European Universities: Public vs Private

Europe / Guides

When students look to study in Europe, there’s an area which many British students don’t consider, namely the difference between a public and a private university. With almost every UK university being public, the difference that this divide can lead to on the continent can be hidden from view. However, students need to consider the differences to make wise choices.

One of the main media tropes about studying in Europe is that the costs are low. They can be low (or non-existent) but in many cases that also means that you are getting what you pay for. With the exception of the Netherlands and Ireland, a lot of European-public universities will focus only on the teaching, with little provision of the other things that students at schools in the UK would typically consider to be part of university life.

For example, student accommodation may not be provided by the university, and professors may not offer office-hours or the opportunity to meet them. The degree might be taught in English, but all the administration of the university could be in the host country’s language. Clubs, sports teams and other organisations – if they exist at all – will also typically only run in the native language of the country. And at some European public universities the numbers of students can be vast: The University of Rome has over 100,000 students enrolled.

Europe does, however, have a range of private universities. Some of them are in the European Universities Consortium, and there are more besides. In brief, by paying more you get more: student accommodation, wraparound services in English, and a more recognisable university experience.

All of this is not to say that private is better than public, or vice versa, but students and parents looking at universities in Europe need to be fully aware of this key difference.