Study in the EU

One of the keys to increasing labour mobility in the European Union is education. The EU has many programmes aimed at students who wish to study in EU countries. Peter Gentle takes a look at some of these initiatives and has some advice for Poles who are thinking about enrolling at a British university.

This February, the EU Commission announced that it will simplify its educational programmes so as to make them easier to understand. It aims to replace the current schemes, Socrates, Leonardo de Vinci, Erasmus, Tempus, Youth, Culture 2000, and Media Plus with a single, integrated programme by 2007. Once established, the new programme will enable educational institutions across the continent to coordinate better with each other, improve services to students who wish to study outside of their own country, make exchanges between universities easier throughout the EU and make Europe the most competitive knowledge based economy in the world.

That's a bold and timely objective. The educational programmes of the EU certainly need reform, as at the moment the bewildering range of schemes currently on offer can confuse and deter students looking for a college to study at abroad. Opportunities for students fall into two types exchange programmes with other students studying in universities taking part in of the schemes, or students applying individually for a place in a university in the EU. Essentially, the main programmes are:

Socrates began in 1995 and is itself divided into two parts. Lingua concentrates on developing language learning materials, providing information about courses and generally making people aware of the advantages of knowing foreign languages. Comenius organizes student exchanges between schools in different countries, trains teachers and provides language assistants for schools across the EU. Brussels aims to get at least 10% of school pupils and their teachers taking part in this programme between 2007-2013.

Leonardo de Vinci encourages projects that contribute to the development of new methods and materials for language teaching and the assessment of business language needs. Currently, 45,000 students take advantage of this scheme and the objective is to raise this number to 100,000 a year by 2013.

Erasmus developed in 1986, this programme created an extensive mobility scheme for higher education. The Erasmus Student Exchange gives practical help to exchange students during their stay at universities abroad. Today, around 120,000 students are involved in Erasmus and the Commission aims to triple this number over the next ten years.

Tempus encourages cooperation between EU member states and Central and Eastern European candidate countries. Since 1990, the participation of Polish students in the Tempus programme has resulted in the gradual implementation of an educational transfer scheme (ECTS), which allows students to travel around Europe gaining credits that are recognised throughout the EU.

Europass aims to create a single document that outlines a student's qualifications. This will greatly help with applying for jobs within the EU. "With the European Union poised to expand from 15 to 25 Member States, and closer relationships being forged with the other countries of Europe, improving the transparency of qualifications and competences is essential in order to increase and improve transnational mobility and make lifelong education and training a reality", declared Viviane Reding, European Commissioner in charge of Education and Culture at a press conference this February. For more information on how to construct your European Union C.V. go to

What Poles say about the Erasmus exchange programme

Małgorzata from Poznan: Thanks to an Erasmus scholarship I spent five months at the Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz, at the FASK Department in Germersheim. I had been unsuccessful previously in obtaining other mobility scholarships, as I hadn't been acquainted with any foreign scholars who could support my efforts. Erasmus was more "egalitarian". It didn't require me to have any prior contacts of my own. It was granted to me on the grounds of my knowledge and interests by people from my own faculty. The Erasmus experience influenced greatly my professional career. For more comments by Polish students go to

Studying in Britain

In 1999, Prime Minister, Tony Blair announced that increasing the number of foreign students coming to study in the UK was one of his top priorities. "Our universities and colleges are second to none. Their world-class reputation means that they are among the most popular for international students." Remember: universities are places offering products and services these days, and selling courses to foreign students is a good way of increasing their income. Education has become a commodity. So the British Prime Minister is not exhibiting his altruism, he is just trying to get more business for British universities.

But if you would like to take up the Prime Minister's kind offer, then how to go about it?

Well, a good place to start is by contacting the Ministry of Education in Poland to check eligibility for grants, and so on. Contact the British Council for news and advice about courses available in Britain. The web site also has good advice about the cost of living in the UK for students, availability of courses, when and how to apply to universities, etc.

We picked three British universities at random to see how well they are catering for foreign students.

The London School of Economics

In a league table of Britain's top universities, the LSE ranks 3rd behind only Oxford and Cambridge. The LSE has a history of welcoming foreign students and is one of the top places to study for students born outside of the UK. 

Applicants from Poland offering the Matura will be asked for grades of at least level 5. You will probably be asked to take an Entrance Exam, which is a three-hour paper and held in March each year. This includes an English language test, and an assessment of mathematical understanding. For post-graduate study you will need to produce your Magister certificate. The British Council will provide you with information about scholarships, etc.

There is a Polish Society and also a Slavonic Society at the LSE, both organizing social events and seeking to promote a positive image of Central and Eastern Europe.

You are allowed to work for up to 15 hours a week while studying at the LSE, which is the same rule for foreign students studying at all British universities.

For information about studying at the LSE then go to or write to them at: Undergraduate Admissions, LSE, PO Box 13401, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE

Queen's University, Belfast

Northern Ireland has one of the best records of academic achievement in the whole of the United Kingdom, and Queen's University is one of the best on the island.There are currently around 2,000 full-time and part-time international students, from 60 countries, studying at Queen's. Of these, 1,400 are from the Republic of Ireland and other countries within the European Union.

Due to demand for places, Queen's restricts Socrates Erasmus activities with institutions with which they have contractual arrangements. Students must be nominated by partner institutions. Interested students should contact the Office responsible for Socrates Erasmus at their home university to find out if there is a link with Queen's University. Students who are EU nationals and wish to attend the University outside the Socrates Erasmus programme can apply to enrol as non-graduating students. The cost of study for one semester at Queen's is just under 3,000 pounds. See or write to Admissions Office, Queen's University Belfast, University Road, Belfast, BT7 1NN, NI

University of Wales, Bangor

The University of Wales has eight separate sites, including Cardiff and Swansea. One of the main attractions of studying in Bangor is its beautiful location, situated on the wind-swept coast of North Wales and in view of the mountains. The universities excellent academic reputation, particularly in Oceanic sciences, is well deserved. If you are applying via the Erasmus programme then you need to:

1. Find out if the agreement with your institution is between departments that are relevant to your studies. Contact the Socrates/Erasmus co-ordinator within your institution for these details.
2. Speak to your International Relations Officer to find if he/she recommends that you take part in an exchange visit to Bangor.
3. Arrange for your Socrates/Erasmus co-ordinator at your institution to contact Bangor on your behalf to make enquiries about suitable courses and to formally nominate you to Bangor.

The cost of a semester's study for EU nationals at Bangor is £550.

For more see or write to: Admissions Registry, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2DG Wales  

All applications for university places must go through The Universities and Colleges Admission Systems (UCAS).

Useful addresses

For a full list of Polish universities participating in the Erasmus programme see For more about the EU's education initiatives see And for information about Polish education and contacts see


(to) enrol - register, sign up (zapisać się)
integrated - made whole by bringing all the parts together (zintegrowany, integracyjny)
bold - daring, brave (śmiały)
objective - goal, sth to be aimed for (cel)
bewildering - confusing, disorientating (zdumiewający)
(to) deter - prevent or discourage for acting (powstrzymać, zniechęcić)
poised- in a position of readiness to do sth (gotów)
(to) forge - make gradually and steadily; build, create (utworzyć, nawiązać)
transparency - clear, open (przejrzystość)
eligibility - entitlement to be chosen (prawo, uprawnienia)
on sb's behalf - as an agent for sb else (w imieniu kogoś)