A student's finger points to Europe on a globe

Top 7 Medical Schools In Europe

September 13, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. Why Attend a Medical School in Europe?Part 3. European Medical Schools vs. American Medical SchoolsPart 4. What to Look for When Choosing a European Medical SchoolPart 5. Top 7 Medical Schools in EuropePart 6. FAQsPart 7. Conclusion

Introduction

Are you or someone you know looking for an opportunity to study abroad? Europe is host to some of the highest-ranking medical schools in the world. If the charm of old architecture and delicious pastries isn't enough to draw you there, perhaps these stellar medical programs will help you decide where to study. 

Here is our list of the top seven medical schools in Europe.

Why Attend Medical School in Europe?

Beyond the incredible food, music, and scenery, Europe offers a plethora of medical programs with world acclaim. Perhaps you're looking to get more in touch with your background or learn about a new culture. There's plenty of exciting benefits to studying abroad.

Thinking ahead, where do you plan to practice medicine? If you have dreams of opening up a practice in Germany, it may benefit you to study there. Medical school is also a significant opportunity to make connections. Learning medicine in your dream country's official language may also benefit you if you're hoping to practice abroad.

A primary reason many US students look overseas for medical school is the shorter programs. Medical school in Europe typically runs 8-10 years, while a US medical program will take 11-15. This is because European med schools do not require a bachelor's degree to begin your journey into medicine. 

Studying abroad might end up being cheaper as well. In many European countries, tuition is virtually free, sometimes even for international students. Though the costs of living are generally higher, you may still end up saving quite a bit by studying for free.

European Medical Schools vs. American Medical Schools

If you're studying medicine outside the US, it's essential to get informed on the main differences between EU and US medical programs. Though both are host to ivy league institutions with world-renowned acclaim, the way they go about teaching varies significantly from country to country. Here we'll go over some key differences to help you make the best choice regarding where to study. 

Key Differences

These are just a few significant differences between US and EU medical schools to consider when planning to study abroad. To ensure a smooth transition into your European studies, do plenty of country-specific research on the requirements of EU schools.

What to Look for When Choosing a Medical School in Europe

As with any global medical school, there are a few things to look for when choosing which program to attend. Here are some primary things to take into consideration while you search for the perfect school.

Reputation

The strength of a school's reputation can be determined by a number of factors, including enrollment rates, global ranking, and student testimonies. There are plenty of reliable sources to check your university's reputation before applying. It may also help to seek the guidance of an academic advisor to find a school best suited to you.

Residency Placement Rates

Most schools have accessible residency placement stats on their websites. This is a significant stat to take into consideration when choosing your future school. Keep in mind that you should do your residency where you later hope to practice medicine. For example, if you are studying medicine in Europe but are hoping to become a physician in the US, you should be looking for US residencies. 

Students who study abroad are not always guaranteed a residency placement when they return. However, your school's residency placement rates are significant—research how international students have been placed in residencies outside the school's country.

Cost

European schools generally have much lower tuition than US schools, although other costs may be less budget-friendly. Before getting too excited about reduced tuition abroad, consider conversion rates, cost of living, international student fees, flights home, and any other surprise costs that may come up while studying abroad.  

USMLE Pass Rates

The United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) is a three-step process to obtain medical licensure in the US. Observing the pass rates of previous students that have attended a school is crucial when selecting a medical school.

According to Dr. John R Gimpel, president and CEO of the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, a good sign is when schools consistently post rates above the national average.

"That helps to show that their graduates are at least succeeding well in passing their licensing exams and getting high scores, and that's usually going to mean that those doctors are going to be successful in getting into the residency programs that they'd like to and into the career paths that they like," says Gimpel.

Ability to Access Loans or Funding

Government funding for studying outside of your home country is not always as accessible as funding for a school close to home. Before applying to your international dream school, be sure to check what funding is available to you if you'll be relying on bursaries, loans, or scholarships to complete your education.

Most schools also offer specific funding for international students. Investigate the scholarships offered by your school to see if any are strictly for international students.

Top 7 Medical Schools in Europe

Taking everything above into consideration is a lot of work, but we've got you covered. Without further adieu, here is our list of the top seven Medical Schools in Europe.

1. University of Oxford

Oxford, UK

Ranked number one in the world in medicine by the Times Higher Education Supplement (2011-16), Oxford University should be high on your list if you’re looking to study medicine in Europe. Oxford describes college life as supportive and full of opportunity.

 “At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the university. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community.” 

Oxford is the oldest English-speaking university in the world, dating back to the year 1096. The school also boasts an impressive list of celebrity graduates, including 28 British prime ministers and 56 Nobel Prize winners.

Acceptance to Oxford can be challenging, considering it is an ivy league school. Be sure to read over the admission requirements and application guide if Oxford University piques your interest.

2. University of Cambridge

Cambridge, UK

Coming in at number three in the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities, Cambridge is another ivy league institution you should consider while browsing European universities.

Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope describes Cambridge as a welcoming university with a deep-rooted sense of community. He states, “Today, Cambridge continues to reach outwards, welcoming an ever more diverse group of students who have the desire and ability to learn and produce new insights that shift and deepen our understanding of the world around us.”

Cambridge has impressive statistics concerning its graduates. Since 1904, there have been 110 Nobel prize award winners affiliated with the university. Cambridge also notes that 89% of graduates report having work or further study within 15 months of graduating.

If you’re curious about your chances of getting into Cambridge, check out their admission statistics. They also have plenty of open events to help introduce prospective students to Cambridge and help you with your application.

3. Imperial College London

London, UK

Imperial College London has an impressive reputation and garners specific global attention toward their engineering and science programs. The school ranks 3rd in Europe and 11th worldwide according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, and 1st for graduate prospects.

Imperial consistently ranks highly as one of the top universities in London according to many charts. However, it has recently risen above neighboring university UCL for a few notable reasons.

The international students and student-faculty rate, employer reputation indicator, and bursary options are all areas in which Imperial comes out on top of UCL. There are also subject-specific areas in which UCL and Imperial excel, so your best option ultimately depends on your area of specialty.

According to their website, Imperial College London is "the only UK university to focus entirely on science, engineering, medicine and business." Imperial was founded in 1907 and has spent many years building its reputation, making it number three on our list.

4. University College London

London, UK

Next on our list is University College London (UCL). According to the Research Excellence Framework, UCL is the top university in the world for research strength. 

Since the school was founded in 1826, there have been 30 affiliates to win Nobel prizes. Ranked joint 8th in the 2022 QS World University Rankings, UCL is a top contender for any medical student looking to study abroad.

UCL is a large school located in the heart of London with over 40,000 students. If you are looking to make plenty of connections within London's medical scene, UCL might be the place for you. Larger schools offer lots of opportunities for peer learning and developing relationships.

With critical acclaim and top global rankings, UCL is a strong contender for any student hoping to study in Europe.

5. Karolinska Institutet

Stockholm, Sweden

The Karolinska Institutet (KI) is Sweden’s largest center of academic medical research and is known as one of the top universities in the world. Since 1901, KI has hosted the Nobel Assembly to select the Nobel laureates in Physiology and Medicine.

KI also has a rich historical background. According to their website, "Karolinska Institutet was founded by King Karl XIII in 1810 as an 'academy for the training of skilled army surgeons.'" Nearly all of Sweden's medical history to date is intertwined with the institution, including the implantation of the very first pacemaker into a human being.

As a university wholly dedicated to studying medicine and research, the school typically has under 7,000 full-time students. Attending a medicine-only school can be an advantage as all of the school's resources are dedicated to one specific field. 

If you are looking to study medicine in Europe and are particularly interested in research, the cutting-edge facilities at the Karolinska Institutet may be the place for you. Their 2030 vision is centered around groundbreaking research, an ethical approach, and critical reflection. 

6. Catholic University of Leuven

Leuven, Belgium

Often named one of the top universities in Europe, The Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) is another research-oriented university on our list. This large university has fourteen campuses across ten cities.

KU Leuven's three main faculties are separated by Humanities and Social Sciences, Science, Engineering and Technology (SET), and Biomedical Sciences. Each of these schools has a doctoral school for their training programs.

As one of the oldest schools on our list, KU Leuven was founded in 1425. Their mission statement reads that they have a "Christan view of the world and the human." They also state, "KU Leuven endeavours to be a place for open discussion of social, philosophical and ethical issues and a critical centre of reflection in and for the Catholic community."

If you are interested in studying medicine in Belgium, KU Leuven is worth checking out. We suggest brushing up on some Dutch before applying

7. University of Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Denmark

The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is last on our list but certainly shouldn't be overlooked by applicants looking to study clinical medicine. Coming in at number seven, UCPH is a world-class research university with over 37,000 students and 9,000 staff members.

UCPH was founded in 1479 and has since grown into the 36 departments and 200 research centers that it is today. Their website offers detailed stats to keep applicants well informed on their historical student intake. Among previous students of the university, nine have been awarded Nobel prizes.

The university’s strategy for 2023 is based around “attracting, developing and retaining academic talent, education with closer ties to research and practice” as well as “collaboration and societal commitment - nationally and globally.” 

Studying abroad in Denmark requires an understanding of their quota 1 and quota 2 system, which UCPH goes over in detail on their admission requirements page. If you speak Danish or hope to learn in the near future, UCPH could be the perfect place to begin your medical journey.

Note: Each university excels in different areas. Keep in mind that rankings differ depending on which medical specification you are researching. 

Honorable Mentions 

These schools nearly made it to our top seven and are definitely worth checking out. Remember that each school excels in different areas. Be sure to prioritize schools according to your specific interests. 

FAQs

1. Is medical school in Europe free?

Although many European countries offer free tuition to citizens, this is not necessarily true for international students. Typically without citizenship, students do have to pay for school in Europe. However, European tuition is drastically cheaper than that of schools in the US.

2. Are European medical schools hard to get into?

No matter where you are in the world, studying to get into medical school will be rigorous and challenging. However, European medical schools have higher acceptance rates than schools in the US. While it won't be accessible no matter where you are, you may have a better chance of getting accepted into your EU school of choice.

3. Is medical school in Europe easier?

It has been argued that med school in Europe is "easier" since completion takes less time, and EU schools have higher acceptance rates. However, keep in mind that Europe is home to some of the top universities across the globe with world-renowned institutions, equipment, and research programs. Coursework is not easier in Europe, but it will take less time, and acceptance may be more manageable. 

4. How can I fund medicine abroad?

Funding medicine abroad can be tricky if you need government assistance. Check with your government to see if you are eligible for receiving loans or grants to study medicine abroad, and get country-specific. Before selecting your dream school, ensure that funding is available to you while studying in your specific region. 

There are also usually scholarships and bursaries offered by universities that are specifically reserved for international students. Do some research on the international bursaries, loans, and scholarships offered by your school of choice.

5. Can I go to med school in Europe and practice in the US?

The answer here is yes, though you will be required to obtain a US medical license. If you're looking to study in the United States after your European studies, look for residencies in the US to ease the process. Foreign residencies are not valid in the US.

It is important to note that not all foreign medical degrees are recognized as valid by the US. To avoid starting over, do plenty of country-specific research on your requirements when returning to the US to practice medicine.   

6. What is the best country to study medicine in Europe?

Most of our top suggestions are in the UK, though it truly depends on your specific interests. Each school excels in different areas, and each country has different requirements. Be sure to research how easy it is to transition from your country of study to the country in which you're hoping to practice medicine.

7. Which country in Europe is the cheapest to study medicine?

Studying medicine in Europe is almost always more affordable than studying in the US, though some countries can help you save up. Poland, Sweden, and Germany are the top 3 cheapest places to study medicine in Europe, with Italy, Belgium, and Hungary following closely behind.

Considering some of the top universities in the world are located in these countries, they're certainly worth looking into when deciding where to study. 

Conclusion

Europe is home to some of the most excellent medical schools and research facilities in the world. A degree in Europe takes less time and can be up to 6 times cheaper than studying medicine in the US. From what our research shows, it's essential to broaden your horizons when looking for a medical school. 

Keep your main interests and specialties in mind when researching schools, each university across the globe excels in different areas. We hope this list helps you on your journey to finding your dream European medical school. Happy hunting!

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