The 8 Top Destinations for Higher Education: Which one is the best for you?

Since the end of the school year is approaching and many students and their families are unsure of what the best alternative for higher education might be, SurveyBee did some research on the top 8 European study destinations, comparing different factors, to help you determine the best choice for you.

International student mobility has dramatically grown in the past decade worldwide but Europe takes the lead as the most attractive destination with a drastic increase of 114% in number of international students between 2010 and 2014. This rise results in Europe holding 25% of the international student market in 2015, compared to 12.6% in 2012.


In the dawn of student mobility, the most wanted destination for higher education in Europe has been the United Kingdom, welcoming students from all over the world. However, in the past years other European countries have emerged as attractive for internationals, due to the lower tuition and lifestyle costs and practical approach towards education.
The Erasmus student network’s  expansion with the consent of the EU, has stimulated both the interest of non-EU students towards European countries and the mobility within the Eurozone of domestic European students.
Statistics for the past few years show that some of the most attractive European countries for pursuing higher education are the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, France, Spain and the Netherlands.

Comparison of the top 8 European countries for education

By number of international students

The Institute of international education notes a drastic increase in international student numbers in the UK, amounting from 7% in 2004 to 18.1% in 2014 of the overall number of enrolled students. A similar growth can be observed in Austria, where the number went from 17% in 2004 to 32% in 2014.

The Netherlands, Sweden and Spain have also opened their doors to more internationals, with their number rising with respectively 5.3%, 4.2% and 2.4% over the past 8 years.

Those countries are also internationalizing the education of their domestic students, hoping to adopt new means and practices of education and get their students to accustom with an international environment.
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By number of institutions

France and Germany offer the biggest diversity regarding study location with around 500 higher education institutions, including public and private schools, followed by the United Kingdom.

The Netherlands have 141 institutions, divided in 2 groups for different types of education- research universities and universities of applied sciences. The latter are preferred for bachelor enrollment, where only 4% of the students in those universities are undergoing a masters degree.

Out of the 82 institutions in Denmark, only 8 are universities, while rest is academies, offering an Academy Profession degree, before graduating with a bachelor.
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By top ranking universities

According to Times Higher Education World ranking for 2014/5, the 3 top UK universities- University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Imperial college London, have gone a few numbers up in rankings based on factors like research and influence and teaching environment. Leiden University  has climbed 3 steps up, under the same influence, while Holland’s other universities have gone down in rankings.

It has also been a great year for German Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich spiking from rank 55 to 29 and Swedish Lund University, managing to surpass also Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology, climbing up to rank 119.

University of Vienna has been steadily going down in ranking in the past 3 years, taking 182 place in 2015 and being threatened to drop out of the Top 200. Danish and French universities remain in the lower 100s of the ranking with small changes in placement and Spain’s Pompeu Fabra University, which made it in the top 200 only two years ago has kept its position.
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By living and tuition expenses

Countries like Denmark and Austria are well-known for their high standard of living, but in the recent years they are surpassed by the Netherlands and the UK, where lifestyle cost per year amounts to respectively 7800 and 11 004 GBP. As it turns out, the biggest expense for students is their rent, reaching up to 55% of overall monthly expenditure. However, in counties like France, schools provide help with finding accommodation and also other benefits for using the school’s facilities, like restaurant, gym, etc. Furthermore, most countries offer scholarships for students that may remove some of the financial burdens.

Regarding funding of education, the UK is known for its high and on the rise tuition fees, reaching up to almost £12 000 for EU and domestic students and £16 000 for Non-EU students. No other European country has tuition fees of the same height and recently, free education within the EU has been highly common.

The Netherlands hold a fixed annual fee for all students, while in France and Spain, the fee depends on the studied subject and type of degree of the student. Austria and Sweden on the other hand offer free education for EU citizens, with a minimum amount of money paid per year called a “student fee”. Tuition for Non-EU members is £1073 for Austria and £2703 for Sweden. Denmark’s education system is also free for the EU and charges Non-EU students with £7210 a year.

In 2014, Germany announced that education is now free for everyone, regardless if they’re members of the EU or not. As a way to encourage internationals in the country, Germany has managed to attract the attention of overseas students, who weren’t many before.

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By most popular majors

Statistics show that the most popular majors in each country are in similar areas- business and economics, medicine and law. Germany and the Netherlands tend to have a lot of engineering students, while France and the UK have theirs focused on pharmacology and nursing. Social and humanity sciences are also on the rise, with Denmark, The Netherlands and Spain being the preferred choices.
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By first salary

While quality of education cannot be exactly measured, salaries can. Payscale shows that students from Denmark are most likely to have the highest median salary of £27 232 within their first year of experience, followed by Sweden and Germany. The United Kingdom is in the golden mean with £20 228, while Spain is at the bottom range with £12 905 annually.
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By post-graduation employment rates

The EU skills panorama for 2014 show that Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Sweden are keeping their rank with the highest employment rate of graduates with results over 90%.

The United Kingdom, followed by Denmark and France are in the 80% range, while Spain’s employment rate has fallen down to 66% in 2014.

The source also estimates that students from the UK, Netherlands and Sweden are more likely to be employed within the first 3 months after graduation, while French and Spanish students would need from 4 to 7 months to seek employment.
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Those are the trends for this year’s higher education by country, there is no way to rank between them or distinguish the worst and best, it’s up to one’s personal requirements to choose the most suitable one. Nevertheless, observing the trends and finding new opportunities and destinations for education is crucial with the fast-paced development of today’s international students market.

Co-written with Federico Fossati, Operating officer