Study in Europe: A guide for UK students
Not happy about paying upwards of nine grand a year for a degree? Studying in Europe could be a great alternative – and a lot cheaper.
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 in Europe could be it.
Not only can you swerve tuition fees altogether in many EU countries, but you could also pay less for living costs and grab the kind of experiences a home-grown education can't deliver.
What's in this guide?
Benefits of studying in Europe
Here are the main reasons to consider studying in Europe as a UK student:
- Free or low-cost tuition for UK/EU students, even at world-leading universities
- English-taught courses (but developing your 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
- European universities are keen to attract UK students, so there's a lot of support
- EU nationals have the same living/working rights across Europe (for now, at least!)
- Degrees are recognised around the world (depending on what you study).
Can you study courses 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' (with fees to match).
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 free or low-cost tuition!
There are lots of pickings for Master's programmes taught in English but, either way, learning the lingo can help you to make friends and impress employers.
Studying in Europe after Brexit
This guide focuses on Student Finance for 2019/20, but it's not yet clear exactly how Brexit will affect the cost of studying in EU countries as a UK student after the transition period (ending December 2020).
We'll update this guide when we have more info, so be sure to check back regularly.
How much does it cost to study in Europe?
As it stands, UK/EU students can take advantage of much cheaper or entirely free tuition fees in Europe – saving the average person £10,000s in tuition loans compared with students at British unis.
For example, in countries like Denmark, Finland and Germany, all EU students get free tuition at public universities, whereas in France you're looking at just under €200 (around £170) a year.
However, bear in mind that even if a university offers free tuition, they might still charge an 'admin' or 'semester' fee which can be a few hundred pounds. See our guide to cheap study abroad for more info.
Which European country has the cheapest tuition fees?
If you want completely free or bargain tuition fees, our table below can help you decide where to head to...
Tuition fees for EU students in Europe
|Country||Yearly tuition fees for EU students|
|Czech Republic||>£500 for courses in local language. £1,600+ for courses taught in English|
|Hungary||EU students can qualify for state-funded places|
|Republic of Ireland||>£2,500 (Student Contribution Fee)|
|Lithuania||£800 – £4,200|
|Poland||>£500 for courses taught in Polish, fees may apply for English language courses|
|Portugal||£500 – £900|
|Switzerland||£650 – £1,000|
* For countries with no or minimal university tuition fees, we have put '>£500' as you may still be charged low administration fees, even if tuition is free.
The figures in the table are intended to give you a rough idea of how much it will cost to study in the listed countries. The costs of living and tuition fees are estimated for EU students, but please note that they can vary widely, even within the same country.
Cost of student living in Europe
In Europe, the cost of living varies hugely from country to country, but it's often said the cost of living is on average £600 a month (students in the UK spend around £807/month to get by).
But it's important to choose your city (and your postcode) wisely. Somewhere like Copenhagen may offer free uni tuition, but the cost of living is very high and this can cancel out the savings you make on your degree.
The semester fee at some universities includes a travel card, 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.
Will UK Student Finance cover a degree in Europe?
If you're looking to study your entire undergraduate degree abroad, UK Student Finance won't be available.
This means you'll need to rely on savings, some generous support from your parents, or be prepared to work while you're out there (which might be dependent on language skills or how many hours your uni lets you work).
Other funding options for study in Europe
You may be able to access local Student Finance. UK students can apply for Student Loans in Italy, for instance, but the criteria are narrower than over here.
Postgrad students will find it easier to access scholarship schemes and other subsidies, but they're worth checking whatever you're studying. 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 with Erasmus+.
But, while the rest of Europe has its appeals, there are some very big reasons to study in the UK instead:
- UK tuition fees are pricey, but you don't have to pay up-front – in fact, you'll probably never pay it all back
- 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 home. If you study abroad, you'll be more reliant on Skype, WhatsApp and holidays
- You can take as much to university as you can stuff into a car without worrying about freight costs or customs
- Dealing with the authorities, or getting help, is easier when you know the lingo and have grown up knowing what to expect, especially if you're not the pushiest bean in the barrel.
If you've read those and still have a hankering for an adventure (and some massive 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.