Which university should I go to in Europe?

With so many options in the EU, how do you answer the question, “Which university should I go to?” We’ll help you work out what’s best for you.

6 min read

If you’re finishing up high school, you might be getting ready to embark on the next chapter in your life – university. Yet, with more than 3,000 higher education institutions across the EU, whittling this number down to create a manageable shortlist can seem like a Herculean task.

When it comes to trying to work out which university to go to, online research is your best friend. Similarly, a university’s website should be your first port of call for up-to-date information about courses and student life. Universities also hold open days throughout the year, where you can visit the college itself and ask the admissions staff, academics and current students all of your burning questions. If you’re interested in a university that’s located far away, you can also reach out to its alumni network to learn more about former students’ experiences.

Across Europe, there are two major kinds of university:

Institutions that are supported by public funds from the government. These include:

  • Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University (50,000 students)

  • Switzerland’s University of Lucerne (2,500 students)

  • Scotland’s University of Edinburgh (36,000 students)

  • Spain’s University of Barcelona (63,000 students)

  • Italy’s University of Bologna (77,000 students)

Institutions that are usually run as businesses or non-profit organizations. These offer a restricted number of courses, with examples being:

  • Italy’s Carlo Cattaneo University (2,000 students)

  • England’s University of Buckingham (2,500 students)

  • France’s Catholic University of Paris (7,500 students)

  • Spain’s European University of Madrid (16,000 students)

Undergraduate degree (Bachelor’s degree) programs range from 3 to 4 years in length, depending on the country and subject:

  • England

  • Norway

  • Poland

  • Germany

  • Austria

  • The Netherlands

  • Spain

Sometimes, a degree can take even longer. For example, if you’re studying medicine or training to become a doctor, it can take you up to 5 years before you become a qualified physician. In France, it can take you 8 years to become a medical doctor, whereas in Italy, you need to study for 6 years before qualifying.

Another option is a “sandwich” degree. They are called this because they integrate a year in the industry, or a year abroad between the components of the regular degree. Usually, this program is extended by the length of the internship in question – for example, undertaking a 3-year degree and a 1-year internship would result in a 4-year sandwich degree.

Of course, as universities can’t accept every student that’s applied to them, how do they decide who to pick? In deciding “what university should I go to?,” it’s essential to know how certain college admissions work:

  • Germany: A certificate (or an equivalent qualification) that entitles you to study at university.

  • The UK: Admission is based on your school-leaving examination grades.

  • Spain: A certificate or qualification showing Spanish skills to be above B2 level or above.

  • Italy: Proof of language proficiency.

  • France: An essay about the subject you’re interested in to show your passion for it.

  • England: A personal statement, which is a short one-page essay about your chosen subject.

Every major newspaper publishes university rankings on an annual basis, but these differ depending on the criteria used and these rankings often fluctuate. For example, the Sorbonne University in Paris is currently ranked 29th in the world by CWUR and 73rd by the Times Higher Education supplement.

However, when deciding “which university should I go to?,” note that there are many that remain consistently at the top of the rankings for certain subjects. These include:

  • University of Oxford

  • University of Cambridge

  • ETH Zurich

  • University College London

  • University of Edinburgh

  • LMU Munich

  • London School of Economics

  • Paris Science and Letters Research University

  • Heidelberg University

  • University of Oxford

  • KU Leuven

  • École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

Naturally, from moving away from home and studying abroad, to opening a banking account that you can manage wherever you decide to go, there’s a lot to consider when going to university. When picking a university to go to, and to help you decide on a location, here are some popular places to consider:

  • Population: 550,000

  • Major airport with almost 400 flights a day

  • Thriving international community with a bustling Chinatown

  • Population: 1.5 million

  • 12 universities (although some specialize in just a few subjects)

  • Great sporting facilities (it hosted the Olympics in 1972)

  • Population: Over 2 million

  • Many cultural monuments, e.g. the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower

  • Direct travel links to London via the Eurostar

  • Population: 1.6 million.

  • Fantastic weather (just 55 rainy days a year)

  • The University of Barcelona teaches two degree courses in English for people who don’t speak Spanish.

  • Population: 2.8 million.

  • 24 separate universities with buzzing student life

  • The American University of Rome offers US-accredited degrees that are recognized in the USA.

The amount you need to fork out for a degree is calculated on a country-by-country basis. In addition to tuition fees, you’ll need to budget for your living expenses, too – this can quickly add up if you’re in a pricey city, such as London. Below, you’ll find a rundown of some figures:

  • Fees: €0.00/year (with a small contribution towards administration costs)

  • Living expenses: €850/month

  • Fees: around €2,000/year (for non-EU students)

  • Living expenses: €650/month

  • Fees: at least €19,000/year (overseas students)

  • Living expenses: €900/month

  • Fees: €2,770/year

  • Living expenses: €700/month

  • Fees: €1,000/year

  • Living expenses: €900/month

To help you along the way, many colleges offer scholarships to incoming students. These range from the full coverage of tuition costs, to a few hundred Euros a year.

Picking a great course at a good university is key, but don’t neglect more mundane matters, such as accommodation. Know the difference:

  • ‘Halls’ often house first-year students, a type of student accommodation.

  • The NUS Student Experience Report suggests that only 19% live at home.

  • 40% of exchange students live in student accommodation such as that provided by Berlin’s Humboldt University.

  • Many German students live at home.

  • Only three companies offer rooms and shared accommodation across 200 cities across the country.

  • Rent in this student accommodation costs from just €150 a week.

  • Most student accommodation is not located on campus, and is brokered by university housing offices.

  • Specialist accommodation is only available to 6% of students, which is why most students rent privately.

For most people, attending university is a necessary stepping-stone to starting a professional career. Because of this, colleges offer much more than information offered in lectures – they can also provide advice and guidance on career choices. Additional services often include:

  • The University of Cambridge offers a widespread alumni network.

  • The Free University of Berlin has careers departments that help their graduates find jobs all around the world.

  • The University of Dundee offers students modules on employability and career planning that they can complete alongside their degree.

After all, there’s much more to studying than sitting in the library for 24 hours a day!


We want to simplify banking for everyone. We’re bringing you a series of articles that shine a light on the basics of money, finance and all things banking-related – it’s often a lot simpler than you might think.

By N26

The Mobile Bank

Related posts

These might also interest you