What Type of Degree to Choose in Universities from the European Union? Bachelors, Masters, PhDs and More

by Ruth Leger

If the world is a book, the page about European Union is one you should not skip reading. Amazing culture, great lifestyle, and a long-standing academic tradition are some of the key ingredients that make Europe a great international study destination. 

But more often than not, students outside Europe are not familiar with the European higher education system, which may lead to confusion and delay when trying to find the right Bachelor’s programme in an EU-country.

So, let’s see where it all starts and where it ends, so you don’t feel like in an endless maze.

View Bachelors abroad

Bachelor’s (undergraduate) programmes

A Bachelor’s degree is level 1 in the higher education game. Typically, you enrol in a Bachelor’s after high school. The duration of this undergraduate programme varies according to discipline — the more scientific and technical the field of study, the longer the programme. In the EU, the typical academic Bachelor’s takes 3 years and requires 180 ECTS (one ECTS credit equals 28 hours of study).

The story doesn’t end here though. You can select from various types of Bachelors to suit your study interests. These are:

Find out more about what Bachelor's and Master's degree abbreviations mean.

At some universities, you have the option of a joint honours degree. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. It basically means you choose two subjects areas to focus on, also called majors. The subject areas do not have to be highly related, but they usually have something in common. Like a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts (Not joking, this degree really exists!).

That’s all fine and dandy you might say, but what if I want to study an English-taught programme in Europe? Many international students decide to study their degree in English because it increases their opportunities for a future career.

European universities have caught on with this trend. European countries that are not native English-speaking with most English-taught Bachelors are:

Master’s (graduate) programmes

Moving on to level 2, Master’s programmes in Europe fall in the category of graduate studies. This means you need a Bachelor’s degree to enrol in a Master’s study.

Browse through Masters

Master’s degrees can be course-based, research-based or are a mixture of the two. The ultimate goal is for you to gain the necessary knowledge and analytical skills so that you can carry out independent research. At this level, the study options become more varied. The core types of Master’s degree are:

In the EU Bologna system, a Master’s degree programme carries 90-120 ECTS credits. The minimum requirement is 60 ECTS, which means one or two years of full-time study. Most English-taught graduated programmes are:


PhD (postgraduate) programmes

This degree is for those who want to step up their game – the pathway to personal development or a career in academia. Also known as Doctorate, a PhD programme usually follows a Master’s, M.Phil. or M.Res.

You’ll be expected to do your own research on a chosen topic with the help of a supervisor. The duration of a PhD programme differs per country and institution — but in most subject areas and departments you are given an initial three-years to do it.

Find PhD programmes

Sometimes your own research is accompanied by work for the department such as giving seminars or small group teaching. Some of the top English-taught PhDs are in the following countries:

Other study options: distance-learning and short courses

The above higher education levels are complemented by two other types of studies: distance-learning and short courses.

Distance learning is a mode of study that allows you to study most or all of a course without attending a campus-based institution. You interact with professors and other students via e-mail, electronic forums, video-conferencing, chat rooms, bulletin boards, instant messaging and other forms of digital communication. To put it simply — it’s online education.

Nowadays, you can choose a distance-learning mode for all types of degrees: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD. Additionally, you have the option of blended learning. This means some courses will be on campus and others online. This will give you both flexibility and the on-location experience.

Summer courses and short-term courses are — clearly —  organised for a fixed and short period of time, typically one to six weeks. Such courses are an excellent opportunity to gain academic, cultural and social experience if you are not able to access longer-term programmes.

Studying in Europe opens up all sorts of opportunities to see more of the world. Not only because you would get to travel, but also because the Bologna Process makes it easier to go to another country. Start your EU adventure with most popular disciplines for undergraduate studies:

Don’t miss the opportunity to check the wide range of Bachelors and choose to start your higher education in Europe! You won’t regret it!

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