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Avoid the Pitfalls of College Rankings

Jennifer Viemont
Founder & Chief College Advisor
October 29, 2022

Listen to this podcast.

What rankings are we referring to? While there are many rankings of international universities, those that are most influential are from US NewsTimes Higher Education, and the ShanghaiRanking (ARWU). In our database, we have noted schools that are on any of these lists as Ranked. We do not list the actual number, not only because it varies so much between each of the lists, but also because we spend a good amount of time cautioning against using this factor as a major criterion. We only list this information at all because we know that it’s such a major part of the American mindset.

All three have different strengths, weaknesses, and biases. A school that is on one list may not appear at all on another. Further, not all schools are eligible for the rankings which rely on research and Ph.D. programs heavily. So why do we list this information at all? In our own countries, we are generally aware of reputations among schools-or can find it easily. We are aware whether or not a school is ranked as an indicator of the school’s international reputation which can help when applying for jobs and graduate school when/if one goes back to their home country.

In Crazy U, Andrew Ferguson talks about the importance of the US News rankings to US schools and the many ways schools can fudge (and do) their rankings, such as submitting the math but not verbal SAT scores of international students or failing to submit SAT scores of athletes, minorities, or children of alumni. The central issue is that the US News rankings focus exclusively on inputs from schools and not on outcomes such as graduate starting salary or time to get hired. The outcomes data resides in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and unfortunately, results for individual institutions are not available to the general public.

While the domestic US News rankings have their issues, their Global Rankings are truly flawed. The most important limitation to note is that, while there are a number of quality indicators US News uses in ranking US schools, their international rankings look exclusively at factors around research (such as global research reputation, number of publications, number of books published, number of citations, percentage of total publications that are among the 10 percent most cited, etc.). What does that tell you about your educational experience-particularly as an undergraduate? Nothing. Further, since the rankings are based solely on research related factors, small schools, specialized schools, and schools with an emphasis on applied and practical knowledge will not even be eligible for these rankings, though many of these schools are excellent with very reputable programs.

We are sometimes asked if college in Europe is as good in the US. People assume it’s good here simply because of the ratings, which are unrelated to the educational experience or outcomes of the students. Honestly, the fact that our college graduates test only as high school grads from the Netherlands and Finland is quite telling…

Whether you go to school in the US or abroad, the secret truth is that no list of the best colleges that applies to everyone. A school that is the best fit for you might be a terrible fit for someone else. It’s important to determine your own ranking list based on the things that are important to you, such as class size, study area, etc.

First and most crucially, spend time figuring out what you want to do or what you want to study. If this is a daunting task for you, we can help by creating your “best-fit list” of European colleges. You complete a questionnaire and we’ll provide a customized shortlist based on your interests and factors.

We also help members with these sorts of questions with consulting or during member calls. Our database has information on thousands of English-taught bachelor’s and master’s programs in Europe.

Full transcription of the podcast.

Intro: You're listening to the Beyond the States podcast with Jenn Viemont. Did you know that you can go to Europe and get your entire degree taught in English for less than one year of tuition at many American schools? Jenn will take you on a deep dive into the many benefits and options around English-taught higher education in Europe, helping to make the possibility less foreign.

Jenn Viemont: I'm Jenn Viemont, Founder beyond the states and I'm so glad you're joining me for episode four of the beyond the state's Podcast. Today we're going to talk about how to and how not to assess quality when you're exploring schools in Europe, we're going to talk with an administrator from a university in Brussels, about ideas around quality indicators. But let's first start by looking at why using these rankings to assess quality even in the US is problematic. So of course, we're all familiar with US News and World Report and all the number of different rankings they have around universities and colleges and higher education. There are a number of problems with these types of ranking systems, though. The first is can we assume that the factors that the rankings are evaluating and the factors that they're basing their rankings on truly speak to the quality of a school? Let's even say that it does.

Do those qualities generalize to the undergraduate experience? And even if it does, does it speak to the qualities that you yourself are seeking in higher education. So for instance, faculty to student ratio is evaluated. So are the number of faculty a university that have PhDs covered, there was a study done by the Journal of higher education that concluded that the more time a college professor spends teaching, the less he or she gets paid. And this applied to both big research universities and small liberal arts colleges. So though the rankings tell us that these PhDs are on staff or that there's a large number of faculty to each student, it doesn't tell us who's teaching the courses, or doesn't tell us about the quality of teaching, and it doesn't tell us anything about the accessibility of the professor's. Our reliance on these ratings have made it important for schools to play the game, they've had to shift their focus to the areas that matter to the rankings. Things like placing heavy emphasis on the SATs scores of their applicants, or where they direct their marketing efforts, or encouraging full participation. Alumni fundraising were only small amounts are asked for since the rankings look at the percent of alumni donations. It also leads to schools fudging when they sent in the report like a school that included math SATs scores of foreign born applicants, but not the verbal scores. Or some schools omit legacy scores or athlete scores. The problems around this are so plentiful and they're really well explained in books like crazy you and where you go is not who you'll be. They talked about specific schools and how they've been busted in their fudging, if you will. But beside all of that the most significant criticism of the rankings is that they're looking at inputs, not outcomes. We know a lot about the applicants but not about what's going on educationally for them. US news gets a lot of criticism about this, particularly from the universities. But guess what this lack of information is not on US News, it's on the universities. There's an organization called Nessie NSS II this gathered information on 1200 schools, and they look at the areas that pertain to learning things like how much time is spent with the professor's, how many books they've had to read, how many papers they've had to write? Do they have lectures or discussion? Our tests returned promptly. How much time are they spending studying outside of class is do courses use more memorization or abstract thinking? Do you work in groups or individually, but since these assessments are done at the schools requests, the information is private outside of it's released to the school. So US News has asked schools to make this information public so they could potentially use it in the rankings. But all but if you refuse and want to keep the results secret, it makes me wonder what they're trying to hide. I've done some reading that makes me think the results might not be favorable to the schools, or correlate with rankings at all. First of all, in 2015, the Educational Testing Service released a large scale study that concluded us Millennials with a four year bachelor's degree scored below their counterparts in 19 of the 21 participating countries and Americans with bachelor's scored the same as young adults with only a high school education. In three of the top performing countries which are Finland, Japan and the Netherlands are college graduates are performing the same as high school graduates in those countries. It's unbelievable book I've talked about before fail you they talk about how students now study less than half as much as universities claimed to require full time college students on average report spending only 27 hours per week on academic activities. So That includes class time and studying, and that's less than a typical high school student spends at school in the school building. During the week, more than a third of college students report spending less than five hours outside of class each week. And the decline spent on study was across the board, and every type of four year college no matter what the selectivity rate was, there was a survey of employers done in 2013 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and it found that three quarters 75% of the prospective employers of new college graduates said they wanted colleges to put more emphasis on basic skills such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication and applied knowledge, employers are seeing that our graduates don't have the skills that they were looking for. So we'll talk more about the differences in the academic experience expectations and outcomes throughout many future episodes. My point is just that I'm sometimes asked if college in Europe is as good as it is here. People assume it's good here simply because of the ratings, which really have nothing to do with the educational experience or the outcomes. And honestly, the fact that our college graduates score the same as high school students in the Netherlands and Finland is quite telling. Okay, shaking it off and moving on to Europe hopping back to ratings. The problem is even greater when you try to use ratings as a way to gauge the quality for schools in Europe. few reasons why, as we know US News has the rankings for US universities, and then there are separate global rankings in which schools in Europe are included, clearly. But the rankings of global universities for US News is entirely based on research related factors, research reputation, number of citations, amount of research amount of books and publications. That's all what does it tell you about the educational experience little nothing. There are a few other major ranking organizations there's Qs, Shanghai times higher education, they have a few differences here or there, but none are looking at outputs. The other issue is that there are many excellent schools that are small or specialized or don't have a research focus. These schools aren't even eligible to be considered for rankings, it doesn't mean that they're better or worse in the schools that are ranked. They're just different in their focus. 

So today, I'm joined by Miwa Kitmura, she's the head of External Relations at Vesalius College. Vesalius was founded in 1987, as a joint venture by okay guys ready for me to mangle this word, Ria University Brussels and Boston University with the intent of merging the best parts of European and American approaches to education. The college now functions independently, but students are still able to use all the resources of the larger University, which is right across the street. This includes the libraries, the cafeterias, the gyms and such, so they get the benefits of the smaller school without the limited infrastructure, which is sometimes an issue at smaller schools. I visited this alias earlier this year, and was really impressed with what I learned about them. We're gonna be talking about some of these aspects today. But I also encourage you all to check out the blog I wrote after my visit for more information about the school. So me, but thanks so much for joining us today.

Miwa Kitmura: Thank you very much for having me.

Jenn Viemont: Your school is one that really impressed me a lot. Of course, the size of your school and the lack of PhD programs, makes you one of a large number of European schools that has English top programs that aren't even eligible to be considered for global rankings. So I'd like to talk to you I'd like to hear your perspective about what other indicators of quality students should be looking for?

Miwa Kitmura: Well, before I said that, I would like to ask the students to ask themselves what a good university means to them define what the good university is. I think that goes rankings are decided based on several different performance indicator, for instance, some are based on the numbers of PhD students, and some are the numbers of research being published. And if those are something that matters to the students, then yes, ranking, it's something they should take into account. But if it's not, then it doesn't mean anything. So ask yourself what good university means to you.

Jenn Viemont: When we talked to a couple of weeks about this. You mentioned that to me about students defining their own definition of a good university. And I've thought about it a lot since and it really resonates with me, I like the idea of students making their own personalized ranking system based on the things that are important to them, and then using that to evaluate schools and programs are interested in and I realized that, you know, we do these best fit lists for members. And I asked students things about their interests or preferences or personalities and come up with sort of a shortlist, a starting point for them to delve in based on that. So we're sort of doing that but I like having this as more of a defined path. process, it's a lot more meaningful. But what are some of the criteria you think students should think about for this? Well,

Miwa Kitmura: It really varies from students to students. Some may say, learning environments know what kind of support they could get, or accessibility to professors, how easily they can ask questions, and a professor and so on. And maybe personal development, international environment, and employability, but ultimately, what can I learn? What can I grow as a person? How can I grow as a person and would study at this university helped me find a job in the future? Those three are the ones that oftentimes crossed a student's mind when they ask themselves, what good universities when what they're looking for in the university? Well, I would say all we think about how the Universities of your choice can help you achieve a goal that you have, or you may have.

Jenn Viemont: So it sounds like sort of it's What can I learn? How can I learn? And where will this education get me? So let's talk about the salient and those? Can you speak to sort of the educational approach of your school? Sure,

Miwa Kitmura: We're very unique in terms of teaching methods. For example, I will start with many other universities. So some universities are more focused on the research and theories only. But if that is the case, students usually end up in the situation, let's say, okay, so I graduated, I have a degree, but I don't know what I can do with it. And it's like, I have all the ingredients to cook something but I don't know how to cook them and some other university are focused more on the practical end, and then you don't know what kind of theories are behind the action, right? So it's again, like I know how to particular dishes using given ingredient, but I am not sure what else I can prepare by using the same ingredients right? At Vesalius, we were like, why can we learn both the theory and practical part at the same time, so we don't waste the time right. And a student learn those universities who learn the theories only or practice sport only they will learn don't get me wrong, they will learn one another. As time goes by and as they gain more experiences, but at face value they learn during their study their time as at the college, and what we call is that the T pals theory, guided practice embedded and experiential learning that's quite long. In short, what it means is theory meets experiences, we want to make sure that students know how to apply those theories that they learned in the classroom to a real life situation. And yeah, but still, it's a bit new, right? It's a new method. So how do we do that? Well, at values, it's not only our professors who are renowned scholars in the field, but we also have a numbers of experts coming from NATO, for instance, coming to teach peace and security issue, diplomat coming to the campus and talk about global governance and diplomacy, some time managing director from renowned international organization, talking about how to manage international team for a lawyer who has represented the specific case that is relevant to the course coming to talk about his or her case. So that way, you know, students can learn Oh, okay, so I'm learning this. But in the real life situation, it's utilized in this way.

Jenn Viemont: Cool. I've only come across a handful of schools in Europe that really do merge the two that really merge the practical and the theory. And it's just so cool, and really leads to the critical thinking skills students need. And what I really like is how relevant it makes their learning. And it's indicated through a lot of courses you offer, I was looking through your course guide and saw some interesting courses. I'd like to note for our listeners that are so relevant to what's going on today. There was a global governance of migration course. There's environmental security, there's diplomacy and the challenge of climate change. Subtitle there is agents, actors and diplomatic breakthroughs. I mean, particularly for those of us in the States, you know, that's certainly on our minds, emerging security threats and it in Theory and Practice, including cybersecurity and energy security and environmental security. There's social cause marketing, I mean, these are really cool and relevant to today's issues. It's amazing. So tell me about we talked about sort of how you learn and what you learn and how that relates to your college, your professors and class size about those indicators?

Miwa Kitmura: Well, we are a very small institution, a lot of university in the states say that we are tiny saying that we have about 5000 students. We are very, very, very tiny. We only have about 350 students, but represent more than 60 nationalities, six zero nationalities. And so in one class, it's not more than 30. And as time goes, it gets smaller and smaller as students choose their own specific field. And we don't want to expand the size, because we keep it small. So that students is equipped with their own academic advisor, who can really guide them through. And also career advisor, who can really tell the students what kind of career opportunities are out there, and what kind of field that they need to study in order to get the job in that field.

Jenn Viemont: You know, and I want to say something about your size, because a lot of people are gonna be like, 320, that's smaller than my high school that's smaller than my graduating class, I don't want to go to a school that size. I want to point out, and we have other episodes on this, that in Europe, student life is more about student life in the city than the actual school. So your student life here, you know, I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, we have UNC and we have Duke University that's just 10 minutes away, and you will never see Duke students and UNC students mingling but there is it's much more about being a student of Brussels or a student of whatever city you're in. So a small school size does not limit your social opportunities. And as I was saying, you also have all the resources including social of the large university across the street, but jumping back through to the professor's I often advise students to explore whether there are seminars in addition to lectures, you know, and having these small classes like you have is is crucial are the other things I advise students to look at are do the professor's leave the seminar how accessible the professors are. And sometimes there's a real difference between countries on that the fact that you have professors serving as a academic advisor, I mean, that's a concrete indicator of the accessibility and the interactions between the students and professors. So um, let's jump into employability This is a big one, especially for students from the US where US graduates are underemployment is a big issue for us graduates. So tell me about employability of your graduates.

Miwa Kitmura: 80% of our graduates continue their studies to the graduate school. And after that over 95%, so almost 100%, and they do find a job, either at the in the world of diplomacy, or it could be a part of Think Tank. Some people get the job at the embassy, but also some big international companies like FedEx, UPS, MasterCard, some of our graduate also got a job in Facebook as well. And actually the many of our business major, they do start their own business..

Jenn Viemont: Employability, I think we can't overlook this one. I mean, it's great to say that we're learning for learning sake in college. But you know, employability is the end goal. And it's a huge problem here, nearly half of college graduates in their 20s are dealing with unemployment, having jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree, I saw a stat that employers hire 50% of the interns who work for them, and that in some fields is closer to 75%. And internships in the US are much less utilized in Europe and only

Miwa Kitmura: Yeah, sorry to interrupt. You mentioned the internship. But that is another crucial factor that this college offer, we do encourage our students to do an internship as much as their schedule allows. And it is really true that some of our students got hired right after they graduate, because they prove that they're so capable. From the employers perspective, you know, they know that there is a good potential, and then why not hire him or her and it didn't happen. And also because our small community, and that you get to access to our professors can talk to the professor all the time. They have networking skills, they already built a good network. They know how to sell themselves, they know how to make them.

Jenn Viemont: I mean, I already think about in my blog addresses the incredible internship opportunities that one has as a student in Brussels. But then I was just thinking you were talking about your professors having relevant field experience. And the context they must have to help students network as well is really incredible. So let's say that a student comes up up with their list of factors to evaluate for their own rankings, like we're talking about, how would they find this information is would they go to your website? Can they contact particular departments? What do you think?

Miwa Kitmura: Well, for the general information, they can always go to our website, which is www.visaplace.edu. And there you should find internship opportunity and also go to the page that meet our alumni. And you can also join us on our Facebook, because there you can see what kind of events and workshops we organize. And those workshops are actually open to the public. And we're actually thinking to livestream some of the evening lectures. Oh, they soon for that. For you are you can join us and you can feel What the vehicle we call it Beco for the Saudis college, what the Beco community can offer. And you really feel that you're part of this international community,

Jenn Viemont: I will have all the links this on our show notes. And I really do encourage our listeners to, to look at your website, it's something I, I've looked at hundreds and 1000s of school websites. And yours is particularly in depth, which I appreciate and really dig deep into the site, you're gonna see list of employers list of grad schools, the faculty background listing, I mean, it's, it's all there, you need to dig deep, but it's all there that you would want to know. 

Miwa Kitmura: If you have difficulties finding that page that you want, you can always contact that. 

Jenn Viemont: And that's the other beauty of it being a small school is they don't have to go through all the layers of bureaucracy to find who they can get information. I think as I'm thinking about it, when students are making this list of the important qualities, especially for younger students, I think it's important that we look into the whys of what they say is important. Like, for instance, someone who says that they're only looking for an urban environment might not be aware that there are huge differences between what town life is small towns in the US versus towns in Europe. I mean, there's a huge difference there. Or I recently had a mother contact me, she's a member. And she told me that her daughter's dead set on going to school in Finland, but none of the programs fit her interests. So I suggested that she explore what specifically it was her daughter liked about Finland that appealed to her. Because there are other places that have similar strengths. Or sometimes have us parents tell me, Oh, I wish my child would go to school in Europe, but they really want a big sports school or to join a Greek system. And they don't realize that there are clubs and ways to be involved in sports. In Europe, it's not like the US. But there are certainly social and sports opportunities. And I honestly, I just have trouble understanding how someone could justify making such a major and super expensive decision based on sports in the Greek system. It just seems short sighted. But anyway, that's me rambling.

Miwa Kitmura: Students want to try as many university as possible, what I could suggest is that they could have come to university in Europe, it could have be this out of college. And for example, at our college, you can join the sports club, together with other international students from other universities as well, because we have a big international student community. And also we do have a study abroad program, where basically a lot of students are already studying abroad in Belgium, right? Those students can, let's say, to double study abroad experience. So students come here and experience some European small college experiences. But if they say, Well, I want to also explore Asia, they can go to a big university in Asia and country could be Japan, it could be South Korea, it could be Singapore, and that they can experience they can do it one semester or two. Wow. So if they want, and they if they plan? Well, with the advice and support from those Korea advisory and academic advisor, they can experience so much within these three years, actually three years as opposed to four years. So for the from the parents perspective, it's really helpful.

Jenn Viemont: Opportunities are just amazing. Or you went to school in the US, correct? That's correct. So having this kind of, um, you have both a perspective, a broader perspective. So what do you think are the best things about being a student in Europe and in Brussels? Well, one, right,

Miwa Kitmura: Well, I'm originally from Japan. So when I first moved to the States, it was like, wow, everything was so different. Everybody looks so different languages different, the food is different. And I did appreciate the cultural difference. And I appreciate everything that I have experienced in the US, I'm still in touch with my university professors and so on. But one i Miss, I feel I missed. And what I wish I studied in Europe back then, was that accessibility to different cultures and different languages. Obviously, I do. English is not my first language. But it took me a while to master this language, I'm still learning. And I studied Spanish while I was studying at the university, but I didn't really get to use it. And I also studied about international communication and so on, but I was a booksmart. All I knew about Europe and different culture was through books. So I knew that okay, this may not work, actually. And I knew that I wanted to talk to someone from different countries and different cultures. But yeah, if you're in the US, it's not always easy because USSF is so big, right? But if you're in Europe, for example, in Brussels, they call it capital Europe. You know, with head EU headquarters in Brussels is literally the heart of Europe. So if you hop on the train, and 70 minutes later, you're in Paris. On another train. Two hours later, you are in London, one hour flight, and then you will be in Barcelona. Oh Milton, so our students travels a lot, probably much more than I do. And then you really get to experience those cultural differences. I mean, even within the Belgium, if you are 30 minutes away, you were in the French speaking, but then you go to Dutch speaking. And if you continue, you will be in German speaking. So it's so different and what you read, you may forget, eventually. But what do you have experience and you digest yourself, you will remember for a long time, and that's the experience that I wish I had, when I was younger, I'm able to do it now. And I'm still exploring, there are so many countries that I would love to go, but I haven't been able to do but I'm glad that I have easy access too.

Jenn Viemont: And with the classroom, you think about that you said 60 nationalities, the different experiences you learn from your classmates, not only in the classroom, actually, but outside. I spoke with a student just recently who we're doing a future podcast episode on who she's graduated now. And she's going to visit her old classmate who lives in India. I mean, just the opportunity to serve sure you can't, you know, hop on a train and go an hour to India, but you have these opportunities after graduation because of these contacts and this international experience and this international exposure, you gain it's, it's really incredible. I'm a little jealous of the students who have this opportunity.

Miwa Kitmura: I am also because when the you're in the class, on the first day of the class, all students are the same question. Where are you from?

Jenn Viemont: I noticed it sitting out in your lobby when I met you sitting in your lobby. I mean, it was just such an international student body.

Miwa Kitmura: Everyone is coming from everywhere. Actually, everyone is minority, but because everyone is minority minority becomes the majority.

Jenn Viemont: Right? And a new kind of norm a new cultural norm is this. 

Miwa Kitmura: Yeah, everyone is more understanding, everyone is open to learn something new. And that, to me is the real definition of international. A lot of people call themselves international because they offer the classes in English or in Spanish or, but to me foreign languages is not something International, it's to me, it's more the state of mind. Open you are how you are willing to learn the new thing and accept the new thing.

Jenn Viemont: It really is. It's I'm hearing this from so many American students that it's how do they say it I talked to Chelsea and Chelsea is going to be on this episode. And she said she connects more to these students who have such a different background than her that she has, you know, friends from all over the world, very different backgrounds, but they connect on this deeper level, because they have this value of internationalization that really connects them on this more significant level. It's really cool. It's really cool.

Miwa Kitmura: It is like my teammates, really I'm Japanese who grew up in the States. And I have a colleague who's half finished half Dominican, wow, this girl and then also an American, and also our professors. They're coming from everywhere. So they have been here done that. And they are there to help other students to open themselves to new cultures. And I'm telling you, our professors will challenge students in every way. Yeah. It's really they challenge you to make them think and also to take the best out of them.

Jenn Viemont: So tell me, is there anything else that you'd like to let us know about? Vico? I'll say so I don't mess up the is there anything else our listeners should know about your school?

Miwa Kitmura: We are small, but like you mentioned, the students have access to a large university and we are very one and only it's like a boutique, small boutique, right? It's really unique one and only, and they you get an experience that you can learn so much. And it's really difficult for the young students to make the right decision, or right choice. We don't even know what the right choice is. But we are here actually, to make your choice. Right, we will support you to discover you and discover your passion University is not the goal. It's still the passing point when all professors staff members and other students are there to help you. So if you are interested in this Veeco journey, just you know, feel free to go to our website or contact us we'll be more than happy to help you.

Jenn Viemont: Thanks so much for joining us today. I think you gave us a lot of information and a lot of great stuff to think about and we will have all of the links on our show notes so you our listeners can find out more about your school there. Thanks for joining us.

Miwa Kitmura: Thank you very much.

Jenn Viemont: I hope that big takeaway today has been about the importance of creating your own system for rating a school an individualized ranking things you might want to look at when exploring programs in Europe are there seminars in addition to lectures, how large are the seminars or lectures how accessible are the the professor's I can tell you that In Denmark, for instance, where there's a flat hierarchy, they're going to be more accessible than in Germany however that can vary program to program and school to school. Look at the the faculty backgrounds, the employment rate after graduation for the program and the school what recruitment opportunities? Are there businesses or organizations do they partner with for internships or projects or events or lectures? How many English conducted programs are there at the school? And what's the ratio to the other programs because it might just be a small school a schools that have a very low number of English conducted programs, it can speak to the English proficiency on campus, and it can also speak to a lack of resources for international students. So it can be important to look at that as well. But I really I really just love this idea of individualizing rankings for you instead of giving that power to US News or, or saying that there is a best school for everyone. There's not there's a best school for you. There's a school that is a best fit for you. And this is super refreshing and exciting to me. I'm really glad you joined us today. Thanks so much. You can find the show notes and our guests links on our website at WWW dot beyond the state's dot com slash podcast. If you have any questions or comments, please join our discussion on the beyond the state's Facebook page. Or you can get inspired on our Instagram page. And if you enjoyed our podcast, I'd love it if you'd rate us on iTunes. Thanks so much. See you next time.

Jennifer Viemont
Founder & Chief College Advisor

5 Reasons Why You Should Study in Europe

If packing up your whole life and moving sounds more exciting than terrifying, then you'll love what colleges in Europe have to offer you. These are 5 reasons why going to college in Europe will be the best decision you'll ever make:

1. Tuition is much more affordable than the US.

In continental Europe, the average cost of all the English-taught bachelor’s programs is just $7,390 per year. Since 1985, US college costs have surged by about 1000 percent, and tuition and fees continue to rise. Even when you factor in the cost of travel, going to college in Europe if often cheaper than one year of tuition at a state college in the US.

2. There are thousands of English-taught degrees.

Choice is another key issue. When cost is a chief consideration, you may be limited to only in-state schools, where tuition is lower. What if your in-state schools aren’t a good option for your chosen field of study? In Europe there are thousands of programs to choose from across 212 areas of study, and they are all taught 100% in English, so there's no need to worry about learning a new language.

3. International exposure is essential and highly valued.

Students who studied abroad stand out from the crowd when seeking jobs after college. The very act of leaving their comfort zone to make a fresh start in a new place builds skills and confidence that will be carried throughout a student’s life. Silicon Valley billionaire investor, Chris Sacca, describes international study experience as a critical differentiating characteristic among candidates. According to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, “The Jack Welch of the future cannot be like me. I spent my entire career in the United States. The next head of [General Electric] will be somebody who spent time in Bombay, in Hong Kong, in Buenos Aires.”

4. You'll avoid the US admissions rat race.

The college admissions process in the US has become a race to the bottom as students compete with their peers for a single spot in a liberal arts college, convinced by parents and guidance counselors that their survival rests on playing a musical instrument or varsity sport.Many smart kids don’t do well on standardized tests. This doesn’t limit them as much when looking outside of the US, as many colleges in Europe do not require standardized tests. Many countries see entry into universities as a right, rather than a privilege, so admission standards are not as stringent.

5. Spend your weekends & breaks exploring the world.

Travel opportunities abound when attending college in Europe. For example, Lille, a city in northern France with multiple universities, is close to major cities such as Brussels, London, and Paris via high-speed rail. Air travel, especially with the rise of affordable airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and Transavia, can be comparable in price to rail travel, so many more destinations open up for short-term travel.

How to Get Into the World's Top Universities

When you also factor in the many problems with US higher education, it is imprudent not to consider other possibilities. It is true there are many excellent schools in the United States—I don’t think anyone would argue that. There are some that have managed to look at applicants as people, and not just a checklist of achievements. Some even have reasonable tuition rates, and/or professors that actively teach and have highly engaged students. Despite this, I have yet to find a school in the United States that addresses all of these issues: allows students to opt out of the rat race the admissions process has become, have reasonable tuition, AND have positive results around the educational experience and post-graduation outcomes. Not every school in Europe provides all this either, but the schools listed in our database do.

How to Find Degrees in Europe That Are Taught in English

Finding these programs is burdensome, difficult, and confusing, especially with institutional websites in foreign languages... We know that making the decision to study abroad can be difficult, so we want to make it easy for you. We scoured the continent for vetted programs and made them available to thousands of families looking to leave the US and find a better life in Europe. We found over 11,200 degrees, 870 universities, 550 cities, and 32 European countries to choose from. Europe offers an impressive range of educational opportunities!

We have gathered all of the information you need to know about studying in Europe – from the different types of schools available to how to get housing and everything in between. Our database helps you find these programs quickly and easily, helping you contextualize the many benefits and options around higher education in Europe.

You will be able to find programs and courses that suit your interests and needs, taught in English by experienced professors in state-of-the-art facilities. Purchase a membership and search our database of English-taught European bachelor's and master's programs to get started on your journey to Europe today.

Get a Free Insider's Guide

We created free guides that give you the skinny on 5 bachelor’s or 10 master's degree programs in Europe that are taught in English, uber affordable, easy to get into, are great for opportunities, and give you life-changing experiences.

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To explore more countries, cities, and all of the universities, get access to the full database and search through over 11,200 programs taught entirely in English. You're bound to find your ideal program.

Beyond the States matches you with your ideal English-taught college in Europe.

Beyond the States provides access to 11,400+ European bachelor's and master's programs across 870 universities, 550 cities, and 212 areas of study, plus all the resources you need to get there. No sponsorships. No bias.
3400+
English-taught bachelor's programs in our database.
8000+
English-taught master's programs in our database.
550
Beautiful European cities to choose from.
870
Top-tier universities accepting international students.
€293,558
Typical savings against a private university in the US.
€55,098
Typical savings against in-state tuition in the US.
All inclusive of tuition, living, food, books, health insurance, travel expenses, as well as hidden fees. Compiled with data from students and the official websites from KU Leuven, UNC, and Duke.

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Featuring Jennifer Viemont
In today’s episode, Jenn has an interesting discussion with Tiffany, a parent of one of our members, Ethan. She became so interested in the Beyond the States process herself so that she’s amid planning admission for herself and her husband – for a Master degree program in the EU!
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How useful are college rankings actually? What do they measure? Can you find great colleges in Europe without relying on rankings?
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The Myth of American Exceptionalism

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We're going to be talking about the differences in the educational experience, meaning the academic side of things that students have in Europe versus in the US. So I'm always taken aback when people assume that universities in the US are the best globally.

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