For a long time, the US and UK, followed by Canada and Australia, have been the most sought after higher education destinations for English-speaking international students. There has, however, been a remarkable shift in this area in the past few years, with European universities gaining increasing popularity among those looking to study overseas. While this shift can be attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in several border closures, especially in the US, China, and Australia, events like Brexit have also impacted the fee-status of EU students in the UK, increasing the attractiveness of European universities. According to Eurostat, the European Commission’s online statistics database, in 2020, 1.46 million international students were pursuing bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees across the EU; 43% were from across Europe, with 26% coming from Asia, and 16% from Africa. 

Here are a few reasons why European universities have gained popularity and why you might want to consider them:

  • Increasing degree options for English speakers

Today, over 870 European cities offer college programs that are taught entirely in English, with more than 3,400 bachelor’s English-taught programs across Europe. Moreover, these programs aren’t limited to countries where English is widely spoken as a second language, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark, but also countries like Italy, Spain, and France. Bocconi University in Milan, for instance, which ranks in the top 10 European universities for Social Sciences & Management, offers the majority of its undergraduate courses in English, which include Economics, Management, Computer Science, and International Politics. Similarly, IE University, a private university in Spain, offers a wide range of undergraduate degrees entirely in English, with its strengths in project-based learning. 

  • A wide range of curricula from liberal arts to pre-professional courses

The majority of European degree programs prioritize depth over breadth, which means students will usually select and apply for a specific course of study to focus on exclusively for three years. While larger research universities, such as Trinity College Dublin or Università Cattolica in Milan, have a vast course offering across several departments and disciplines, others are more specialized, such as Sciences Po, which is short for “The Paris Institute for Political Studies,” or the Delft University of Technology, which specializes in science and engineering. 

There are also several European institutions that adopt a much broader curriculum, where students do not have to decide on a specific area of study when applying. Amsterdam, for instance, is home to a number of residential University Colleges, which are affiliated with Dutch research universities, but offer degrees in Liberal Arts and Sciences, where students complete a broader range of classes before selecting a major.

Finally, students can also earn American-accredited degrees at institutions like the American University of Paris, as well as American universities that have a campus in Europe, such as St. Louis University Madrid, Bard College Berlin, and Marist College Florence. These universities’ curricula are grounded in the liberal arts, allowing students to combine the flexibility and breadth of an American education with a European cultural and social experience. 

  • Innovative learning models with several dual and multi-country degree options

While several European universities offer students the opportunity to spend a semester or year abroad, some institutions actually require students to study in a different country for each year of their degree, allowing for a distinctly multicultural experience. At ESCP, for example, students spend their three years across at least two of their campuses in Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Turin, Warsaw, and London. At Forward College, another, newer Pan-European institution, every student spends their first year in Lisbon, second year in Paris, and third year in Berlin as part of a unique co-living experience. 

Many European universities also offer dual and joint degrees through partnerships with their global counterparts, for those who are seeking an even more international academic experience. Both Trinity College Dublin and Sciences Po, for example, offer dual degrees with Columbia University in New York, allowing students to complete their degree across two continents. Some European universities are also a part of three-way consortiums, like France’s EDHEC Business School. Here, students can complete a Global Business Track and spend their first year in Nice, second year in Los Angeles, and third year in Singapore, through EDHEC’s partnerships with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Nanyang Technological University. 

  • Hands-on learning through internships projects and soft skills training

In addition to the high quality of education, students can also benefit from innovative, experiential learning opportunities that extend beyond the classroom at several European universities. Many degree programs require students to complete internships, projects, and soft skills training as part of their coursework, which could involve setting aside as much as a semester for a work experience or obtaining a credit for it. Many institutions also emphasize project-based learning, especially those that feature business courses, like IE and Erasmus University, while others include skill-based modules in their curriculum, such as ESCP and Forward College. 

Not only do these experiences offer students valuable, hands-on exposure, but they also give them an edge in the job market once they graduate. According to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, internships can be a fast track to full-time employment after graduation, with employers hiring 50% of the interns who have worked for them. 

  • Cultural exposure through languages and travel

As a multicultural hub, living in Europe can expose students to diverse lifestyles, languages, and cultures. Although local language proficiency is not a prerequisite for several degree programs, especially if it is taught entirely in English, living in a European country, especially one where English is not widely spoken, is a great opportunity to become fluent in the native language. Several universities offer students free language lessons to help international students to better acclimate. Many European universities also offer bilingual courses, such as the University of Navarra, where several courses are taught primarily in English for the first year and then gradually progress into Spanish. These hybrid programs can give students who have working knowledge of a language a unique opportunity to develop fluency while in the country. 

Studying in Europe can also open up travel opportunities to neighboring countries, which are often just a (short and inexpensive) train ride away!

  • Relatively affordable tuition fees and living expenses 

While tuition fees can differ vastly from one European institution to another, depending on the country and type of university (public, private, technical, or vocational), it is possible to find reasonably affordable programs in Europe, especially when compared to other leading international higher education destinations. In some countries, like Norway and Germany, higher education at public universities is tuition-free irrespective of a student’s nationality. 

According to data from study.eu, even at public universities that are not tuition-free, the average cost of attendance for European universities is between €1,500 – €20,800. While many private universities would fall at the higher end of this range, this would still be significantly lower than what it might cost to attend four-year colleges in the US and comparable to the fees charged by some UK universities, if you are an international student. 

If you would like to explore universities in Europe, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us!

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