Studying in Europe
There has been a significant increase in recent years in the number of Irish leaving cert students opting to study in universities across Europe.
So why is this option growing in popularity?
- There are over 1000 undergraduate degree programmes in a full range of subjects in universities across Europe which are delivered through English.
- There are many well renowned European Universities which are ranked higher than any of the Irish Universities, see Reasons for Studying abroad.
- Entry requirements in many European universities are generally lower compared to Irish universities as they don’t tend to use a points system.
- There are no, or low, tuition fees in many European countries.
- The experience of studying in Europe gives students an excellent preparation for working in globalised employment markets.
As an EU citizen, you are entitled to study at any EU university under the same conditions as nationals. Efforts have been made in the EU to streamline higher education but each country still has their own education system, structure, entry requirements etc. Most undergraduate programmes in mainland Europe are three years, and they often do not have separate Ordinary and Honours degrees as we do in Ireland.
This section will provide some general information with advice and links to websites where you can do further research into studying in different parts of Europe.
How to search for courses
If you do not have a specific course or institution in mind, there are a number of other sources of information available to help you:
- You can search for courses through English here on the EUNICAS website
- The European Commission has information about higher education institutions in 32 European countries
- Attend events, such as Higher Options, where you may be able to meet and discuss your options with representatives from European universities
- You can also access information about particular colleges in Europe through their individual websites, or by writing directly to the college to request a copy of their prospectus. If you can, you should also consider visiting the college before making a final decision!
- If you have not decided on which country to study in, there are some search engines available, such as:
- Study.EU is a European study choice portal with information about universities and English-taught study programmes
- Icares is an International Course Search engine, where you can search over 50,000 courses in over a 120 countries
- Each European country generally has a searchable database showing what courses are on offer, as well as information about living and studying in the country, the costs involved etc. Here are some examples:
Need more tailored support?
EUNiCAS is the European Universities Central Application Support Service – an Irish company which provides information for Irish students on degree programmes taught through English in Universities across Europe. In addition to accessing comprehensive and independent information on programmes in Europe, you can register (for a fee of €38) and access:
- Independent advice on choosing your programme
- Expert support in applying to your chosen programmes, and overcoming common obstacles and misunderstandings
- Guidance on all elements of your application package, incl. Letters of Motivation [Personal Statements] and Entrance Tests
- Regular updates on new programmes and developments
- Assistance in organising university visits
- Alerts on extended deadlines and late vacancies
Many students and their families gain a lot of reassurance, and invaluable aid, from the support offered by EUNiCAS
Application processes vary across Europe, so it is worth spending some time checking out the detail for the country you are interested in studying in.
Some countries have a centralised online application system, such as Denmark and Sweden. In other European countries, the application is made direct to either the university itself, or to the qualification validation body, or to the official body organising the entrance test. For example, there are centralised qualification validation requirements in Germany and Spain.
In other European countries, the application is made direct to either the university itself, or to the qualification validation body (e.g. in Germany and Spain), or to the official body organising the entrance test.
The application deadlines vary so always check with the relevant institution.
Note that many Swedish and Finnish universities require Leaving Cert exam results early in July for the Autumn intake, meaning that Irish students will need to take a gap year if they want to study there, or consider starting in January if that is an available option in the particular college.
In terms of entry requirements, some universities in Europe only look for specific subject requirements (for example, some require six passes at Leaving Cert, with at least Grade H4 in two subjects) and some will accept a relevant QQI/FETAC Level 5 qualification as meeting their entry requirements. But again, you need to carefully check the exact entry requirement for each course you are interested in.
Erasmus+ is an EU programme that allows people who are registered students in a higher education institution and enrolled in studies leading to a recognised degree to study abroad as part of their degree. The period of study abroad must be relevant to the main degree and the study period abroad can last from 3 to 12 months.Most universities and colleges in Ireland have an Erasmus+ programme in place and students who are interested should contact their university, college or organisation. You can also read more about Erasmus+ here
Fees and cost of living
The cost of attending universities in Europe is often lower compared to Ireland. However, fees can vary significantly, depending on the country in which the university is located and the subject matter of the degree programme. The information below covers studies at undergraduate level. If you want to undertake postgraduate studies in Europe, be sure to contact each University of interest to enquire about tuition fees.
Countries in Europe which currently have no tuition fees for EU citizens are:
- Scotland – see more under Study in the UK
In some countries where they have no tuition fees, there can be other fees, such as administration fees of about €500 - €600 per year - in Austria and Germany for example.
Other examples of tuition fees in Europe:
- Tuition fees in France are very low at €170 per year.
- In Italy (including for medicine) tuition fees are fixed with reference to family income and are between €400 and €4000 per year.
- Fees in Hungary vary greatly, from approx. €600 to €8000 per semester depending on the subject and the individual university.
- In the Netherlands, tuition fees (2020) are €2143 per year (a handful of programmes have a supplementary institutional fee) , but they offer a tuition fee loan system whereby students have up to 20 years after graduation to repay their student loan to the Dutch government.
- The tuition fees in Poland are set by each university and typically range from €2000 to €8000 (and higher for medicine/dentistry programmes) per year, but if your degree is in the Polish language, there are no tuition fees.
If the country you are interested in is not listed here, check the country’s ‘study in’ website for further information or make contact directly with the university in question to ensure that you have accurate information.
Cost of living
The cost of living in most European cities compares pretty favourably with Ireland. Ireland is ranked as the 6th most expensive country in Europe, which means that the majority of countries have a lower cost of living that we have in Ireland.
The only countries where you can expect to pay more than we do in Ireland are Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Luxenburg and Denmark.
European universities generally require students to have both medical and liability insurance cover when they register. The EU Medical Card provides good basic cover, but a more comprehensive package including medical cover plus liability, theft, loss and travel etc. may be advisable.
Irish Students who are eligible for a SUSI maintenance grant can use it for public programmes in all EU universities.
It is also worth noting that in some countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, students working part-time can access loans and/or grants to cover many of the expenses of going to college.
The European Funding Guide - a not-for-profit website which provides details of some 12,000 scholarship programs and other forms of financial aid, to help students with their studies.
The International Education Financial Aid website provides a database of financial aid information for students who want to study in a foreign country. The site contains a comprehensive list of grants, scholarships, loan programmes and other information that may be helpful to students interested in studying in Europe, or other countries abroad.
Other Useful Links for Studying in Europe
- UNICAS – an Irish European University Central Application Support service.
- Study.EU is a European study choice portal with information about universities and English-taught study programmes.
- The European Youth Portal has information on a wide range of other topics for young people including studying, working, travelling, volunteering and exchanges in Europe.
- For Guidance Professionals: Euro Guidance – a European network of national resource and information centres for guidance.
- Studying in Germany/ Scholarships
- Studying in Sweeden/ Scholarships
- Studying in Spain