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Studying in Europe

Why study in Europe?

EUNiCAS, host annual information events on studying in Europe .

Full details are available here

There had been a significant increase in recent years in the number of leaving cert students opting to apply to degree programmes in Universities across Europe – Why is this option growing in popularity?

  • There are over 1000 undergraduate degree programmes in a full range of subjects in universities across Europe, that are delivered through English – Lectures and Text Books are in English; Assignments are in English etc. In response to the shortage of young people in Europe, the aim is to attract applicants from beyond the national market, reflecting English as the language of business, engineering, I.T. science, and many other areas in the 21st century.
  • A number of these programmes are offered in leading European Universities, many of which are ranked higher than any of the Irish Universities (7 Dutch universities are ranked higher than TCD).
  • Entry requirements in many European universities are generally lower (often significantly) than those for Irish (and UK) universities. LC points are usually irrelevant. Many programmes – but not all - have no selection procedures and for entry, only look for NUI matriculation requirements (six passes at Leaving Cert, with at least Grade H5 in two subjects on the Higher Course and at least Grade H7 (Higher Course) or O6 (Ordinary Course) in four subjects.). The Universities of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands and Denmark will accept a relevant QQI/FETAC Level 5 as meeting their entry requirements
  • There are no Third-level tuition fees in many European countries -  Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are free of fees.  Tuition fees of €2083 apply for all courses in the Netherlands, with a supplement of about €1,000 -1500 for a handful of Liberal Arts & Sciences courses. Students can also apply for interest-free Tuition Fee loans. In some countries, including Denmark and Netherlands, students working part-time can get loans or grants of over €800 a month. Fees are also free in Malta, Germany and Austria. Tuition fees in Italy (including for medicine) are fixed with reference to family income and are between €400 and €4000 per year
  • The experience of studying in Europe gives students an excellent preparation for working in globalised employment markets. As more and more students undertake the experience of studying in Europe, word gets back and the reports are very positive indeed.

General Information

European universities are actively seeking UK and Irish students to study with them and over the past five years, the number of Irish students securing places in public universities in Europe is increasing, particularly in the Netherlands, where non-health science subjects  including politics, business, IT, art, international law, liberal arts, psychology, and science are attracting students from Ireland.

Key Dates

15th Jan 2019 - Application deadline for a limited number of programmes in the Netherlands 

with a selection procedure

15th Mar 2019 - Application deadline in Denmark

18th Apr 2019 - Second round application deadline for most programmes in Sweden

Apr- May 2019 Entrance tests in Dublin for leading Polish and Hungarian vet and med schools

1st May 2019 - Applications deadline for many programmes in Dutch Research Universities (though some have application deadlines as late as 1st July)

June-August 2019 – Different application deadlines for most programmes in Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences

31st July 2019 – second round offers in Denmark

July 2019 (exact date tbc) – application deadline, for entry 2019, for entrance test for med schools at public Italian universities

Health Sciences in Europe

Many Irish students attend both medical and paramedical programmes in central and eastern European countries including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. Most of these operate on the same basis, with entrance examinations based on competency in biology and chemistry. 

Fees in these countries will be higher than in Western Europe and are usually between €8000 and €12000 a year.

Hungary and Poland - There are over 40 first years in the veterinary programme in Warsaw this year and a high number in the Budapest programme too. There are also increasing numbers in the Polish vet schools. Poland is an increasingly attractive destination for medicine students, though there are good numbers of Irish and UK students in Hungarian and Czech med schools.

See also: Study Hungary and Medical Poland

Physiotherapy – there are currently well over 100 Irish students studying on the Physio programmes in the Netherlands. Feedback from them is consistently positive.

EuniCAS offers a support structure to Irish students applying to third-level colleges throughout Europe (excluding Hungary). See EuniCAS.

Infographic & Guide: How to Become a Doctor by Aris Grigoriou, Student Recruitment Manager at Study Medicine Europe.

Italy - In recent years, Italian universities have begun to offer medical degree programmes through English. Fees range between €400- €4000, depending on income. Italian universities use the International Medical Admissions Test (IMAT), a 100-minute, subject-specific admissions test for applicants to medicine and surgery courses. The test is through English and consists of verbal reasoning and science subjects.

There are now eleven public universities  – including Bologna, Milan, Pavia, and Sapienza in Rome – offer degrees in medicine through English that are open to all EU students. After two years (and sometimes earlier), Irish students can access the student loans available to Italian students.

Graduates of Italian medical programmes take their intern year back in Ireland, whereas central and eastern European graduates in most, but not all countries, complete their intern year as part of their studies. Graduates are recognised by regulatory bodies in Ireland.

As well as the Netherlands, the most popular European destinations are Denmark and Germany. Places are available on degree programmes in a wide range of disciplines including: Health Sciences, Arts & Humanities, Life Sciences, Social Sciences, Engineering & IT and Business.

See National Student Fee and Support Systems in European Higher Education - Facts and Figures - A guide to the key features of the fee system in each EU Country, indicating whether or not international students pay different fees than national or EU students [PDF available here]

How to Search for Courses in European Universities

Start by finding out about different courses and colleges in Europe.

You can get information about particular colleges in Europe by writing directly to the college to request a copy of their prospectus.

If you do not have a specific course or institution in mind, there are a number of other sources of information available to help you:

The European Commission Study in Europe website has information about higher education institutions in 32 European countries. It has guides to: Choosing a course, making an application and living in Europe, as well as scholarship opportunities.

Irish website Careers News has recently made a new International Course Search available via the Careers News website. The service, which is provided by Icares in Holland, allows students to search some 40,000 courses in 119 countries, and points them to the web page for that particular course.

Every European country also has a searchable database showing what courses are on offer:


EUNiCAS is the European Universities Central Application Support Service. It provides information for Irish students on degree programmes taught through English, in Universities across Europe (more below). In addition to accessing comprehensive and independent information on programmes in Europe, you can register (for a very low fee of €28) and access:

  • Independent advice on choosing your programme
  • Expert support in applying to your chosen programmes, and overcoming common obstacles and misunderstandings
  • Guidance on all elements of your application package, inc Letters of Motivation [Personal Statements] and Entrance Tests
  • Regular updates on new programmes and developments
  • Assistance in organising university visits
  • Alerts on extended deadlines and late vacancies

Many students and their families gain a lot of reassurance, and invaluable aid, from the support offered by EUNiCAS

Many of the European universities, that have programmes taught through English, have Open Days, at which Irish Students are very welcome. See upcoming Open Days here

Where to apply

Application processes vary across Europe, so it is worth spending some time checking out the detail for the country you are interested in studying in.

  • The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have a centralised application procedure similar to the Irish CAO system. Many Swedish Universities and all Finnish Universities require exam results by 1st July, meaning that Irish students will need to take a gap year if they want to study there. The application deadline for Denmark is mid-March.
  • There are centralised qualification validation requirements in Germany and Spain.

For a number of EU universities, application is made direct to either the university itself, or to the qualification validation body, or to the official body organising the entrance test. The diversity of arrangements in place across Europe makes EUNiCAS a useful tool for students. EUNiCAS is the European Universities Central Application Support Service.  The EUNiCAS website has details of all courses offered through English, programme guidelines, application forms and completion procedures. Students can apply for to up to eight degree programmes taught through English, in universities across Europe, via Eunicas. 

Students can also apply directly to the college of the choice. See individual college information for details.

A full list of Key Dates for applications is also available on the Eunicas website.

Will my Qualification be valid in Ireland?

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is the system used in Ireland to clarify and compare qualifications. The European Qualification Framework (EQF) is the common European system. It links the different national qualifications systems from different countries together, acting as a translation device, to make qualifications more readable and understandable. 

As qualifications frameworks continue to develop around the world, they contribute to greater mobility opportunities for learners and to the internationalisation of education and training.

Qualifications Recognition- an updated leaflet explaining how QQI works with the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC). It provides advice on fair academic recognition of foreign qualifications that may be used for access to unregulated employment and/or further study in Ireland. The leaflet is available here in six languages.

The Qualrec website explains education and training systems in different countries in EU and beyond, and gives access to other relevant information updates.

The popular leaflet, Travelling with your Irish Qualification has also been updated and provides advice on the initial steps involved in getting Irish qualifications recognised abroad, whether for study or employment purposes.

About the European Qualifications Framework

The EQF uses eight reference levels which span the full scale of qualifications, from basic (Level 1, for example school leaving certificates) to advanced (Level 8, for example Doctorates) levels. The eight reference levels are described in terms of 'learning outcomes'.

The EQF recognises that Europe’s education and training systems are so diverse that a shift to learning outcomes is necessary to make comparison and cooperation between countries and institutions possible. 



In the EQF a learning outcome is defined as a statement of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. The EQF therefore emphasises the results of learning rather than focusing on inputs such as length of study. Learning outcomes are specified in three categories – as knowledge, skills and competence.

NOTE: From 2012 all new qualifications should bear a reference to the appropriate EQF level.

Certificate Supplements for Level 5 and Level 6 Awards

The Certificate Supplements for all FETAC Level 5 and Level 6 Major, Special Purpose and Supplemental Awards went live on the Awards Directory in March 2014.

The Certificate Supplement is provided on-line to people who hold certain QQI (FET) vocational education and training awards.  The Certificate is currently available for Major and Special Purpose awards at NFQ Levels 5 and 6.

Certificate Supplements are really useful if you are trying to have your Award understood overseas whether for academic recognition (through NARIC UK for example), or for employment purposes. 

It gives information about your Award so that employers, or education and training providers, worldwide can easily understand your qualification, and what you have learned (knowledge, skill and competence).  You can use it along with your CV, when applying for work or for further learning experiences.

Certificate Supplements are used across Europe as part of the European Skills Passport. It is one of the five Europass Tools (See below). However, unlike the Diploma Supplement, (within higher education, providers issue Diploma Supplements directly to graduates), the Certificate Supplement is issued by the Awarding Body. Providers of programmes leading to FETAC (QQI) awards should now also issue Certificate Supplements to learners along with their parchment and transcript.

Full details of the Certificate Supplement are available here.

Sample Europass Certificate Supplements: 

The FETAC Awards Directory, by NFQ level can be viewed here.

Europass - The European Skills Passport

Europass aims to help individuals to have their skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in Europe, thereby increasing the mobility of both learners and workers. 

Europass plays an important role in supporting learners as they avail of opportunities in other EU initiatives such as Erasmus + (See details above)

Europass provides a range of tools to make skills and qualifications easily understood, in a common format, in Ireland and across Europe.

There are five Europass documents available which help to describe learning achievements in a standardised  manner:

  • The Europass CV - this is the cornerstone of the European Skills Passport. It helps to de-clutter and systematically organise personal career information
  • The Europass Language Passport - 
  • Europass also includes supplements that explain in detail the meaning of qualifications held by a learner.

In 2014, QQI launched a significant new range of Europass Certificate Supplements for Level 5 and 6 CAS awards (view the QQI Awards Directory here).

These new documents are available to download and provide additional information about the awards achieved, for employers and institutions in the standardised format. Certificate Supplements support award holders in getting appropriate recognition for their qualifications, and can also be stored in individual European Skills Passports. 

See EuroPass for detailed information.

College Fees and Living Expenses in Europe

Tuition Fees

The cost of attending many universities in Europe is often much lower than registering for an equivalent undergraduate degree programme in Ireland or the UK. However, fees can vary significantly, depending on the country in which the university is located and the subject matter of the degree programme.

  • There are no fees for UK and Irish students studying in Malta, or in the four Scandinavian countries, in state sector universities.
  • In the state-sector universities in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, there are no Tuition Fees but there are admin fees of about 500 -600 pa
  • In the Netherlands, tuition fees (2019) are €2083 pa. There is a tuition fee loan system whereby students have up to 20 years after graduation to repay their student loan to the Dutch government. The full fee can be covered.
  • University fees are also low in Italy. Medical School fees in Italy are very low [€400 – €4000 pa,] as they are linked to family income. The average Irish student will pay €1500 p.a. in Italy.

Fees for Health Sciences in most other European countries, besides Italy, are high, rising to between €18,000 and €20,000 in some private universities, but usually between €9,000 and €12,000 in the better Central European faculties, but rising to between €18,000 and €20,000 in some private universities in Western Europe.

Course duration in Europe ranges from 3-4 years for undergraduate courses and 1+ years for postgraduate courses.

Insurance - European universities generally require students to have both medical and liability insurance cover when they register. The EU Medical Card provides good basic cover, but a more comprehensive package including medical cover plus liability, theft, loss and travel etc. may be advisable.

Accommodation & Living Costs

The cost of studying in Europe varies greatly by country and region but a truly world-class education is obtainable without overextending your budget. The cost of living in most European cities compares pretty favourably with cities in the UK and Ireland. Local accommodation costs are included in the university profiles in the Eunicas database.

Course fees and living expenses are reasonable, but they can vary widely by country and region - see Eunicas course profiles for more detailed information.

Taking your SUSI Grant abroad

Irish Students who are eligible for a SUSI maintenance grant can use it for public programmes in all EU universities.

Funding Opportunities and Scholarships for Studying in Europe

The European Funding Guide - a not-for-profit website which provides details of some 12,000 scholarship programs and other forms of financial aid, to help students with their studies. CLICK HERE

The International Education Financial Aid website - provides a database of financial aid information for students who want to study in a foreign country. The site contains a comprehensive list of grants, scholarships, loan programmes and other information that may be helpful to students interested in studying in Europe, or other countries abroad CLICK HERE


ERASMUS is an EU programme that allows students at third-level to spend time studying or on work placement in another EU country. Most universities and colleges have an Erasmus exchange programme in place.

A new Erasmus programme has launched in 2014. Called Erasmus+ it brings together seven existing EU programmes in the fields of Education, Training and Youth; it will for the first time provide support for Sport. As an integrated programme, Erasmus+ offers more opportunities for cooperation across the Education, Training and Youth sectors and is easier to access than its predecessors, with simplified funding rules.

Individuals cannot apply directly for grants. Students who are interested in Erasmus should contact their university, college or organisation.

The Erasmus+ Programme Guide is available here.

Work and Live in Europe ~ everyone can apply for a chance to study or work in Europe. The EU Blue Card is a work permit issued by 25 out of 28 EU Member States to highly-qualified non-EU citizens, as well as students, vocational trainees, seasonal workers and professionals for areas where there are skills shortages such as medicine or technology. For more information see 'Who can apply for the Europe Blue Card'.

Other Useful Links for Studying in Europe

The European Youth Portal is a source of information for young people about studying in Europe both in the European Union and in non-EU countries. It has information on a wide range of other topics for young people including working, travelling, volunteering and exchanges in Europe.

UNESCO produces an international guide to studying abroad. It includes a searchable online database of higher-education study opportunities and the scholarships offered by higher education institutions and international organisations in many countries. It also has contact details and information on admission requirements, application deadlines, financial aid, fees, living expenses and other relevant information for all courses.

Europe - General

WorldWide Classroom is a source of information on courses, student services and practical country information worldwide. You can use the international programme finder to search for a course in the country and language of your choice.

European University Central Application Suppport Service - EUNICAS - Eunicas is an independent college application support service.

European Qualifications Framework - EQF - The European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF) provides a common reference framework which assists in comparing the national qualifications systems, frameworks and their levels (See detailed information above)

Ploteus - PLOTEUS aims to help students, job seekers, workers, parents, guidance counsellors and teachers to find out information about studying in Europe.

Euraxess Ireland - Moving abroad can be an exciting but stressful experience. The pages linked to this section provide advice on your arrangements before you leave, living and working overseas

European Countries

France - CNOUS - French website that aims to improve students' lives in many ways, including food services, housing, grants, social and cultural activities, and international mobility.

CampusFrance is an online portal run by the French government that assists students in their university applications, from choosing a university up to visa processing.

Study in Holland - an initiative of NUFFIC to promote and inform students about Dutch Higher Education worldwide.

Study in Germany - includes information on studying medicine, as well as undergraduate, masters and Phd level study in Germany.

See also:

For Guidance Professionals:

 Euro Guidance – a European network of national resource and information centres for guidance.

Studying in Central and Eastern Europe

For most of the medicine, dentistry and veterinary science programmes in Central Europe, students have to sit Entrance Examinations. These are usually held in Ireland, in April [or for late applicants, in July or August]. Students should check with the relevant university, or their Irish representative. Where there is an earlier exam, it is recommended that you attend the first sitting.

The following weblinks are useful in researching college options in central and eastern Europe

Central Europe - International Medicine Studies (IMS) is a foreign student recruitment and support services website with a focus on Veterinary and Medicine studies admission services.

Bulgaria – StudyInBulgaria.com – details of University programs, Admission process, Living in Bulgaria. English programs include Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Midwifery, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine and several Business and Hospitality programmes.

Hungary - Avicenna - International College offering programs in the fields of medicine, business, technology, English and preparation for masters and phd studies.

Hungary - Study in Hungary - Information website for international students interested in Programs in the fields of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science and Physiotherapy in Hungary.

LatviaStudyinLatvia - Information on Higher Education in Latvia for International students.

Poland - Education in Poland - Education in Poland - site in Polish.

See also Top Universitieshttp://www.topuniversities.com

Studying in non-EU countries

The EU has education co-operation programmes with the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. These programmes are aimed at developing educational links between the EU and the 5 partner countries. Student and teacher mobility are encouraged by the promotion of student exchange programmes between participating institutions.

Student visas: If you are going to study outside the EU and in a non-European country, you may need a student visa. Each country will have specific requirements for student visas. You should consult with the embassy or consulate of the country where you plan to study for more details.

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