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university life

University Life: North America vs. Europe

November 22, 2021

University Life: North America vs. Europe

Deciding between studying abroad or staying in your home country is already a big step in anyone's life. However, it is only the beginning of a long process. The variety of options available only make it harder for prospective students to make a choice. 

Many students tend to gravitate towards North America or Europe when choosing a destination, as they are home to some of the most prestigious and reputable universities in the world. 

One might think that Universities around the world function in a similar way. And, while this is partly true, there are some big differences across the globe when it comes to higher education institutions. 

Are you a prospective student who is unsure about what choice to make? Do you work in higher education and are curious to learn about what's being done differently on the other side of the pond? Let us help!

Today, we want to go over the major differences we have noticed between North American and European universities:


European universities are cheaper than those in North America due to their public status. European universities can often receive funding from the government and other organizations. On the other hand, most well-known North American institutions tend to be private and have comparatively higher tuition fees.

Course Structure

In North American universities, various departments may be interconnected to offer a wider and more interdisciplinary scope of education. Whereas, in European Universities, the courses are structured more independently, so the opportunities to choose from a broad variety of paths within the same study are limited. The difference in course structure is one of the considerations for many students because of how diverse or restricted it can be. 

Attendance and strictness

European universities focus more on examinations and attendance, while American universities comparatively have a more relaxed approach, which gives students more time to explore other interests and opportunities. 

Focus on co-curricular activities

This is an aspect where American and European universities differ drastically. American universities focus a lot on sports and other activities, offering various clubs and Varsities which become a huge attraction for students. In European universities, these things exist but not at such a level and are often not as prestigious or recognized by the university. 

Admission process

North American admission process is highly competitive. Even more so when attempting to access an Ivy League university, where admission rates drop as low as 9%. It can also be hard to access certain European universities, however, the odds are definitely higher. 

Student-teacher ratio

European universities tend to have bigger classrooms, as independent courses also mean more volume of students adjusted in a single class. In comparison, North American universities tend to have a smaller class size, encouraging more interaction between teachers and students.


The "dorm" concept is widely spread across North American Universities, European universities are also picking up on this, but many students still have to find housing outside of campus. 

We recognize that both European and North American universities have their pros and cons. We can't say one is better than the other, but we think that identifying the differences in Higher Education around the world can help institutions realize what things they can improve to offer their students a rich experience in which they will flourish and develop into adults. 

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