Top 5 study destinations in Europe

Author: Jennifer Weingarten

Worldwide, over 3.7 million students were studying abroad in 2009! Find out which role plays Europe in there and which are the most popular destinations.

In the last decades, globalisation became an important aspect of almost every business. A car for example is not anymore produced at a few facilities but assembled by parts of a highly optimised supply chain with suppliers all-over the globe. This dramatic change in the way of doing business however, did not only affect the business but also the education market. In the last years, it became more and more important to learn foreign languages and gain intercultural understanding in order to be prepared for an international research- and working environment. By no doubt, the best way to gain those abilities is studying abroad, or at least at a university with an international environment.

Most popular destinations within Europe

The OECD conducted research about the origin and the destination of international students. According to their findings, the five most popular European countries for international students are the following

1. UK

English is nowadays the by far most important language in a globalised business life as well as in international research. This might explain the high popularity of English-speaking destinations for studies abroad. No wonder that the UK is nowadays the most popular destination in Europe, accommodating nearly 10% of all international students world-wide.

View 18,099 Master programmes in the UK

2. Germany

Germany has not only Europes biggest economy. It is also well-known for its high-class education especially in the field of engineering. Nowadays, 7% of all international students are studying in Germany. German is still the prevalent language of instruction. However, there are already more than 600 Masters programmes taught in English, and it is getting more every year.

View 2,932 Master programmes in Germany

3. France

France accommodates nearly 7% of all international students and this share is getting bigger and bigger from year to year! French universities are well-known for their quality and competitiveness in many fields. However, it is still very important to know or to learn French before studying there. For this reason, France is particularly popular with students from countries with French as first or second language such as many African countries for example. However, more than 350 Masters programmes are already available in English!

View 1,645 Master programmes in France

4. Russian Federation

Yes, you heard right! Russia is the fourth most popular destination for international students in Europe. 3.7% of all international students choose Russia, and this number is growing fast. Higher education in Russia is based on a long tradition and of good quality. Unfortunately, most programmes are still in Russian so some language skills are needed before starting your academic career there.

View 189 Master programmes in Russia

5. Spain

With just 2.3% Spain seems to be one of the less important destinations if you compare it to the big players like the US and the UK. However, Spain showed a remarkable development. In the last 5 years, the popularity towards the other countries world-wide more than tripled! For obvious reasons, Spain is especially popular among other Spanish speaking countries such as Chile, Mexico and Argentina. However, it is also a great opportunity for US citizens for example, to learn one of the most popular languages of the world besides Chinese, Hindi and English!

View 1,180 Master programmes in Spain

More people than ever are studying abroad - especially in Europe

This might be one of the reasons that the internationalisation of higher education increased dramatically in the last four decades. From just 0.8 million in 1975, the number of international students more than doubled until 1995 with 1.7 million. In the 15 years after that, the development accelerated even faster. Alone from 2005 to 2009 the number of international students raised 23.3%.

Development of the number of foreign students worldwide

Especially Europe plays an important role in this development of internationalisation. From 2000 to 2009 the number of international students in the Europe raised by over 82%. That is considerably more than for example in the US, where the growth was just around 49%. It seems that more and more students within, but also outside of Europe choose to study abroad there. In contrast, the share of international students choosing the US as their destination dropped from 23% to 18%. No wonder that there are three European countries among those with the highest percentage of international students. In those countries, more than 10% of the enrolments are made by international students:

  1. UK
  2. Austria
  3. Switzerland

Does language matter?

It is obvious that language is an important aspect for students, when deciding where to study abroad. This explains the massive dominance of the English-speaking countries in the world-wide ranking. Over 40% of the international students choose to study in an English-speaking country such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand.

View a list of more than 150 English language learning courses

However, nowadays you do not have to go to an English-speaking country in order to study in English! Many European countries offer English programmes in order to attract foreign students and overcome the disadvantages towards English-speaking countries. Especially the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland and Sweden as well as the Netherlands offer a wide variety of programmes in English language.

Use of English in higher education of the OECD member countries


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