European Youth Portal
Information and opportunities for young people across Europe.

How European education systems work

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© - Robert Kneschke
Curious about how schools and universities work in other countries?

School education

Most European students spend at least 9 or 10 years in school. As the length of compulsory education differs from country to country, so does the age when children begin school – though it's usually between 5 and 6 years old.

European systems aim to be broad-based and general, giving pupils the basic knowledge and skills  they'll need for the future. Though each EU country is responsible for its own system, and what is taught, national efforts to improve quality are supported by the European Commission.


Higher education

Europe has some 4,000 higher education institutions, with over 19 million students and 1.5 million staff. Year after year, European universities rank prominently among the top 100 in the world. Yet tuition fees are generally very reasonable.

Thanks to the smooth transferability of coursework, qualifications and research opportunities between European universities, it is now easier than ever to spend time studying abroad, or to go and use your degree to work in another country.


Vocational education & training

This gives you the skills you need to compete in today’s global jobs market. Apprenticeship-style education like this is usually related to a specific trade or career path, and combines practical work experience with theoretical study. It can take place at the secondary, post-secondary or further education level, but it is not equivalent to higher education.