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.



Learning about Denmark in Slovakia

BratislavaThere is only one type of tour you will find me on, and that is a food tour. I wasn’t able to schedule a visit to learn about one of the very few English-taught programs in Slovakia, but we decided to take a day trip (less than one hour by train from Vienna). Since we just had one day, I scheduled a food tour to learn about the food and culture, while also seeing the city.  Ellie and I were the only people signed up for the tour that day.  Our guide, Simona, was in her mid twenties and received her bachelor’s degree in Slovakia and her master’s at an English-taught program in Denmark.  Needless to say, I learned so much from her (including the fact that Slovakian food is incredible!).

Simona explained to me that higher education in Slovakia is more formal and resistant to change (which explains the low number of English-taught programs).  She desired a mix between practice and theory which is why she decided to pursue her master’s degree in Denmark.  Interestingly, many Slovakians go to the Czech Republic for higher education.  Tuition at Czech public universities is free for anyone studying in Czech-taught programs-regardless of their nationality! Czech and Slovak are very similar languages. That, along with the fact that many Slovaks have grown up with exposure to both languages, provides the Czech proficiency needed to study for free.

Simona also shared her theory about why Denmark recently placed limits on the number of international students they admit.  She believes that this limit is at least partially due to the cost of educating students from other EU countries. Denmark has a number of ways it supports it’s citizens, including students.  One is the SU monthly stipend paid to Danish students while they are enrolled in higher education.  In 2006, the EU ruled that Denmark had to provide a similar benefit to all EU students who are studying in Denmark (though there are a few more conditions around it than for Danish students).  This is right around $900 per month and tuition is also free for EU students.

One thing to remember here is that the reason higher education is so affordable in Europe is that it is subsidized by the government. Even though non EU students pay much more in tuition than EU students, the government still subsidizes a large amount of it.  One reason some countries, including Denmark, provide English-taught programs is to benefit their own economy and labor market.  Denmark, in particular, has a significant labor shortage. The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science conduced a study to explore the costs and contribution of international students. They found that the subsidies paid for international students (for EU and non-EU students) is “paid back” by their contribution to the economy after nine years in the country (which includes their years of study).  The problem is that only one of three international students stay in the country for long enough to positively contribute to the economy.  The ministry explored this to determine the types of programs that had the largest number of students returning home after graduating and are cutting the number of international student spots in those types of programs stay classy transportation.  This does not apply to  all universities in Denmark or all programs. It is primarily affecting master’s degree programs as well as bachelor’s programs related to engineering.  The good news is that the Ministry is working with universities to improve educational outcomes pertaining to employability of international graduates in Denmark.

I have to tell you, this day spent with Simona, walking around Bratislava, eating incredible food, learning about Slovakian culture, was one of the best days of our trip. Simona has a full time job in Vienna, and helps her friend out with food tours when she can. I feel so lucky that she led our tour that day. In addition to introducing me to the surprisingly delicious sauerkraut soup, I greatly benefited from her insights into higher education!