Study in Europe: A guide for UK students
Tempted to head overseas and get out of the UK for uni (without going too far)? Studying in Europe could be an ideal option – here's all the key info you need.
Let's get real: our Student Finance package has its flaws, the cost of living at uni can be painful and UK tuition fees are now some of the highest in the world.
With this in mind, it's no surprise that more and more students are jetting off in search of a better deal – and studying abroad in Europe could be it.
But, you'll no doubt have a lot of questions about what it would be like to study in the EU after Brexit. Here's a rundown of the key things you need to know.
What's in this guide?
Benefits of studying in Europe
Here are the main reasons to consider studying abroad from the UK:
- English-taught courses are available (but developing your foreign language skills will help you get a job after graduating)
- Studying in a foreign country boosts your independence and pushes you outside of your comfort zone
- You may be eligible for scholarships to help fund your studies
- Degrees are recognised around the world (depending on what you study).
Can I study in English in Europe?
If it's all sounding too good to be true, there is a slight catch. There's less choice for English-taught undergraduate degrees or, if they're available, they may count as 'international courses'.
If you're up for the challenge, some institutions offer language courses to get you up to speed before you go. This can be a brilliant opportunity to get another skill (and future CV points), so it's not a bad trade for lower-cost tuition.
There are some options for master's programmes taught in English but, either way, learning the lingo can help you to make friends and impress employers.
How much does it cost to study abroad in Europe?
Due to Brexit, studying in an EU state has become a bit more complicated (and generally more expensive) than it was while we were still in the European Union.
Tuition fees for UK students in Europe after Brexit
Depending on whether you intend to study your entire degree in an EU country or just part of it, the government offers advice on how to approach your research on tuition fees.
Studying in the EU for your full degree
For UK students who hope to move to an EU state to start their degree in 2021 or later, the UK government recommends you contact your chosen uni to find out:
- What your fees will be
- If you'd be eligible for any financial support as a UK student
- If you could apply for relevant funding schemes, bursaries or scholarships.
The university will be able to provide you with the details you need, so you'll be aware of how much you'll need to pay and any support that might be available to help you cover it. Please note that it's unlikely that you'll be able to receive funding from UK Student Finance if you're studying your full degree abroad (more on this below).
If you were already living in the EU by 31st December 2020, you should still be eligible for largely the same funding as students from the EU country that you're studying in. However, it's worth double-checking this with your uni for confirmation.
Alternatively, if you're a British citizen and you're hoping to study in the Republic of Ireland, you'll still be covered by the Common Travel Area arrangements – you can find more info on this here.
Studying in the EU for part of your degree
To find out more about studying abroad in the EU for part of your course, it's important to talk to your tutor or somebody from the student support services at your UK-based university. Ask them whether it will impact your tuition fees and what your study-abroad options are.
You may be eligible to continue receiving your Student Loan while studying in the EU, but you will need to check with the Student Finance body in your part of the UK (i.e. Student Finance England, Student Finance NI, SAAS or Student Finance Wales).
It's also worth looking through the government's 'living in' guides for info about visa requirements and residency rules.
And if you'd been hoping to do an international exchange, you'll again need to check with your university in the UK to find out if this will be impacted by Brexit.
Cost of student living in Europe
In Europe, the cost of living varies hugely from country to country and even city to city. Depending on where you want to study, the living cost of studying abroad could be anywhere between £650 and £1,300 per month (students in the UK spend around £810/month to get by).
But it's important to choose your city (and your postcode) wisely. For example, public universities in Norway offer free uni tuition and often just charge semester fees instead (which are usually quite low). But the cost of living is very high, so you may not be saving as much money there as you first thought.
Some EU universities give you a travel card included in the semester fee, so you won't have to shell out more to get around the town or city, but you may be left with costs you wouldn't have over here, such as health/medical insurance. It's worth checking if your university of choice has any extras to save you some money.
Will you need a visa to study in Europe?
Students from the UK will likely need a visa to study in the EU. Have a look at the 'living in' guides on the government's website to find out which residency rules and visa requirements would apply to you, depending on where you choose to study.
Will UK Student Finance cover a degree in Europe?
If you're looking to study your entire undergraduate degree abroad, UK Student Finance likely won't be available.
However, it's important to check with the relevant Student Finance body in your part of the UK, as exceptions may apply.
To cover living costs as a UK student in the EU, you will probably need to rely on savings, some generous support from your parents, or be prepared to work part-time while you're out there (which might be dependent on language skills or how many hours your uni lets you work).
There are some other ways to earn money, including:
The beauty of the web is that you really can work from anywhere. But make sure that, whatever way you earn a living, you get to grips with tax rules in the UK and in your host country.
Other funding options for study in Europe
You may be able to access local Student Finance. In particular, we definitely recommend looking into what scholarships could be available to you as an international student.
Postgraduate students will likely find it easier to access scholarship schemes and other subsidies, but they're worth checking at any stage of your studies. Try the British Council for leads.
Is studying in Europe worth it?
If you like the idea of being a global citizen but don't want to commit three years or more to it, you can always consider a gap year or studying in Europe for a year as part of your UK degree.
Some UK students who are still participating in Erasmus+ using funding awarded before the end of 2020, could be allowed to continue their programmes until the end of the 2021-22 academic year.
Due to Brexit, there are limited opportunities for UK students who want to participate in Erasmus+ from 2021 onwards. These opportunities are open to individuals from all over the world, including the Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters and Jean Monnet activities.
The government has developed an alternative for UK students: the Turing scheme. This scheme provides funding for students who want to study and work abroad.
There are also some very big reasons to consider staying in the UK to study instead:
- UK tuition fees are pricey, but you don't have to pay up-front – in fact, you'll probably never pay your student loans back in full.
- You'll only pay back your Student Loan when you're earning enough and repayments will stop automatically if you're not.
- It's easier to deal with homesickness as you can just jump on a bus or train home. If you study abroad, you'll be more reliant on FaceTime, WhatsApp and holidays.
- You can take as much to university as you can stuff into a car without worrying about freight costs or customs.
- If you ever need to deal with the authorities or get help, it's much easier when you know the lingo and have grown up knowing what to expect.
If you've read this list and still have a hankering for an adventure (and some potential money-saving), Europe could be the destination for you – and we'd say go for it!
Don't forget to suss out the cheapest flights before you go.