University Rankings: The best places to study abroad in Europe

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University Rankings: The best places to study abroad in Europe

While it is known that many European countries are very popular destinations for international students but the UK, Germany, France and Netherlands are unconquerable leaders, according to the latest statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Germany is number one in Europe for student emigration and fourth in the whole world (behind China, India and South Korea). The highest proportion of international students in this country has the Technical University of Munich, which is ranked 14th in Europe and 46th overall.

Marijke Wahlers, head of the international department of the German Rectors’ Conference, says that student mobility is very important for the nation. However, Germany would like to sustain “a partnership concept in internationalisation” and to keep the balance of outgoing and incoming students.

Seems like their efforts have paid off – Germany’s proportion of international students has been going upwards recently. Last year, the number of foreign students coming to the country rose by 7 per cent. It is nearly 8 per cent more than in 2015.

According to Wahlers, one of the essential factors is that the country does not charge students for high tuition fees. Also, Germany has a high quality of teaching and the strong labour market that makes it attractive to young people from all around the world.

However, Wahlers has some doubts about sustaining the same rates of growth in the future. She claims that since Germany does not use English widely across its universities, unlike other European countries such as Sweden or the Netherlands, so soon it can cause a decline in hosting international students.

Gero Federkeil, head of international rankings at the Centre for Higher Education agrees with this opinion. He believes that the Netherlands has traditionally been more open to academic exchange than large countries such as Germany, Spain or France. Moreover, Dutch universities are focusing more on teaching rather than stay student-centred, and this may be the reason why many German students go to the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has high achievements on international scientific research. Although the number of researchers in this country is way smaller than in France (100,000 vs. 238,000 between 1996 and 2015), their performance is similar on mobility of their academics.

During last decade, 8 per cent of researchers in the Netherlands had worked outside the country for at least two years. According to Elsevier’s SciVal tool, equally in both, France and the Netherlands, 47 per cent of researchers published scientific articles outside home countries during the same period. While 49 per cent of UK scientists and 44 per cent of scholars in Germany did the same.



The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant last year found that 60 per cent of courses at higher education institutions in the Netherlands are taught in English. The highly positive view of English language and the internationalism among scientists may be the reason why they are good in researches and education.

While proportionally France is weaker than its neighbouring countries on internationalisation, but in overall numbers, France is fourth in the world and second in Europe in terms of arriving international students, according to THE World University Rankings data.

More than 287,000 international students come to study abroad at France's universities and higher education institutions every year. A third of French PhDs are awarded to students from outside France, and almost half of all academic papers are co-authored with at least one foreign colleague.

France is committed to a policy of treating French and international students equally, with identical and very low tuition fees for courses leading to national diplomas (degrees), and the same access to benefits, such as housing assistance and health insurance.

Recently, “École Polytechnique”, one of France’s prestigious “grandes écoles”, announced the creation of five postgraduate degrees and one undergraduate degree programme be taught in English. It means that universities here are trying harder to attract students from foreign countries.

English language is important aspects in the academic world; therefore there is no surprise that the UK is Europe’s leading nation when it comes to internationalisation. According to Times Higher Education World University Rankings, almost all of its ranked institutions appear in the top 25 per cent of universities with the greatest number of overseas students.

This result is particularly impressive given that the country has more representatives in this Europe Ranking (91 universities) than any other nation. Moreover, UK’s higher education institutions also excel in attracting international academics and publishing research with international co-authors.

However, these grand numbers might be changed straight after Brexit because EU students will not be able to receive loans from the Government to cover the relatively expensive tuition fees. Possibly, many of these students will search less expensive alternatives, like France, Germany or the Netherlands.