If you are contemplating widening your horizons, studying in Europe is a good start and Brexit should not prevent you from looking beyond our borders. University in Europe is a wide-open field with fantastic higher education possibilities and of course a wonderful offering of varied cultures.
What are European universities like?
Unlike in the UK, furthering one’s education happens either in traditional universities or in higher education establishments more frequently referred to as schools or colleges. These are far from your vision of a school and many students find more interesting courses there (for fashion or design for example) than at universities. For instance, in France, students wishing to pursue business studies often apply to ‘écoles de commerce’ (business schools) that are run as private establishments and where a bachelor’s degree will be obtained.
When thinking about where to head next, bear in mind recognition of degrees varies from one country to the other. National standards will naturally apply for subjects such as medicine, teaching, engineering or for law. For a useful resource, visit studyineurope.eu
This may seem like the biggest hurdle and the reason that the continent has not been more exploited by Brits in the past, but Brexit has had an interesting impact on the university offering across Europe with more and more programmes run in English.
You are therefore left with two choices: applying for a programme in the native language of your country of choice or finding a course in English.
Bear in mind the following:
- Many universities offer a number of individual shorter courses taught in English. These normally last a semester, and you need a couple dozen to earn enough points for a full degree, but if you choose a lot of them then the majority of your education will be in English anyway.
- Many universities will offer several full degree programmes in English, the Netherlands is the best example. Sites such as www.studyportals.com is your best bet for tracking down such courses.
- Masters courses are more commonly taught in English, but you'll need some higher education already under your belt to be eligible for them in most cases. Once you've reviewed the benefits of education in Europe, you may feel that it's worth putting in the effort to learn a new language. With an immersion program and some motivation, this is possibly achievable during a gap year. An A level in a specific language is probably not enough on its own to get you to the required standard, depending on what the university you're applying to demands.
Admission requirements for European universities
Whereas in the past UK universities were very sought after by European and international students, this is no longer the case due to Brexit. Naturally, these students have turned to European programmes making the admission process very competitive. As a result, keeping to deadlines is key, some apply a ‘numerus fixus’ policy whereby the number of places is restricted (i.e. The Netherlands), and grade requirements can be tough, As, Bs and A* are not uncommon.
Worth noting that maths is frequently required for admissions. This is because in most countries maths is studied right up to school graduation. It is therefore worth considering taking maths at AS level or taking a local test which may end up harder. The US SAT maths test is sometimes accepted.
Will I need a visa to study in the European Union?
Student visas will be required in addition to residence permit. Certain conditions will be necessary, such as having an offer from a university, relevant qualifications, proficiency in the local language, and sufficient financial resources. Learn more about your options via the EU's immigration portal.
Life as a student at a European university
Since UK students are no longer EU students, international fees will apply (see below for Ireland). However, most countries have minimal fees for state-run universities, although there are varying ranges. For instance, fees in the Netherlands are in the €10,000 (£8,700) mark whereas in France these will be closer to €3,000 (£2,600). Note: private higher education varies considerably. Scholarships may be an option, student loans a non-starter.
Living costs can be high, it's true, but then life in the UK isn’t exactly a snip. The following is an article detailing tuition fees at universities in the EU.
Finding decent accommodation is a struggle given the influx of students no longer bound for the UK. Campus universities are not the norm, fully catered halls of residents non-existent, so self-catering is the go-to option, but rooms can be cramped, poorly located and expensive. Finding an acceptable place to stay will take hard work, patience and a willingness to settle for less than what you were hoping for.
Some universities will offer options for first year non-native students, so it's important to contact them or check their website early on. Trawl the forums and classifieds, Housinganywhere.com, Craigslists, and keep checking every day.
Having health insurance is vital, it may be required for visa purposes. The NHS issues a student specific Global Health Insurance Card which can be issued once you have an offer from a university in the EU. Private health insurance can also be useful.
Studying in Ireland post-Brexit
The Republic of Ireland is a member state of the European Union while the UK is not. However, in contrast with other countries in the EU, the UK and ROI share the 'Common Travel Area' meaning their citizens are free to live, work and study in each other's countries without the need of residency permits or visas. British school-leavers who are accepted onto undergraduate degrees at Irish universities are currently eligible for the Irish free fees initiative - although they are required to pay an annual student contribution fee.
Masters degrees in Europe
In Europe, few students leave university without pursuing a master's degree because European employers are apparently loath to hire anyone without one but if you plan to return to Britain after uni then you could certainly think about doing so after the first three years. British employers probably won't know the difference - most are used to hiring candidates with just a bachelor's, so if anything they'll be impressed that you studied overseas at all.