A Guide on Where to Study in Europe - Mastersportal.com

A Guide on Where to Study in Europe

Table of Contents: 

Deciding to study in Europe opens the door to a world rich in history, cultural diversity, and academic excellence. Europe’s oldest universities are also some of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. Moreover, Europe also offers affordable and extremely attractive degrees for international students. It offers great diversity in teaching style, campus life, and urban and natural landscapes, so there is a choice for every taste.   

Of course, travelling to study in Europe is more than just about classes. I’s vibrant student cities, full of history, culture, and exciting nightlife, are also known for being walkable, bike-friendly, and having excellent public transportation.   

European universities encourage student mobility, so you will experience diverse cultures in a relatively small area. They created the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). EHEA provides numerous benefits, such as easier credit transfer between universities, quality assurance, and the recognition of qualifications across member countries. 

Countries across Europe use different grading systems, which made things difficult for students planning to study abroad. To overcome this, Europeans came up with the ECTS, a way to recognise and transfer grades easily between universities from different countries. The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a game-changer for international students. It's not designed to replace local grades but to effectively 'translate' a grade from one university to another.  

Come to think of it, Europe is not that big, easy to travel and very safe, making it perfect for weekend getaways and multi-country adventures.  

EHEA world map Image source: EHEA official website.  

Why study abroad in Europe 

Europe enjoys a great variety of landscapes and climates, and many unique cultures and traditions, which all coexist under the umbrella of a shared European cultural identity. For an international student, this means a lot of choices in terms of study destinations: it’s impossible not to find a country that fits your identity, likes, and preferences.  

What are the best universities in Europe 

The top 100 universities in Europe are among the top 1% in the world, according to the Studyportals University Meta Ranking. 

Here’s a list of the top 10 best universities in Europe, according to the Studyportals University Meta Rankings: 

  1. University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom 
  2. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom 
  3. Imperial College, London, United Kingdom 
  4. UCL, London, United Kingdom 
  5. ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, Switzerland 
  6. The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom 
  7. King's College London, London, United Kingdom 
  8. The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom 
  9. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland 
  10. Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich, München, Germany 

The best European countries to study popular disciplines 

According to Mastersportal data, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and France, are usually the top destinations for international students who plan to pursue a degree in Europe. While the best universities usually do well in all subjects, each country has unique educational strengths and cultural offerings. Let’s look at some destinations and specific fields of study that thrive there.  

Additional resources for finding the best universities in popular disciplines: 

Why location matters  

Different countries have distinct academic styles, but Europe provides a variety of excellent study destinations. Among the best countries to study in, the UK is known for its flexible course selection and emphasis on critical thinking, while Germany and Switzerland might focus more on rigorous, structured, and research-oriented learning.  

  • The “extra” benefits: European cities have a vibrant educational ecosystem and host multiple universities and research institutions, providing plenty of opportunities for internships, part-time jobs, and collaboration projects. For example, cities like London, Paris, and Berlin are hubs for networking, with seminars, workshops, and guest lectures that bring together global experts. 
  • Access to opportunities: Living in Italy or Greece, for example, offers a window into ancient history and art, while studying in Norway or Finland might appeal if you're interested in environmental sustainability. This cultural immersion extends to food, traditions, and daily interactions, broadening your worldview. 
  • Cost of Living: The cost of living also shapes your experience. Capital cities or large economic hubs like London and Paris are exciting but also expensive, which can affect your lifestyle and the amount of travel you can afford. On the other hand, cities in central or eastern Europe, like Budapest or Krakow, offer a more affordable cost of living, allowing you to live more comfortably perhaps or save money for travelling and exploring the continent. 
  • Quality of Life: Consider the quality of life offered by the city or country, including safety, public transportation, social inclusiveness, and environmental quality. The best European cities to be a student in are the ones that improve your student experience, making your study period less stressful and more enjoyable. 

Fund your studies in Europe  

There are thousands of European scholarships and grant options available to international students. They are offered by universities, governments, and external organizations. The Erasmus+ programme is noteworthy, as it is tailored specifically for students in Europe. Additionally, look for scholarships specific to your field of study or targeted at students from your country.  

Most European countries allow you to work part-time, helping you manage daily expenses and gain professional experience. Postgraduate students might find financial relief through assistantships or fellowships, which usually come with stipends or tuition waivers. 

What are the cheapest universities in Europe   

Western European universities, especially the ones in the UK, can be expensive. However, you can find affordable European universities across various countries that offer cheap but high-quality study programmes. Among the most affordable EU countries to study a Master’s in, countries such as Austria and Italy charge relatively low tuition fees compared to other Western European nations, with notable institutions like the University of Vienna and the University of Pisa providing excellent education at a fraction of the cost.

FIND AFFORDABLE STUDIES IN EUROPE

Eastern Europe also boasts affordable but quality study options and a fun student life. Examples include Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Schools like the University of Warsaw (Poland) and Charles University (Czechia) offer low tuition fees alongside a rich cultural experience. These regions not only make higher education accessible but also allow students to immerse themselves in diverse cultures and languages, enhancing their overall educational journey.  

Free universities in Europe   

There are many European countries that provide tuition-free degrees to domestic and EU/EEA students. However, there are also several countries that offer international students the opportunity to study for free at public universities.  

  • Germany is a standout example. Public universities charge no tuition fees for undergraduate students, regardless of their nationality. The only thing they charge is a nominal semester contribution that covers administration and transportation costs.  
  • In Scandinavia, countries like Norway and Finland also offer free tuition at public universities. These policies apply to all students, including those from outside the EU/EEA. Similarly, Sweden offers free education to students from within the EU/EEA and Switzerland, while others may be required to pay tuition.  

Visa requirements to study in Europe 

European countries each have their own visa policies and requirements, which depend on their agreements and partnerships with countries around the world.  

  • European Union (or European Economic Area) students can study in any EU/EEA country without a visa. They need only register with the local authorities and possibly obtain a residence permit, depending on the length of their stay.  
  • If your destination country is a European Union country, and you are a non-EU/EEA citizen, you will generally need to apply for a student visa prior to your arrival in the country where you intend to study. Visa requirements vary by country but typically include proof of acceptance to a university, proof of financial resources to cover tuition and living expenses, proof of health insurance and a valid passport.  

Living and working in Europe 

Living and working in Europe after graduation can open up a world of opportunities. Europe's diverse industries and thriving economies offer a huge number of career options across various fields.  

However, it's crucial to begin planning early to navigate the visa requirements and job market successfully. While Europe is generally a good place to study and find a job after graduation, there are some countries that stand out for having several universities with the best job prospects

Whether you're interested in the bustling economic hubs of Germany, the tech start-ups of Estonia, or the fashion houses of Italy, understanding the local job market and securing the right work permits are essential steps.  

To help you unlock these opportunities, visit our dedicated cluster page where you can explore detailed guides on work opportunities in Europe, visa considerations, and tips on how to make your transition from a student to a professional a seamless one. This resource is designed to equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to turn your European education into a thriving international career. 

Conclusion   

Europe is a top destination for international students, thanks to its historic and prestigious universities, diverse educational approaches, and dynamic student life across various vibrant cities and countries. The continent is safe and easy to travel, perfect for students wishing to explore multiple cultures during their studies.  

European countries invest heavily in harmonizing their higher education systems. The European Higher Education Area grants students simplified processes like credit transfers and qualification recognition across 49 participating countries.  

Whether you're drawn to the classical landscapes of Italy or the innovative hubs of Germany, Europe offers a wealth of opportunities that extend beyond the classroom, enriching your educational journey and broadening your global perspective.  

Student success stories  

Discover the inspiring journeys of just few international students who pursued their dreams to study in Europe. Their stories show how studying abroad can change lives and open up exciting opportunities. Read on to see how these students made the most of their time at European universities.  

  • “This experience has reshaped my world, broadening my horizons and deepening my appreciation for different cultures and perspectives. It's shown me that taking risks, following your heart, and embracing change can lead to the most rewarding adventures.”  

--> Read the story of Julia Wilczak from Poland, who studies Fine Arts at the University of Cyprus. 

  • “My family inspired me. I had a lot of support from them, especially from my father and my mother. They were always there to lift me up when I needed it.” 

--> Read the story of Mohamed Essam from Egypt, who studies a Master’s degree in Health Sciences in France at Université Côte d'Azur, France. 

  • “Through my work, I hope to establish a platform for others, not only to inspire them to pursue STEM fields but also to cater to the vast community born as neurodivergent.”  

--> Read the story of Sidra Zahid from Pakistan, who studies a Master’s degree in Clinical Neurodevelopmental Sciences at King’s College, in London (UK). 

  • “I believe the best way to help children have a stable life and enjoy childhood is to learn what rights they have and explore what systems work and don’t work around the world.”  

--> Read the story of Madalin Rodriguez  from USA, who studies a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Multi-Level Governance at the University of Padua, Italy.  

  • “This programme offers a scholarship and a fellowship, which implies working 20 hours per week in a local pharmacy. Not only was I going to afford my studies and gain international experience, but also be able to put into practice what I learned during my classes.”  

--> Read the story of John Vincent Reyes from the Philippines, who studies a Master’s degree in Pharmacy, at the University of Malta. 

Frequently Asked Questions  

How do I apply to universities in Europe?  

Applying to universities in Europe involves several steps. First, select the universities and courses of interest. European universities have specific admission requirements, as these can vary by country and institution. Most European universities now accept applications through their online portals, where you can upload necessary documents such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. Pay attention to application deadlines, which can vary significantly. For non-EU students, it might also be necessary to prove language proficiency through tests like IELTS or TOEFL if the program is in English. 

Are there English-taught programmes in Europe?  

Yes, there are many English-taught programmes across Europe. Mastersportal lists over 34,000 English-taught degrees in Europe. You’ll find a wide range of courses in English in the Netherlands, but also in Germany, Sweden, and Finland, particularly at the postgraduate level. Many universities in non-English speaking countries are increasing their offerings in English to attract international students. 

What are the Oldest universities in Europe?  

Europe is home to some of the world’s oldest universities, many of which continue to be leaders in education and research. The University of Bologna in Italy, founded in 1088, is considered the oldest university in continuous operation. The University of Oxford in the UK, established in 1096, and the University of Salamanca in Spain, founded in 1134, are also among the oldest. 

Are there scholarships available for international students?  

Yes, many scholarships are available for international students wishing to study in Europe. These can be offered by the universities themselves, state governments, or private organizations. The Erasmus+ program is one of the most well-known, offering scholarships for international students within and outside the EU. It's advisable to research early to meet application deadlines and requirements. 

Can I work while studying in Europe?  

Yes, most European countries allow international students to work part-time while studying. The number of permitted working hours can vary by country, with some allowing up to 20 hours per week during term time.  

Can I stay in Europe after my studies?  

Many European countries have policies that allow international graduates to stay and look for work after completing their studies. For example, Germany offers an 18-month post-study work visa, while the UK has reintroduced the Graduate Route, allowing Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates to stay for two years (and PhD graduates for three years) to find work. Rules can vary significantly between countries, so it's important to check specific post-study work visa options. 

How do I choose between studying in Western Europe and Eastern Europe?  

Choosing between studying in Western or Eastern Europe depends on several factors including your budget, desired academic field, and personal preferences. Western Europe (like the UK, France, Germany) is known for its prestigious universities and diverse student bodies, but often comes with higher living and tuition costs. Eastern Europe (such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic) offers a more affordable cost of living and education, with a growing number of programs in English. Consider what is most important for your educational and career goals and what cultural environments you are eager to explore. 

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