Study in Europe: The Lowdown

Samuel Clennett

Want to live in Europe? Why not combine a great adventure with the opportunity to further your education at one of the top class European universities accepting foreign students?

This guide will cover some of the basics you need to know about studying in Europe, including the costs. We’ll also touch on how you can save money if you use Wise for international payments and currency conversion while you’re an international student.

Wise payments use the mid-market exchange rate with no hidden fees. You can also get a multi-currency borderless account to make it simple - and cheap - to manage your money when in Europe. Let’s dive right in.

Studying in Europe

Despite being a small continent, Europe is hugely varied. This means you can get a very different experience depending on where you decide to go. From the sunny climes of southern Italy or Spain, to the chilly Nordics, your lifestyle will be quite different. But what doesn’t change is the opportunity to study in a well rated institution, usually using English as the medium of teaching.

As well as diverse cultural experiences, different European countries have very different tuition fee structures for international students - and the cost of living can vary widely, too.

To give an example - studying in Norway is usually free at public institutions, even for international students. However, the cost of living is relatively high. Head to the UK, and you’ll likely have fairly high tuition fees to pay. But, if you choose an institution outside London, you could find that the cost of living is lower than you expect. Doing your research is key, to make sure you have the right budget planned for your time overseas.

Study Visa

Once you have chosen your destination, and been accepted onto a course there, you’ll need to get your study permit or visa. Each different country has their own process for visa applications and eligibility.

Usually you’ll need to show you have a university place lined up, you have a place to stay and enough money to cover your expenses while you’re away. You’ll also need to present supporting documents including your valid passport, evidence of your financial situation, and an approval letter from your university.

There’s more on how to get a study visa for some popular destinations, here:

Cost of studying in Europe

Studying in Europe is a great opportunity, but it won’t be cheap. Here are some of the costs you need to think about.

Tuition fees

Different countries in Europe have very different approaches to university tuition fees. Some governments support public universities, which might mean capped costs even for international students, while other countries allow universities to set their own charges.

Make sure you’re looking at the correct fee schedules as you research, as it’s common to have different charges for local students, people from the EU, and other international students.

Here’s a brief outline of the costs in 3 selected European destinations.

University locationIndicative cost
France¹Undergraduate course at a public institution - EUR2,770 per year Graduate course at a public institution - EUR3,770 per year Private universities - EUR3,000 - EUR10,000 per year
Sweden²Undergraduate course at a public institution - Fees vary by course, from SEK80,000 - SEK270,000 per year Graduate course at a public institution - SEK129,000
United Kingdom³Undergraduate course - Fees vary by course, from £10,000 - £25,000 a year. Up to £38,000 a year for a clinical course Graduate course - £11,000 - £32,000 per year

Day to day costs

The overall cost of life as a student will vary widely depending on where you choose to live in Europe and your personal preferences. A great way to get both general and specific information about the costs of living in different places, is to use data website Numbeo.

You can find live cost of living information for different cities and countries, and compare this with your home. See what you’ll pay for rent in different regions, as well as day to day basics like entertainment and transport.

The data is dynamic, which means it changes all the time according to information submitted by users around the world. Here’s a brief overview of the country costs for the places selected above.

Cost typeFrance⁴Sweden⁵United Kingdom⁶
Rent prices28.6% lower than Australia25.1% lower than Australia11.67% lower than Australia
Consumer prices1.7% higher than Australia5.24% lower than Australia6.76% lower than Australia
Grocery prices1.59% higher than Australia9.55% lower than Australia29.94% lower than Australia
Overall local purchasing power24.81% lower than Australia3.51% lower than Australia14.28% lower than Australia

You’ll see that many absolute costs in these European countries are lower than in Australia. However, it’s important also to look at the local purchasing power, which reflects the difference in salaries in these places. Although prices may be lower in some countries in Europe, salaries are too - important if you’re thinking of paying your way by working while you study.

Naturally the costs of rent, entertainment and other daily needs will vary depending on which city you choose. Typically large cities will be more expensive, while a smaller town could cut your costs. Take time to look at different areas to find the right balance for your budget.

Universities in Europe

Universities in Europe are diverse. From the most northerly - The University of Tromsø well within the Arctic Circle, to the largest - Sapienza in Rome, wherever you’re headed, you’ll have a unique experience⁷.

Here are a few popular universities to consider when researching where to apply.

Top 10 universities in Europe⁸

As you’ll see, the top 10 globally ranked universities are all in the UK and Switzerland - with many famous names you may recognise.

European ranking (Global ranking)University nameCountry
1 (4)University of OxfordUK
2(6)ETH ZurichSwitzerland
3(7)University of CambridgeUK
5(9)Imperial College LondonUK
7(20)The University of EdinburghUK
8(27)University of ManchesterUK
9(=33)King’s College LondonUK

Top universities in Europe for international students⁹

Choosing where to study isn’t all about the institution which has the highest ranking for academic performance or research. You’ll also want a place where you can feel welcome, with a diverse student body which will add to your experience.

University ranking agency QS came up with a way of calculating the best universities for international students, based on the diversity of the student body. 12 universities in Europe achieved a perfect score on this rating - here they are.

University nameCountry
London Business SchoolUK
Central European UniversityHungary
Imperial College LondonUK
SOAS (University of London)UK
HEC Paris School of ManagementFrance
Ecole des Ponts ParisTechFrance

Cut the costs of studying in Europe with Wise

No matter where you choose for your period of international study, you’ll have fees and bills to pay. As an overseas students this can mean dealing with currency conversion markups and excessive charges for cross border payments. If you are looking for a way to send money to Europe, Wise could be an option.

Cut out these unnecessary costs, by using Wise for your international payments and to help manage your money day to day.

Wise offers simple, quick and safe international payments using the mid-market exchange rate with no hidden fees. You’ll just pay a transparent charge per transaction, which can be up to 16x cheaper than the big banks.

To manage your money on the go, you can also choose a multi-currency borderless account, to send and receive global payments.

The account comes with a linked debit Mastercard for simple spending while you’re abroad. Just top up your account in dollars, and switch at the mid-market rate to the currency you need. It’s free to spend currencies you hold using your card, so you avoid international payment costs. You can also withdraw up to the equivalent of $350 a month fee free from international ATMs.

Don’t pay more than you have to for your international student experience. Check out Wise today to see how much you can save.



All sources accurate as of 12 December 2019

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