Podcast: The Return of the BTS Podcast

college in europe


Return of the BTS Podcast

Episode Summary

The Beyond the States podcast is back! In this episode, recorded in August 2021, Jenn covers the basics of Beyond the States and overviews some of the biggest ideas around college in Europe. She talks about how and why she started BTS. She also talks about where she and her family are currently living and why they moved to Portugal. She highlights other key episodes to listen to, as well.  We hope you enjoy it!

Special Offer:

We’re running a special offer right now to celebrate the return of the podcast, check out the deal here!  


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Geneva, Switzerland School Visit

Ellie and I just got back from a week in Geneva. It was my first time in Switzerland and, I have to tell you, Geneva is now at the very top of my “Favorite Cities in Europe” list.  It had everything I love about Paris (language, culture, incredible food, beautiful architecture) but cleaner, friendlier, and with the addition of the incredible views with the lake and the Alps. Further, it’s compact, easy to navigate, and with a great public transportation system.  Did I pay $10 for Band-Aids? Yes. And $9 for blackberries at the farmer’s market? Also, yes. But other things, like our hotel, Swiss wines, and local public transportation were surprisingly affordable.  I spent the first few days visiting schools and then we had four days of exploring the city, eating tons of cheese and chocolate, and making a day

trip to Lausanne.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t love every school I visit. In fact, I had enough concerns about one of the schools I visited during our trip to Geneva that I took it out of the database and sent an email to our members about my concerns.  And then I visited a school on the other end of the spectrum. One that I could not wait to let you all know about. This school is the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

Where do I even start?

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies was founded in 1927. It’s technically a private, not-for profit institution, but also get 40% of their funding from the state as they are seen as providing a service of public utility. They previously housed their facilities in a historic villa on Lake Geneva but built a new campus that opened in 2013.

I just need to take a minute to tell you about their facilities, as they are truly breathtaking.  They are located just around the corner from the UN. The six buildings, which are located just around the corner from the UN Headquarters, are referred to as petals due to their shape.  The school facilities are in the first building while the expansive and impressive library extends into the second petal as well.  The campus includes a conference space, where the Dali Llama recently spoke, and offices in the other buildings are rented out to organizations and NGOs with similar missions. For this reason, the entire facility is referred to as the Campus of Peace. The value of sustainability was incorporated into the structure. The building uses geothermal heating and cooling and also has a weather center on top to detect when shutters need to be shut and open.  There is housing in viewing distance with 260 beds, and another newly built with 600 beds just 15 minutes by foot from campus.  Rooms costs 700 CHF+ (convert to US dollars) per month.

There are only 1077 students, so the robust facilities are especially impressive. That said, in recognizing that students may also desire the student life opportunities provided by a larger university, they have an arrangement with the University of Geneva that allows students to utilize their facilities and services. This includes things like sports clubs and facilities, medical, student associations, study spaces and just about anything else you can think of!

The school has six master’s degree programs.  The one I want to tell you about today is the interdisciplinary International and Development Studies program.  All students in this two year program take the same core classes, which include Stats, Research Methods, and choices from core classes like Gender and International Affairs and Development, Global Governance and Regulation, and Extraction, Poverty, and Inequality. Students also take electives from the five disciplinary program, which are Anthropology and Sociology, International Economics, International History and Politics, International Law, and International Relations/Political Science . The rest of the courses are primarily centered around the student’s specialization. Students are required to chose one specialization, with the option of two from:

  • Conflict, Peace and Security
  • Environment and Sustainability
  • Gender, Race, and Diversity
  • Global Health
  • Mobilities, Migrations, and Boundaries
  • Sustainable Trade and Finance
  • Human Rights and Humanitarianism

Skills based workshops are also a mandatory part of the curriculum and help students with career related skills, Skills based workshops are also a mandatory part of the curriculum and help students with career related skills, be it public speaking, digital platforms, or how to work as a consultant. The third semester includes either a study abroad opportunity or the capstone project, an applied research project in which students work in groups to work on real research mandates from NGOs and other international organizations. The fourth semester is focused on the dissertation.

The reputation of the school, location, strong career services department, relationships formed with organizations, and active alumni association help in the employability of graduates from this program as well as others. 90% of students find relevant work within 4 months of graduating. 37% work in the public sector, 27.5% work for non for profit, 21.6% work in the private sector and 13.9% in academia.  About half of the graduates stay in Switzerland and the other half take positions

Did I mention that Kofi Annan is an alum?

I often talk about the value of the international exposure that is provided by having friends and classmates from around the world.  85-90% of the students at this school are international-from over 100 countries-so there is not one dominate culture. This can be challenging, but also incredibly mind expanding.  The administrator I met with, explained it in a way that gave me goose bumps.  She said….

Imagine that you are in a class with 20 people from 20 different countries.  The school doesn’t teach topics like chemistry-which have one universal truth.  You may be talking about something like WWII. You have the “facts” that you were taught through your textbooks at school as well as the cultural narratives you have learned about it through media, family, etc.  You may have classmates from Germany, China, Uganda, Angola, Canada, and more-all of whom had different textbooks and cultural narratives.  These different points of view include topics pertaining to values, culture, and politics. Having what you saw as “facts” challenged can be uncomfortable, but this is where incredible learning occurs.

She spoke of how Switzerland is a neutral country, it’s an appropriate safe place for students to have this discussion. The safe place does not, in this context, mean avoiding the difficult and uncomfortable conversations. It means creating an environment where different points of view can be expressed and heard in a way that leads to growth, learning, and perspective shifts.

Since the programs at the Graduate Institute are focused on the problems of the world, they are developing students with the know knowledge, skills, and global perspective that is required to truly make an impact. And now I have goosebumps again.


Get STEM Degree Through College in Europe

We recently received an email from a college senior who was about to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a school in North America. His internship in Europe had ended abruptly due to Covid. After two previous internships, he was unsure about whether the engineering field was for him or if he should get a graduate degree. This email sparked curiosity on my part to explore the STEM fields in our database and I was astounded by what I found. 

First, what is STEM? The STEM fields are science, technology, engineering, and math. The science refers to the physical sciences like chemistry and biology, as opposed to the social sciences.  

Here are a few quick facts that caught my attention:

According to data from the IEE, of the US college students who study abroad, the largest cohort of students, a full 25%, study in a STEM field. 

Of the 2,038 bachelor’s degree programs in the Beyond the States database, 33% or 665 are in STEM fields. In our master’s database, 38% of the programs are STEM. 

Cost is another major benefit of this area of study because the average annual tuition is just 6,751 EUR for a bachelor’s degree and just 6,642 for master’s annual tuition. 

Starting salaries for STEM jobs are among the highest for new grads, so taking advantage of the 3 year programs available in Europe coupled with the lower tuition costs mean that STEM grads can enter the workforce a year sooner and with much less college debt.

97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, while only 49% of overall college graduates found employment in the same period last year, according to IES. 

For those of us who are parents of prospective students, the STEM field appears drastically different than when we were studying! Back in the 80’s, many of these technologies didn’t really exist, but have since exploded. Whether you’re a student yourself, with vast knowledge of the possibilities, or a parent who feels like all this STEM stuff is a foreign language, today’s post can help!  We will look at some of the different types of STEM degrees in Europe, for both master’s and bachelor’s degree students.

Data Science/Data Engineering: Over the past few years, businesses of all sizes are in a mad rush to mine and refine all the data that they are generating, which is proliferating like never before. The massive data boom has dramatically transformed the way people do business, and companies are constantly trying to figure out innovative ways to use the Big Data explosion to their advantage. This is driving a huge demand for experts in how to use all that data, data scientists and data engineers. The Beyond the States database has 40 bachelors programs and 158 masters in this field. 

One example is the Mathematical Engineering bachelor’s program in Data Science at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. At just 9,541 EUR, tuition is affordable. Barcelona is incredibly easy to get around, has a fantastic food scene, and great weather with 300 days of sunshine a year.

Robotics/Mechatronics: Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the engineering of electronic, electrical, and mechanical systems. The Beyond the States database has specific area of study search field for Mechatronics and Robotics, so it’s easy to navigate. It contains 23 bachelors and 64 masters degrees.  

An example of an interesting graduate program is the Master in Robotics, Systems, & Control at University of Zurich (ETH Zurich). This program joins the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science. ETH Zurich is one of the top tech schools in Europe and has a highly competitive admissions process, boasting 12 Nobel laureates including Albert Einstein. The school is highly international with 40% of the student body coming from outside Switzerland. Tuition: 1,350 EUR for 1.5 year program.

Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrency and the associated technology of blockchain as well as fintech are domains of high level math. There are 4 masters programs in this area. If this is really your area of interest at the bachelor’s level, then getting a degree in mathematics would be a good start. 

Network Architect: Are you familiar with the internet? The network architect’s job is to design the networks that have become an increasingly vital part of our lives. Since these networks are generally a legacy of the telecommunications infrastructure, learning about telecommunications would be useful. We have 11 bachelors programs and 23 masters programs in this area.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Deep Learning: This field has a number of names, but I see it as all about teaching computers to simulate thought. Our database contains 12 bachelors and 48 masters programs in this area.

Cyber Security: Jenn often highlights the Cyber Security program at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. The three year program at TUT costs just 6,000 EUR per year and cyber security talent is in very high demand. It is one of 3 bachelor’s programs in Cyber Security. There are 36 graduate programs as well.

Internet of Things (IoT): First, let’s define the term. According to wikipedia, the Internet of Things (IoT)describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.” There is not really a degree specifically for IoT at this point. I looked at open engineering roles at one company in the IoT space, Real-Time Innovations (RTI). They’re looking for engineers with computer science degrees who have coursework in experience in programming, networks, distributed systems, and autonomous vehicles. Our database has 3 bachelors programs and 12 masters programs. Here’s a tip: search the Title field contains the term internet. If you search IoT, the search will pick up biotechnology, semiotics, and other programs you don’t want. 

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR): According to tech news site, the Information,  Facebook now has 20% of it’s employees working on VR/AR projects currently, which says this tech area is poised for rapid growth. The database has 14 programs that cover VR/AR.

If you’re unsure of your exact area of tech interest, look for a survey program like the one at  VIA University College in Denmark (14,800 EUR) called Software Technology Engineering. In 3.5 years, the student learns programming, computer networks, Internet-of-things (IoT), game design, web design, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), database technology, big data, and cloud computing. As part of this program, the student develops professional and personal skills in information technology as well as gain qualifications for further studies at Master’s level.

In the final analysis, technology continues to drive productivity forward in the global economy. If technology is your area of passion, getting a STEM degree in Europe will position you for long term success, while maximizing your travel opportunity.



Food Science Degree Options in Europe

For Jenn and I, our favorite pastime is eating. When visiting a new city, some travellers rush to the ritzy retail shops, find the best museums, or visit the famous sports stadium, but we visit the grocery stores and the food markets. This made me wonder what food science degree options existed in Europe.

All of our great experiences involve food and beverage somehow. Our trip to the Bordeaux region in France was centered on a visit to Arachon, where many French oysters are raised. One Father’s Day many years ago, Jenn gifted me an incredible cheese making camp in Vermont which culminated with a party that we still remember fondly. I spent many years brewing beer at home, and did pretty well in many of the contests I entered. Sometimes I wonder whether it would have been possible to make a vocation of my hobby and study food and beverage at the university level? 

The Beyond the States database contains 58 programs related to food and beverage.  These have different focuses, some are more about food science or agribusiness while others focus on the arts related aspects of the field, such as writing or criticism.

If you’re more interested in the business side of food, the European Food Business bachelor’s program at Aeres University of Applied Sciences in Droten, Netherlands, could be a good fit. Though based in the Netherlands, students also get to spend time studying in both France and Italy. I als found the focus on entrepreneurship and innovation interesting. The first two years provide a basis in business management, marketing and food product development. In the fourth year you will create your own business, based on a product of choice. The annual tuition is € 7,029.  

Another great option for a food science degree is the Agriculture and Food bachelor’s program at Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague. This program includes scientific understanding of biological principles of agriculture, orientation in current agricultural technology, and obtaining basic knowledge on the quality and processing of agricultural products and food. The first half of the course of study focuses on applied sciences and relationships between environment and agricultural practices in both crop and animal production. In the second part of the program, students are encouraged to use their developing knowledge and skills to identify practical problems of the production systems to meet the production, economic, and environmental goals, as well as the quality of agricultural products and food safety. Graduates gain a comprehensive background which provides flexibility in the labor market or expertise to run their own business. Tuition is 3,090 Euros per year.

While not a food science degree, the University of Gastronomic Sciences’ (UNISG), Slow Cuisine master’s program (€12,100) in Pollenzo, Italy, offers both classroom learning and practical experience. Started in 2004 by the Slow Food movement, the university offers a unique, holistic approach to food studies. Its aim is to help those interested in a culinary profession to learn about cooking both from a scientific and humanistic perspective as well as get to know various restaurant activities first hand.The course alternates between lectures and practical training experience in restaurants. The course is organized as follows: two months at Pollenzo, three months in a restaurant selected by the organization, two months at Pollenzo, three months in another restaurant, one month at Pollenzo. Under the guidance of the UNISG chefs, students will then be able to share their experiences, as well as dishes and recipes learnt during their time at the restaurants.

As a joint venture of four universities under the auspices of Erasmus Mundus, the European Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems Engineering, Technology, and Business holds classes in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal. This food science program has a strong, built-in travel experience as the student cohort moves from Gent to Porto to Kothen to Dublin and back to Gent for graduation. The schools are Catholic University of Portugal, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, University College Dublin, and KU Leuven. This program covers a broad range of topics concerning sustainable food production and processing, agri-business, including quantitative methods such as predictive modelling and risk assessment within a multidisciplinary approach.The program also provides a vertical in-depth specialization, with units focusing on topics in Risk and Safety, Innovative Technology, Energy and Food Chains, and Sustainable Food Production. The tuition is € 6,000 per year. 

What can you earn with a food science degree? According to data published by The Institute of Food Technologists, the median income for holders of a food science degree is $95,000 per year, while new grads start out at $50k per year. That seems pretty good to me.



Playing Sports as a College Student in Europe

We sometimes get the question, “Will I miss out on sports by going to school in Europe?” The answer is, “No”, but the form may be different than what one expects. The sports scene in Europe is different than in the US, but it is still quite vibrant. 

Sports in Europe are structurally different than in the US as sports here are associated with “sporting clubs”. The club system is a network of sporting organizations, ranging from small local recreational clubs to multi-billion dollar franchises akin to the professional sports organizations of the US. 

The club system is complex and books have been written on the topic. In Portugal for instance, 120 teams play in four level leagues. Teams in the top level league, the Premier Liga, play one of the other 18 teams in the same league. Each year, teams move up or down based on their record over the entire season. Leagues are organized at the national level. There is also post season play where top teams from different countries play each other in tournaments. 

There are similarities that an American like me finds familiar such as passion, tradition, and rivalry. When we recently visited Porto, we were kept awake for many hours by the constant honking of car horns outside our apartment after the Porto team beat the traditional powerhouse team from Lisbon, Benfica. 

Students who enjoy watching sports (live or televised) will have no trouble finding like-minded friends to watch with!  The football culture can be contagious, even for students who don’t engage as fans.  After just a few months of studying in Europe, Jenn’s brother (who was never very into sports) was all of a sudden a fanatic about the UK Premier league and his chosen team, Tottenham.  

If a student would like to continue to actively participate in a sport, many schools offer intramurals, which means “within the walls” of the school. At Groningen, for instance, intramural sports are addressed through their association system, which also offer social and cultural interests for students. Groningen has 50 different sporting activities students can choose from. Additionally, the ACLO Studentensport center in Groningen offers just about every sport and fitness activity you can think of, as well as a wide variety of sports clubs.

If the level of competition isn’t enough in intramurals, the student could approach a local club about trying out for their team. Outside of the US, and especially in Europe in the sport of soccer, the development of elite athletes has almost always fallen to a network of local and national professional clubs. Serious young people don’t play for their high school or college team. They play for a club. 

Truly gifted athletes may even be able to move up within the system from the local club level to play professionally in one of the larger clubs. Beyond big time soccer, these clubs also support other sports, as well. For example, Sporting Club of Portugal, one of the large sports clubs here, has a soccer team, of course, but also teams for volleyball, handball, indoor soccer, and rink hockey. FC Porto has those teams plus teams for cycling, swimming, billiards, and more.

In the end, if a student wants to participate in sports, he or she will be able to, it just may be in a different form than if they went to college in the US. Two things are for sure, sports aren’t viewed as a relevant factor for admissions and standing out in sports won’t mean a sports scholarship. Fortunately, college in Europe is so much more affordable that sports can be enjoyed on whatever level one desires to. 



Great Options for Studying Abroad

This will be our first Thanksgiving with Jenn in several years. Perhaps it was one too many years of dry turkey and runny mashed potatoes at my family’s place in downstate Illinois that soured her on the holiday… I think the real reason she’s spent the last 5 Thanksgivings visiting schools is because it’s such a great week to travel internationally. The international terminals of the airports are empty, since most US travelers are travelling domestically. International air fares are generally reasonable at this time, as well. It’s a better time than summer, since you can get a feel for school and city with students around. You may also be able to audit a class. since they’re in session.

It’s looking likely that the ’21 – ‘22 school year will have some resemblance to normalcy, so that may be when Jenn and Ellie do most of Ellie’s school visits too. It will be after Ellie has applied but will help her firm up her top choices. One aspect Ellie has been evaluating are the options for studying abroad offered by the different schools.

We’ve met so many students who went to a US university intent on studying abroad but were unable to due to high costs and/or logistical challenges.  Since the European Commission has goals around internationalization, there are options and programs, such as Erasmus+, offered through the EU and the universities to make studying abroad more feasible and affordable for students attending college in Europe.

The first option we’ll explore is when time abroad is part of the program. In this example, courses are held at different campuses with the students moving to them on a schedule in groups.

ESCP Europe’s Bachelor of Management is a 3 year program spent in 3 different countries. All students start in London for the first year. The second year students choose between Paris, Madrid, or Turin (though Turin is the only campus that offers the program entirely in English). Students meet back in Berlin to finish the program for their third year.

For master’s programs, the Erasmus Mundus programs are a great place to start looking at “built in” study abroad. Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD), is an integrated, international study program, where students study at more than one university location. The Beyond the States database lists 153 programs across many different areas featuring multiple campuses (to find them search under the Erasmus Mundus General Area of Study field). Some Erasmus Mundus programs include internships as well.

For example, this Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology has a first year in Montpellier, France, then students study at a partner school in places like Lisbon, Milan, Madrid, or Turin, Italy, based on the student’s interest in winemaking or in the wine business.

Another approach for studying abroad is to become an exchange student. As an exchange student, you can study abroad for one semester (sometimes more) at one of your faculty’s partner universities. The first step to check your faculty or International Office to see what’s available.

The advantages of the exchange student route are that many practical matters have already been dealt with (e.g. exemption from local tuition fees, recognition of credits, and sometimes even accommodation). The disadvantage of an exchange is that your choices are limited to the current partner universities.

For example, if you were a bachelor’s student at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the area of School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, you‘d have 71 different options to choose from ranging from James Cook University on the north coast of Australia to Western Washington University in Washington state in the US. Master’s students in the same faculty, the Department of Public Policy, have 8 options ranging from KU Leuven in Belgium to University of Geneva in Switzerland.

. Erasmus+ provides bachelor’s and master’s degree students the opportunity to study abroad in Europe for three to 12 months. You can take part in study abroad at any time during your degree after your first year although it will depend on the structure of your degree and the arrangements your university has with its partners.

This all sounds expensive for US students. Is it? No, that’s the best part! In general, the student continues to pay tuition at their home school only and doesn’t pay additional tuition to the second school.  Further, when participating in an Erasmus + program, there are opportunities to apply for stipends and grants.

Internships are another great way to get international exposure, not to mention professional experience! Like studying abroad, these can often be done through your university or Erasmus +. Erasmus+ has a page of internships here. Many universities have mandatory internships with an opportunity to complete them abroad. Additionally, universities often have partnerships with multinational companies such as at Copenhagen Business School.

We often have students come to us and saying they must study in France, Italy, or even these days, Prague. The tremendous study abroad opportunities are one reason we encourage students not to have tunnel vision on one European destination for their main program. They will have the opportunity to design their own plan to spend time in their dream destination, even if not for their full degree because of these extensive studies abroad options.


Studying in Europe: Still a Great Idea

When we post this blog, we don’t expect to know the winner of the US presidential election. It’s a time of uncertainty around so many issues in the world. Regardless of who is in the Oval Office in January, though, studying in Europe is still an idea worth exploring.

We truly hope to see changes around the cost of American higher education. However, even if we have a president who is proposing real reforms, the process does not move quickly.  Changes will take some time to be approved and then implemented, if it even gets that far. Until then college will remain incredibly expensive. Students and families will still be drowning in debt. And, of course, the rigged and convoluted rat race of the admissions process still must be solved.

The proposed changes as we have read about are adding free tuition at four year state universities for families with incomes under $125,000. This would potentially be an incredible opportunity for so many families and students!

There is another group of students, though, who do have enough saved for in-state tuition but seek a wider number of choices.  These students currently have access to an affordable higher education within their state, but they want more choices than they are allowed under the current system of in-state tuition. Perhaps they want a fresh start in a new place, don’t want to be in a dorm with their high school classmates, or want to experience living further from home.

These students may not be able to afford out of state tuition at $24k per year on average or private school tuition at $32k, but the options in Europe with an average tuition of just $7,390 with many just 3 years in duration provide them with an international experience for in-state prices!

We’ve had many new members join recently who are interested in leaving due to the divisive political climate in the US. No matter who wins the election, I’m afraid that the fractured atmosphere will prevail for quite some time. That said, the families and students we work with aren’t turning their back on the US, rather they are moving towards something far more aligned with their own values. We’ve worked with students who want to study sustainability in places that are already leaps and bounds ahead of the US. We have others who are interested in studying things like Political Science, International Relations, or Peace &Conflict Studies in a more international atmosphere. These students will hopefully become change makers in our future.

The benefits of studying in Europe are substantial, regardless of the political climate in the US.  Since we started Beyond the States in 2015, we’ve talked about the more affordable tuition, the shorter time to get a degree, and the transparent admissions processes, as those are the most obvious benefits.  Another benefit to note is the growth that occurs due to international experiences.

In the US, many of us live in areas where we are surrounded by people who are very much like us in background, values, and/or beliefs.  Particularly on social media, we see a lot of our own opinions reflected by others and we often “unfriend” or at least “mute” those who offer conflicting views.

When American students go to universities in Europe, they are exposed to people of all different backgrounds and viewpoints. The English taught programs exist to draw students from all around the world, so the diversity within the classroom is tremendous. Exposure to a more diverse world view allows students to come back to the US with fresh perspective and allows them to advocate for change where it is needed. Their experience as global citizens will help inform a new dialog going forward.

Exposure isn’t just about being in a different place, it’s also about trying and accepting new things. Living abroad forces a student to navigate unfamiliar circumstances and to adapt to new environment outside of his or her comfort zone. This is something we are experiencing firsthand ourselves with our recent move to Portugal.  It’s not always easy, but the growth that occurs as a result is well worth it!

Higher education in Europe is not for everyone, but we don’t believe the current US college system is for everyone, either. We truly believe that studying in Europe remains an option worth exploring for many, regardless of which political party is in charge.


Internationalization: Who Benefits?

One of the ongoing tasks at Beyond the States is responding to comments on our various social channels and ads. It’s always interesting to interact with people who have been moved enough by our messages to share a comment. We received this message on an ad that shows a map of Europe the other day: “Yeah, funded by European taxpayers…” This comment represents a misconception that I’d like to explore. Are international students somehow taking advantage of European taxpayers by going to college in Europe?

Here are three primary reasons that international students are good for Europe and not taking advantage of the system:

1) International students pay a premium tuition compared to EU students in the same schools and classes, so the schools like them. For example, a non-EU student in the chemistry program at University of Groningen in the Netherlands pays 14,000 euros, while an EU student pays just 2,143 . EU students pay no tuition to attend Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, while a non-EU master’s degree student would pay 15,200 euros per year. I would say, rather than being subsidized by European taxpayers, international students are paying their fair share.

2) Unemployment is really low in parts of Europe, so the EU government wants more labor. As workers, we think that low unemployment is always a good thing, but from a macro economic perspective, which is how the leaders look at things, it’s only good to a point. In the Czech Republic, Germany, and Denmark,  unemployment is really low. This means there are too few workers chasing the open chasing jobs, which will drive up wages. When wages go up, a nation’s goods become more expensive to buy and fewer goods are sold, which is bad for the economy.  The European government expects that some of the international students who study in Europe will stay there post graduation to join the European labor pool. This is a win-win for the student and the economy.

3) International students also contribute to local economies when they purchase goods like groceries, housing, entertainment, books, and other things. In fact, the European Commission has made attracting international students an ongoing, key priority. They see that bringing students from outside Europe not only benefits the economy in the host country, but also contributes to the growth and competitiveness of the EU economy as a whole.

In the end, it’s about priorities. The EU sees internationalization as aligned with their long term policy agendas for growth, jobs, equality,  and social inclusion. I have to say, we do too!


Architecture Masters: What Are the Options in Europe?

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, 99% Invisible, and when I realized we’ve never Architecture Mastersreally focused on one of my favorite subjects, architecture. If you’re interested in learning about the options for architecture masters in Europe you’re in the right place.

The podcast episode talked about kidney shaped swimming pools, the birth of skateboarding, and concluded with an interesting connection with education in Europe that I won’t spoil.

Architecture MastersI’ll also plug another favorite episode from  99% Invisible on La Sagrada Família in Barcelona.  The story of this building combines intrigue, adventure, the Spanish Civil War, and design ingenuity into a story that’s ongoing because the project to build Spain’s great cathedral is ongoing. Visiting this building was unlike any other experience I’ve had, because unlike every other building I’d been in, Gaudi’s cathedral actually mixed architectural styles and incorporated organic elements.

What is Architecture?

Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Architecture are closely connected to other disciplines like Arts and Design. Architecture is very important in human history and anthropology, considering we each inhabit the big structures built by our ancestors. Architecture degrees share ties to academic subjects like Construction Engineering, Graphic Design, User Experience Design, and Arts.

Architects need to have an eye for beauty, utility, and durability. During architecture school, you will learn about architectural styles, the science of designing, design structures, landscape architecture and 3D designs. You will also discover computer software such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), which helps you to plan, analyze, and optimize design work.

Your degree in Architecture will teach you all about design rules, where you should follow them, and where you’ll have some room for exploration and creativity. Knowing how to work with texture, color, contrast, lighting and many other aspects will allow you to become an expert in designing buildings. Of course, you will also have to make sure your vision can also be built according to safety standards and available resources.

Some of the courses Architecture students will gain access to include: Analysis of Contemporary Architecture, City Design and Development, Urban Design Policy, Residential Design, and Green Construction.

After graduating with a degree in Architecture, you will have the opportunity to work as a: licensed architect, CAD technician, interior and spatial designer, and urban designer. Other jobs you can find are: building surveyor, construction manager, landscape architect, or structural engineer.

Are There Many Architecture Masters Programs in Europe?

In Europe, there are 71 English taught, Architecture Masters degree programs with an average tuition of 7,865 Euros per year (how much in $?). Seven programs offer free tuition for international students and a total of 32 offer tuition of less than 5,000 EUR. Of the 71 programs, only 4 are 1 year in duration and 5 are 1.5 years long, all the rest are two years in duration.

What About Entrance Requirements?

One program requires post college work experience, several require a minimum GPA in undergrad and a few more require an entrance exam.

Program Example

Masters in Architecturearchitecture masters

Duration: 2 years

Annual Cost: 15,000 EUR

Aalto University, Finland

Architecture is a field of technology and of art. Architecture teaching combines knowledge-based professional material and artistic understanding and expression skills. An architect must be able to see problems from many different directions, which is the reason for the broad-based nature of the degree in architecture. The current nature of the education develops the student’s scientific and artistic thinking relating to the construction of a socially responsible and sustainable future.The key content in master’s program education is to develop and deepen the skills obtained during the bachelor’s phase. The topics include the history and theory of architecture, building design and Finnish building art as well as urban planning and design. Course and design studio teaching is enhanced by means of multidisciplinary collaboration and new teaching methods. Learning by doing, the simulation of so-called ‘real’ design assignments is still an important part of the education of an architect.

Aalto University is a newly organized university named after the great Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto. Aalto University was born in 2010 as a result of the merger of Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Campus is located in the heart of Otaniemi, built in the 1950s, featuring an urban plan designed by Alvar Aalto and individual buildings designed by him and other well-known Finnish architects, such as Reima and Raili Pietilä and Heikki and Kaija Sirén.

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Pre Master Overview

We often hear from students who earned their bachelor’s in one area of study but are now interested in a master’s degree in a different field. We also hear from people who are interested in changing careers. Another group we hear from want to pursue a master’s degree in Europe but don’t meet all the requirements of the program. Is it a lost cause for these groups of students? No, it’s not. There are options, such as a Pre Master, which is a series of courses designed to fill in the missing pieces on the transcript.

It’s impossible to generalize admissions options across the thousands of programs and all of Europe, so let’s narrow the discussion to admissions in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a popular option because they have the most English-taught master’s programs in continental Europe (1,148 of the 6,200). 9 of the 13 research universities are globally ranked in the top 200 and English proficiency is the highest in Europe, which makes it an easy choice.

The higher education system in the Netherlands is quite different than the US. There are research universities, like Leiden University or Delft University of Technology, and there are also Universities of Applied Science like NHL Stenden that focus more on preparing students for professional work over research. Both provide full bachelor’s degree programs, but the universities of applied sciences don’t require the research focused classes.

When evaluating your academic background for a master’s program at a research university, your bachelor’s degree will first be assessed by the admissions department to determine whether it is equivalent to the Dutch research-oriented bachelor’s (WO) or professionally-oriented bachelor’s (HBO).

Let’s look at an example: We have a student with a BA degree in Speech Communications from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has would like to pursue a Master’s in Management or an MBA at Erasmus University Rotterdam or potentially at University of Twente.

In order to qualify for the master’s programs at Rotterdam, he would need the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a related major. While his degree from Illinois may meet the requirement as a WO degree under Nuffic, the BA in Speech Communications, which is in the faculty of liberal arts at Illinois, wouldn’t meet the requirement for entry into the program, since it’s not a business degree. To understand the equivalent Dutch level of your diploma, you can check the list of common diplomas from your country on the Nuffic website. Nuffic is the central Dutch organization for the evaluation of foreign diplomas awarded in higher education.
  • The “related major” aspect can sometimes be very broad. Some schools are good about listing them out in the admissions requirements.
  • Relevant Course Work: According to EUR’s website, the student must have 60 EC (equivalent to one year of US college credits) of relevant course work in business, which he doesn’t fully meet.
  • English Proficiency: Native speaker satisfies this requirement

For students with an international diploma, EUR recommends the student apply for entry, so the admissions team can evaluate the student’s qualifications.

One option they may come back with is a one year Pre Master course to gain the necessary courses, but even so, with little or no business administration in his bachelor degree, he may only have access to the following MSc program: Master in Management, which is aimed at non-business bachelor degree holders to acquire knowledge and skills in business management. Since this was already on the list for the student, this may be a good option.

Let’s look at another example: the MBA program at University of Twente in Enschede, which is in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Again, the student meets some of the requirements, but will be light on business courses.

At the University of Twente, you don’t apply for a pre-master directly. Rather, you apply to the master’s program directly. The Admission Office will then evaluate whether you are eligible for the master’s program, or if you still need to enroll in a pre-master program. The Admission Office would then create a customized, pre-master program for the student. In this case, since our example student is a native English speaker, there would be no need to take classes in English, but he would need missing courses in business administration.

What Courses Are in a Pre Master?

There isn’t a set standard of courses for the Pre Master across the Netherlands. It varies. At Groningen University, the business pre master follows a set series of courses.  At Twente, a Pre Master isn’t a set program with the same courses. International students are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. At Utrecht University, the pre master is not available to international students who haven’t been in the Dutch educational system previously at all. For students entering a master’s program with a bachelor’s degree from a Dutch university of applied science, there may be a set program, since this case is uniform and known. For an international student, it will depend on what classes are missing and what has been taken.

What Does a Pre Master Cost?

Each university sets its own Pre Master tuition. From a budgeting standpoint, a reasonable person could expect to pay equivalent tuition to the associated master’s program as an international student. Depending on the program, an international student will be between 12,000 to 16,000 EUR for a Pre Master program at Twente. The previous link has data on a number of different Pre Master tuitions.

Here’s Are Some Tips

  • Make Sure You Can Opt Out of English

One area of Pre Masters courses that likely won’t apply to you are the language requirements. In order to be admitted to an English-taught program, international students must prove English proficiency at a certain level. Since you are most likely a native English speaker, you should be sure you can opt out of any English language requirements, so you aren’t stuck in English proficiency classes. Ideally, the program has a track for students who are already proficient in English.

  • Find out the details

If you’re looking at a private foundation year program, confirm their placement agreements with universities. Some of these organizations guarantee placement for grad school. Be sure to get written communication as to which schools you’d be guaranteed to be accepted at, then look at the schools to be sure they’d be a good fit for you.

Final Analysis

It’s important to note that many Pre Master programs focus on providing students with only the research related classes that they didn’t have to take as an undergrad, and the master’s program will still require a major in a related area of study. While pursuing a Pre Master won’t open the door for every program, it does create a path to many more good options for students seeking to change the direction of their studies or career.