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As the social mobility increased a lot in the past ten years, people are moving around not only to travel, work or visit their friends abroad. Nowadays there are also no walls for gaining an education which can be seen in growing numbers of academic mobility: according to the data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the number of international students studying abroad has significantly increased - from 250,000 in 1965 to approximately 3.7 million in 2011. Not bad, huh? The Bologna process, launched in 1999, became a huge advantage for them. It does not aim to harmonise national educational systems but rather to provide tools to connect them. That means your degree is widely recognized but there are still some differences you have to know before going to study abroad – and we are here to highlight the main things for you in some different European countries.

Let‘s start with the record braking Spain. Did you know that Spain is the most popular exchange student destination? Not only four of its universities is in the European TOP 5 of institutions receiving the most students from abroad, but also the country itself is the leader of sending Spanish to study in foreign universities. Spain itself has 82 universities, 50 of which are public and 32 private. Official degrees from this country also have wider global recognition in countries outside of Europe, especially in Latin America and Asia. That was the good news. Here comes the worse - almost without any exceptions the teaching language in higher education institutions is Spanish, in some regions – even Basque or Catalan. Sure, there are some programmes in English but the number of them is very limited. That is why the knowledge of the local language is a must - DELE (sp. Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) exam must be passed with an average or even higher result. Congratulations if you did! The next thing you should know – you have to pay for education in Spain. Bachelor‘s level studies in public universities cost from 570 to 1 000 EUR per year while in private universities education is more expensive, studies might cost from 5 000 to 12 000 EUR per year. Final exams usually take place in February or June depending on how long the courses last (they can be single semester courses or courses that run throughout the whole academic year). If by any chance you fail an exam, do not worry – you can re-sit it in September. And what is the best place to do it? Here is TOP 5 of the best Spanish universities, based on the data of 2015:

1.      Universidad Complutense de Madrid;

2.      Universitat de Barcelona;

3.      Universidad Politécnica de Madrid;

4.      Universitat de València;

5.      Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

Let‘s move further. Sunny Italy might leave you confused with a variety of higher education institutions it has. At the moment there are 89 university-level higher education schools, 2 universities for foreigners (it. Università per Stranieri), which concentrate on Italian language, literature and culture, 58 public universities (it. Università statali), few universities of technological sciences (it. Politecnici), 17 private universities (it. Università non statali, legalmente riconosciute), 6 higher education schools where those who already has one diploma study (it. Scuole Superiori), and 6 universities offering distance learning opportunities (it. Università telematiche). The cost of education in Italy is around 1 500 EUR for one academic year but it depends on the higher education school and your faculty. Same as in Spain, education at private universities is more expensive. However, if you want to study in Italy, money and your wish is not all what it takes... Good knowledge of Italian is a must. In the majority of universities the teaching language is Italian, and every September those who were accepted must have a Italian language test. Every university has a Language centre where you can attend the language courses. Some universities might offer special study programmes in other languages but it is not a very common practice - English is the main language in universities for foreigners only. Examination sessions are usually quite similar to the rest of Europe, which means: January or February after the first semester and June or July after the second one. What fascinates many foreign students and might be useful to know - it is very common to have oral examinations in Italy, so you have to prepare your Italian for that. Another thing is the grading system - it varies from 18, which is minimum, to 30. Italy is also amongst the countries that receive and send the biggest number of ERASMUS students so there is a big chance you might be one of them. The newest ranking of the Italian higher education institutions gives us the following TOP 5:

  1. Università degli Studi di Bologna;
  2. Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza;
  3. Università degli Studi di Milano;
  4. Università degli Studi di Pisa;
  5. Università degli Studi di Padova.

If you have ever dreamt about studying in Greece, the following paragraph is for you. The thing to know is - higher education in this country consists of two parallel sectors: the University sector (Universities, Polytechnics, Fine Arts Schools) and the Technological sector (Technological Education Institutions and the School of  Pedagogic and Technological Education). Studies in Technological sector are more practical. University studies last for 4 or more years (depending on discipline) while other higher education institutions such as academies, higher education schools, etc. offers study programmes that last for three years. But the thing to remember here is - three-year long study degrees are not recognized in Greece. Education here is free for Greek citizens and certain foreigners who live and work in the country though, so no fees are paid by the students. However, the majority of courses are held in Greek and you should have the sertificate of Greek language knowledge (although some of the Master‘s courses are tought in English). If you intend on attending a private institution, your language requirements will depend on the teaching language of the school. In many cases it is English, and you will be required to provide proof of your English language proficiency, usually it is the Cambridge test of the TOEFL. Despite the fact that Greece does not have national university ranking system, Greek universities are mentioned in World ranking of universities. Those are the TOP 5:

  1. National Technical University of Athens;
  2. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki;
  3. National and Kapodistrian University of Athens;
  4. University of Patras;
  5. University of Crete.

Since Cyprus is relatively small, compared to Italy or Spain the country does not have a lot of higher education institutions. There are four categories of them: public and private universities, and public and private non-university level institutions. In public universities the teaching language is mostly Greek, however some of Master’s programmes are held in English. In private universities studying language is usually English because of a large number of foreign students. First study cycle (Bachelor’s) and some of second study cycle (Master’s) study programmes in public universities are free of charge while in private universities you have to pay. The good thing is that they offer a lot of scholarships. Teaching methods and materials are decided on by the members of academic staff of Departments - classes usually take form of a lecture, tutorial or laboratory work, but they may also take the form of a seminar or exercise, according to the nature and requirements of the particular programme of study. Best places to study in Cyprus are:

  1. Dogu Akdeniz Üniversitesi;
  2. University of Cyprus;
  3. Girne Amerikan Üniversitesi;
  4. University of Nicosia;
  5. Cyprus University of Technology.

Hungary has 71 higher education institutions (18 state universities, 12 state colleges, 7 none state universities and 34 none state colleges). Hungarian higher education system is divided into two groups of institutions: universities and higher education schools (colleges and higher vocational schools). Those who want to receive a scientific degree prefer universities while those who want to acquire education in a shorter time with some knowledge of chosen profession go to colleges or higher education schools. Higher education programmes may be offered in full-time study, part-time study or distance learning courses. No surprise - most often the main study language is Hungarian. At the moment there are only few higher education institutions that offer first study cycle programmes in English but the number is increasing fast and there are more and more of them (especially economics, engineering, medicine). What is important to know - foreign students pay for education in Hungary and every institution has its own price. Usually the citizens of European Union pay the same price as Hungarians which may vary between 1 500 - 5 500 EUR per academic year. Students from others countries pay more. Again, the good news - scholarships are always possible. Here is the Hungarian TOP 5:

1.      Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem;

2.      Budapesti Muszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem;

3.      Szegedi Tudományegyetem;

4.      Közép-Európai Egyetem;

5.      Debreceni Egyetem.

Having in mind the population of Lithuania (~3 million) there a large number of higher education institutions and they offer a wide variety of study programmes. Higher education institutions might be public and private, which from those - universities or colleges. Degree programmes are divided into three cycles - Professional Bachelor‘s (college studies) or Bachelor‘s (university studies), Master’s (university studies) and Doctoral (university studies). Degree programmes might also be long cycle that means they include first and second study cycles. What might be useful to know is that some of the higher education institutions have joint programmes after which you can have a joint degree if study programme was held by at least two higher education institutions, usually from different countries. In Lithuania education is free but there are some exceptions, and it depends on many things – your high school results, grades in university, etc. In private universities sudents are usually paying for the studies but there are possibilities to get scholarship. In general, education in universities costs from 850 to 5 500 EUR for an academic year. Those fees apply for Lithuanian and European citizens, for those coming from other countries the cost might be different. The teaching language in universities is usually Lithuanian but there are plenty of programmes offered in English too. Compared with the latest available data on the size of national student population, in 2011-2012 the highest numbers of outgoing Erasmus students in relative terms were reported in Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Lithuania and Spain. Lithuanian TOP 5 is the following:

1.      Vilnius university;

2.      Vilnius Gediminas technical university;

3.      Vytautas Magnus university;

4.      Mykolas Romeris university;

5.      Klaipėda university.

Finally, Poland‘s higher education institutions are divided into state (public) and private (non-public) institutions. There are two main categories of higher education institutions: university-type and non-university institutions. In higher education institutions the teaching language is Polish and the majority of universities who accepts foreigners organize Polish language and culture or basic of Polish courses with orientation programmes. Such courses might last few weeks before the study year or the whole semester. But if you do not want to study in Polish, universities also offer a large variety of study programmes in English so you can choose one of them, however in this case English language course results are needed (like TOEFL or IELTS). Citizens of European Union who study in Polish do not need to pay for education. For those who study in English the price of education varies from 4 000 to 8 000 EUR per year. Studies in private schools may cost from 2 000 to 6 000 EUR per year (some of the study programmes are more expensive such as medicine which costs 9 000 – 13 000 EUR per year). In Poland after a first-cycle studies (3 to 4 years) you become a licencjat or inżynier - this is the Polish equivalent of the Bachelor’s degree. After the second-cycle studies (1.5 to 2 years) you become a magister. What is more, Poland follows Spain and France with the highest number of students going abroad for the exchange studies. What is interesting – Polish grading system varies from 2 (unsatisfactory/fail) to 5 (bardzo dobry – very good).

1.      University of Warsaw (Uniwersytet Warszawski);

2.      Jagiellonian University (Uniwersytet Jagielloński);

3.      AGH University of Science and Technology (Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza);

4.      Adam Mickiewicz University (Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza);

5.      Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska).

And for the final paragraph let‘s highlight some similarities between all the mentioned countries. The first cycle studies (Bachelor‘s) lasts mostly 4 years (it might be different for some study programmes, e.g. medicine) in all of them, except from Hungary where it is sometimes 3 years. The second cycle, Master’s, is usually 1-2 years while to gain a Doctoral degree you might need 3-6 years. The main thing to have for applying is the certification of finished high school, in some countries called Maturity Certificate. Other things needed might greatly vary in different countries so it is up to you to check that. Study year usually last about 9 months and is divided into two semesters and holiday seasons, which depends on the specific higher education institution. The year usually begins in September, except from Poland where it starts in October. So those are the main things from us. It is your time to choose!

Renata Liubertaité

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