Best 8 European countries for international students

best European countries for international students
Europe has so much to offer international students who are looking to study and work abroad. Source: AFP

If you are thinking about studying in Europe, you are in for a great adventure.

International students love Europe, with as many as 1.52 million choosing universities located on the continent.

But with over 40 countries and three territories, which are the best European countries for international students?

The answer to this question depends on many factors:

  • quality and cost of education
  • post-graduation job opportunities
  • language(s) spoken
  • cultural experiences

Each country has a unique mix of each factor — but what they share in common is the many opportunities for international students looking to broaden their perspectives.

The name “Europe,”  after all, is the fusion of the Greek roots eur- (wide) and -op (seeing). Together, they form the phrase “wide-gazing.”

Great reasons to study in Europe

Europe, known as the birthplace of Western civilisation, is where all the action is.

Or, at least, up to the 21st century where many Asian countries are rapidly catching up.

But, until today, the world’s second-smallest continent is as big in impact as it is in size.

Many life-changing discoveries were made here, from the space suit to the power transformer, from the telephone to the aerosol can.

Charles Darwin, the pioneer of evolution, and Galileo Galilei, who discovered the solar system, both come from Europe.

So did the greatest artists who ever lived: Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, to name just three.

To study where some of the world’s most important men and women live is to expose yourself to new ideas and perspectives.

Add the 24 official languages (in the European Union alone) and you can just imagine how these new ideas, perspectives and languages will expand your mind and perception of the world beyond anything you’ve ever experienced.

You’ll emerge a bigger, better person — one that’s ready to seize more career opportunities than those weren’t as privileged to study and live in Europe.

best European countries for international students

In Europe, international students can work part-time as they complete their studies. Source: AFP

Is it possible to work while studying in Europe?

It’s possible to work while studying in Europe. Many universities even have career teams that help you with applications and documents.

Apart from part-time jobs at supermarkets or pubs, internship programmes are particularly popular among those seeking a balance between real-world experience and a structured work environment in a foreign country.

When it comes to visas, this all depends on which European country you’re in and your home country.

Each country also has regulations regarding the duration and weekly hours of permissible work. It’s essential to be aware of these stipulations and plan accordingly when considering working while studying in Europe.

For example. French law allows students to work up to 21 hours per week while Sweden allows international students to work up to 20 hours per week.

However, in Switzerland, international students are only allowed to work 15 hours per week.

best European countries for international students

The UK is one of the best European countries for international students to study and work abroad. Source: AFP

8 best European countries for international students in 2024

1. UK

The UK stands out as one of the best European countries for international students looking to study and work abroad.

Among the UK’s top universities, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and Imperial College London consistently rank as some of the best globally.

As of 2023, the UK has an international student community of 679,970 students, making it the most diverse country in Europe.

Here, English is the primary language of instruction.

While the cost of studying and tuition fees in the UK is relatively higher than in other European countries, scholarships are available to ease the financial burden.

Many universities offer scholarships for international students specifically or students can apply for the Chevening Scholarship or Commonwealth scholarships.

The country’s top cities, including London, Edinburgh and Manchester, are popular among students, offering vibrant lifestyles and unique cultural experiences.

best European countries for international students

France is one of the best European countries for international students. Source: AFP

2. France

Renowned for its world-famous attractions like the Louvre Museum, France is not only the world’s most visited country but is also one of the best countries in Europe for higher education.

Boasting 3,500 public and private institutes, the country’s universities are esteemed for their research-based studies and diverse courses.

Government subsidies contribute to reasonable tuition fees, making France an attractive option for students from around the world.

For example, at the University of Strasbourg, tuition fees are not more than 600 euros per year for local and non-local students. 1 euro is approximately US$1.09 at the time of writing.

Looking for prestige instead of affordability? Then consider some of the top universities in France:

  • HEC Paris, University of Paris
  • Sorbonne University
  • Université Grenoble Alpes
  • École Polytechnique

3. Germany

Known not only as a major automobile manufacturing hub but also as one of the best places to study in Europe, Germany attracts thousands of international students every year.

In 2022, the country recorded 324,729 foreign student enrollments, with the majority hailing from China, Russia, and India, according to the Institute of International Education.

Prestigious Germany universities include the Technical University of Munich, Ludwig Maximilian University, Humboldt University of Berlin, RWTH Aachen University, and the Technical University of Berlin.

International students (and anyone, really) love the country for its great weather (ok, maybe not winter), legendary nightlife, museums, street art, and its strong student community.

What’s more, the country allows international students to work part-time, with a limit of 120 full days or 240 half days per year.

best European countries for international students

The windmills in the Netherlands are not only known for their help in controlling floods but also for their beauty. Source: AFP

4. The Netherlands

The Netherlands is not only the the fifth happiest country in the world, it is also one of the best European countries for international students.

Leading institutions like Delft University of Technology and the University of Amsterdam are known for offering high-quality education.

With more than 90% of the population fluent in English, language is not a barrier, allowing students to immerse themselves in the full Dutch experience whether on or off campus — and seek jobs when they graduate.

For the best chances of landing a job here, focus on these areas, ranked as the fastest growing jobs in the Netherlands in 2023:

  • product analyst
    sales development representative
    site reliability engineer
    data engineer

5. Spain

Most people know Spain because of its football team, but the country has so much more to offer.

The cost of living in Spain is more reasonable than in the UK and the US, making it an attractive destination for those seeking affordability without compromising on the quality of education.

In Spain, you will need around 900 to 1,100 euros per month (US$978.69 to US$1,196.13 at the time of writing) while international students will need about 1,300 pounds to 1,400 pounds per month (US$1,648.16 to US$1,774.94 at the time of writing) in the UK and around US$1,000 to US$1,500 per month in the US.

Sold? Here are the top universities in Spain include:

  • Autonomous University of Barcelona
  • University of Barcelona
  • Complutense University of Madrid
  • Pompeu Fabra University
  • Autonomous University of Madrid

6. Switzerland

As one of the best European countries for international students, Switzerland is home to notable universities that offer diverse programmes and promising career opportunities.

The country’s remarkable history and archaeological sites like St. Pierre’s Cathedral, Augusta Raurica and Monte San Giorgio add to its cultural richness.

Here, students will also have the chance to experience world-famous activities such as skiing in the Alps.

Getting here is known to be a simple process — making it even more attractive to international students.

When you’ve arrived, you’ll have the option to work up to 15 hours a week in the country, providing an opportunity for you to truly immerse yourself in Swiss culture and know Swiss people.

The country’s top universities that focus on research, applied sciences, arts and teacher education include:

  • University of Zurich
  • ETH Zurich
  • the University of Geneva
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne

Switzerland’s public universities offer affordable tuition fees for international students, making education accessible.

Tuition at these universities can start from as low as 500 Swiss francs (US$575.59 at the time of writing) per semester.

best European countries for international students

Did you know that the Northern Lights are visible roughly 200 nights a year in Finnish Lapland? Source: AFP

7. Finland

If you are looking for one of the best European countries for international students that will offer you a high quality of life, Finland is the country for you.

Renowned for having the best universities in Europe, Finland’s education system is globally acclaimed. With over 20,000 international students, the country boasts a diverse learning community.

Several Finnish universities consistently rank among the top 100 in the world, reflecting the country’s commitment to academic excellence.

While Finland may not be as affordable as Spain, you can apply to some universities that offer fully-paid scholarships for high-performing students.

These include Doctoral Studies Finland Scholarships 2024, University of Helsinki Scholarships and Aalto University Scholarships.

Among the notable universities in Finland are:

  • University of Helsinki
  • Aalto University
  • University of Turku
  • University of Jyvaskyla
  • University of Oulu

8. Sweden

Sweden stands out as one of the best European countries for international students, offering a combination of safety, natural beauty and cutting-edge education.

Scandinavians, known for their friendliness, contribute to creating a secure environment for international students.

The coastal country boasts stunning landscapes with islands, mountains, and forests, providing you many options to explore when you’re not busy earning a degree or checking out cities like Stockholm and Malmo.

This includes the Scandinavian Mountains, also known as the “Scandes”, the island of Brännö and Skrylle Nature reserve.

Despite Swedish being the official language, the country offers bachelor’s and master’s programmes in English, making education accessible to international students.

This has led to an increase in the number of international students studying in Sweden.

During the 2021/2022 academic year, there was a 19% increase in the number of international students in the country. Over 40,000 international students chose to further their education in Sweden.

According to Times Higher Education, the top three universities in Sweden are Karolinska Institute, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Lund University.

For students from the EU/EEA, your tuition is free, courtesy of the Sweden government.