Skip to main content

The prototypical University of Europe exists as a collection of old, pretty buildings sprinkled through the historic centre of your average, fairy-tale European town, indistinguishable from all the other buildings around them but for a discreet plaque by the door.

European CityThere will also be a modern "science park" or some such facility, much bigger, better equipped and more spacious than the other faculties, somewhere in the outskirts of town (typically built in the last 10 or 20 years, populated by scientists and medics). 

Do not expect the roomy, lawn-filled, ivory wall-bordered campuses of the US, with everything in one place. If you're looking for somewhere to live near the uni, make sure you've got the right part of the uni first, as it may be spread across many miles.

Along with the lack of cohesive campus goes a lack of cohesive campus life. Europeans tend to be more independent and adult in their social lives than Americans – often, there’s less university spirit and fewer student associations, including things like sports clubs.

This doesn’t mean there’s no fun – on the contrary, European students are extremely skilled in finding and creating all kinds of inventive forms of amusement, from epic house parties to refined theatrical performances; from street carnivals to exciting day trips.

ParisSmaller towns tend to have more student-based activities and organisations, while in the bigger cities students are often subsumed into the larger whirlwind of goings on. This means they engage more with the place they live in than most US students do. 

As in the US, students in Europe normally enroll in a certain number of courses, selected from a lengthy list, at the start of each semester. There are two semesters, the first lasting from September to January, and the second from January to June (with short breaks for Christmas and Easter).

Completion of each course earns students credits, normally between 5 and 15, with the goal being to get enough for a full bachelor's degree (180 credits in three years) or master's degree (120 credits in two years).

Unlike the US, though, these courses cannot simply be selected from any offered by the university, but must rather come from those permitted for you by your faculty - i.e. in your subject area. Although you generally get more courses to choose between each year, the breadth of topics that you study will actually decrease as you specialise within your subject, but this varies from uni to uni and from program to program.



Related articles

  • Uni in the USA: the definitive guide to universities in the USA

    Uni in the USA is the most comprehensive and authoritative guide available, written especially for UK students - by UK students. Includes reviews of 70 universities that represent the breadth of choices available to you in the US. Uni in the USA walks you through the process of getting into a US university - from soup to nuts. Read more...

  • Oxbridge entrance

    For many A level students and their parents, Oxbridge is the sine qua non of a university education - a golden ticket to fame and fortune. But Oxbridge is certainly not for everyone, even some of the brightest, and certainly doesn’t guarantee riches, or even a job. Critics say that Oxford and Cambridge are too focused on academic ability.

  • University advice: our experts

  • Exchange students and integration

    Europe is the land of exchange. It seems like every student in the world who wants to take a year or term out to study abroad descends on Europe with high hopes of self-discovery and Broadening of Horizons. Within the continent itself, the ERASMUS program generates thousands of criss-crossing exchangers every semester.

  • Six things you need to know about uni in Europe

    If you want to escape our Island, why look further than across the channel?

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >


Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Transgender policy now needed in every school

3rd editions of Good Schools Guide - London North and South now available, all entries fully revised with 2016 results. Buy now...