One of the biggest differences in applying to universities in Europe is that you are applying to a specific program, as opposed to applying to just the overall university. This is basically like declaring your major ahead of time and since there generally aren’t any university-wide core requirements, switching majors/programs often means starting over. Don’t stop reading this based on that fact! This doesn’t mean that you are stuck studying only one thing. This doesn’t mean that you must know exactly what you want to study. And this doesn’t mean you have to know what you want your career path to be!
Now, if a student does know exactly what they want to study, there are plenty of programs that focus on that area from day one. Many students appreciate that they can focus on their area of interest from day one, without having unrelated required courses. What appeals to even more students, though, are the multidisciplinary program options. The Dutch have been far ahead of other European countries about this type of English-taught educational offerings. Their universities have not only the largest number of English-taught programs, but also include liberal arts programs and many multidisciplinary options. I’m starting to see this in more and more other countries and today will focus on these types of program options in other European countries.
Vrije University, in Brussels, offers a Social Sciences program. It takes three years to complete and tuition is 3850 euros per year. The first two years provide the broad and diverse knowledge that so many students want. The first year of the program includes classes in sociology, political sciences, and communication studies. The second year seeks to interweave the three disciplines also teaches students to use critical thought in these areas. The thirds year allows for customization as students choose to specialize-like choosing a major in one of these three areas.
The Global Humanities program at the University of Sapienza, in Rome, allows for customization from the very first year! Students take 1-2 required courses each year, and the rest are courses they choose from different categories. The categories themselves are broad and include history, the arts, sociology, anthropology, economics, law, psychology, theology, and international studies. Course option goes beyond basic intro courses with options like Environmental Law, Gender Economics, Law and Literature, Sociology of Media and Culture, Indo-Tibetan Studies, Global Health, Japanese Narratives, and Human Rights, Classical Archaeology, Latin Literature Medieval Art, and Contemporary History. And there is just a small selection of the offerings! The program takes three years to complete. Tuition at public universities in Italy is like a sliding scale, based on family income, and 2821 euros per year is the maximum annual tuition charge for this program.
Global Studies and International Studies type programs are a popular multidisciplinary program type for students with diverse interests around social sciences and cultures. The the University of Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, offers a three year Global Studies program that costs 6800 euros per year. The premise is that in order to develop a comprehensive view or world issues, students must look at the problems through the lens of different fields. Students take required courses in data analysis, global history, global communication, research methods, finance, economics, international relations, law, sustainability, cultural studies, business, and politics. They are required to learn another language and take electives focused on global issues as well as those that pertain to a region of their choosing.
Students who love math and science can consider the Science program at the the University of Helsinki. All students take courses in math, computer/data science, physics, and chemistry during the first year, and then they choose one of the four areas to focus on. Students can choose to combine more than one track and/or can take electives from the different tracks as well. The program takes three years to complete and costs 13000 per year.
Though it’s structured differently than in the US, students in Europe are still able to explore varied academic interests. Even those students who choose a more specific area of study can pursue interests outside of their program through the semester that is set aside for electives during study abroad. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the system in the US, just different, and the same goals can be achieved.
The programs featured above are only just a few of the great options in Europe. My visits to schools and research I've done over the years has helped me identify many more of these programs-including several that aren’t obviously multidisciplinary from the title name. I would love to help you find great options that fit your interests too! Head here to learn more about our monthly membership and Best Fit List offerings.