pay any tuition fees at public universities. But this depends on your nationality and the Nordic country where you want to study:
- In Norway, education is free at all levels (Bachelor's, Master's, PhD) for all international students.
- In Sweden, students from the EU/EEA, Switzerland, and other Nordic countries don't pay anything for Bachelor's and Master's programmes. PhD courses are free for everyone.
- In Denmark, Bachelor's and Master's degrees are free for EU/EEA and Switzerland citizens and exchange students.
- In Finland, Bachelor's and Master's degrees are free for EU/EEA and Switzerland citizens.
Secondly, expect really high living costs. Even if you have a lot of discounts and ways to save money as a student, you should be prepared to spend significantly more than in other parts of Europe. To learn more about tuition and other expenses, check out:
- tuition fees and living costs in Sweden
- tuition fees and living costs in Norway
- tuition fees and living costs in Denmark
- tuition fees and living costs in Finland
And, since we’re on the subject of cool Nordic countries to study in, we have to give a shout out to Estonia. Honestly, this hidden gem for international students is buried in the Baltic countries, and it is so breathtakingly gorgeous and such a heaven for students, that you can’t miss the opportunity of applying to an Estonian university.
If this region caught your attention, we recommend checking out these universities:
- Roskilde University, Denmark
- University of Stavanger, Norway
- LUT University, Finland
- Jönköping University, Sweden
- Tallinn University, Estonia
Check out Masters in Northern Europe.
2. Applying to a university in East-Central Europe
Just because you know some myths about Eastern Europe from the movie ‘Eurotrip’ that doesn’t mean that Austria, Hungary, and Poland aren’t awesome destinations you should definitively consider.
Although education isn’t free, like it is the North, tuition fees and living costs tend to be waaaay lower than the average in other countries. For example, you can live really comfortable with 460 EUR per month in Poland, but that would only be your accommodation money in France.
Check out the application process for:
The following are some universities in East-Central Europe we recommend:
- Central European University (CEU), Austria
- University of Wroclaw, Poland
- University of Szeged, Hungary
Check out Masters in Central Europe.
3. Applying to a university in Western Europe
Usually, when you decide on the Master’s degree you want to pursue, you have to take into consideration not only the I-will-have-the-time-of-my-life part of studying abroad but also the pedigree of the country in which you wish to study.
That’s why Western Europe is such a prize destination: besides the famous cities and the great landmarks, you will also get to pick your future place of study based solely on what discipline you're after.
That’s why you can’t go wrong if you study:
- Engineering in Germany
- Gastronomy in Switzerland
- Fashion in France
- Law in Belgium
- Social Sciences in the Netherlands
- Humanities in Ireland
- Business and Management in Luxembourg
- Medicine in the United Kingdom
And, seeing how different these countries are, you should also understand the application process for each country. So, without further ado:
- Apply to study in Switzerland
- Apply to study in France
- Apply to study in Germany
- Apply to study in Belgium
- Apply to study in the Netherlands
- Apply to study in Ireland
- Apply to study in Luxembourg
- Apply to study in the U.K.
I know the information may be a lot to process, but, in the end, if you find the right university for you, it will be worth it. And, speaking of universities, we recommend checking out:
- University of St. Gallen (HSG), Switzerland
- HEC Paris, France
- University of Cologne, Germany
- KU Leuven, Belgium
- University of Twente (UT), the Netherlands
- University College Dublin, Ireland
- University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg
- Imperial College London, the UK
Check out Masters in Western Europe.
4. Applying to a university in Southern Europe
Get your sunglasses and your cocktails and let’s talk vacation-destinations.
Southern Europe, or, more specifically, countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, and Portugal were made for you if want to write your thesis while dipping your feet into the clearest seawater in the world.
It should come as no surprise that international students tend to choose these countries for their studies, especially if they want to immerse themselves in very rich culture and friendly communities.
But that’s not the only reason people want to study in the warmest part of Europe. Besides offering great degrees both in English and Spanish/Italian, the application process to a university here and the costs of living are very accessible, so it can’t get any better than this.
Learn more about the application process:
- How to apply to a university in Spain
- How to apply to a university in Italy
- How to apply to a university in Greece
- How to apply to a university in Portugal
And, because we care, you should know that the unis we recommend are:
- University of Deusto, Spain
- Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal
- University of Siena, Italy
- Alba Graduate Business School, Greece
Check out Masters in Southern Europe.
Applying to an EU university as a non-EU student
If you’re from outside the EU, the perk of travelling through countries freely is still open to you. If you have your passport and got a student visa for a certain country, you can still hop through the other ones, so that’s pretty cool.
But, on the other hand, your tuition fee is likely to be higher — sometimes two or three times higher — when compared to EU/EEA students. The explanation is usually that the government offer subsidies to universities that open their doors to EU/EEA students.
Additionally, the application process is usually longer for non-EU/EEA students. There's also a quota of international places for certain degrees in some countries (e.g. Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands). For example, they might only accept 1,500 international students for Dentistry.
Still, Europe is awesome, so don’t hold anything against it.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the EU/EEA, it’s time for you to figure out which of these regions / countries works best for you and start applying to Master’s degree at your dream university.