The cradle of Western civilization, Europe has impressive architecture, centuries-old traditions, and mouth-watering cuisines. Furthermore, the continent is loaded with history and knowledge. If you dream of studying Medicine abroad, you must already know that Europe has a large part of the best medical schools in the world.
To speak of European universities is to speak of tradition: some have been in operation since the 11th century. In addition to good professors and infrastructure, European universities are especially attractive for their research performance.
Europe is home to some of the most highly educated countries on the globe. These are places where education, research, and human development come first. Not by chance, they are also countries with an excellent quality of life. In other words, studying in these places allows for a complete first-world experience.
However, it is necessary to be aware of some peculiarities of higher education in Europe. In many universities, the medical course requires a previous degree, similar to the North American system. Furthermore, it is very common for fees to be charged even in public institutions, especially foreigners. In the universities listed below, by the conversion of May 2021, the annual costs of the Medicine course are between R$100 thousand and R$300 thousand. So you have to consider that you can spend more time and money if you choose to study in Europe.
Now that you know, in general terms, the main advantages and disadvantages of studying in Europe, let’s go to the list of the best medical universities in that continent. Our selection is based on the 2021 edition of the QS World University Rankings, which is one of the most respected international rankings in the world. You will see that most of them are concentrated in the United Kingdom, but there are also representatives from Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands.
1st – University of Oxford – England
The first in the ranking is the oldest university in the English language and the second oldest globally. So old that the year of its foundation is not known for sure. There is evidence that the first classes at Oxford University date back to 1096. Still, it was only consolidated from 1167 when King Henry II of England prohibited students from going to Paris to study.
Oxford University was the scene of several historical events. In the 14th century, one of his professors campaigned for a bible in English, in direct opposition to the papacy. In the 16th century, members of the Anglican clergy considered heretics were burned at a campus fire. In 1860, in one of the most famous debates in science, academic Thomas Huxley faced Bishop Wilberforce to defend the Theory of Evolution.
But this millenary institution does not live only from the past. The university was at the forefront of developing one of the first vaccines against covid-19, reaffirming its important role in the history of science with yet another great contribution to the advancement of Medicine.
Among its alumni, Oxford has 69 Nobel Prize winners, 28 British prime ministers, and several foreign heads of state such as Bill Clinton. Notable thinkers and scientists such as Tim Berners-Lee, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Dawkins have passed through its classrooms.
The Oxford admissions process involves several steps: letter of motivation, letters of recommendation, standardized tests, and interviews. In addition, you must provide several documents, such as a high school certificate, transcripts, and a certificate of English proficiency.
Despite being a public institution, you have to pay to study at Oxford. The good news is that the university has full scholarship programs. The bad news is that medical students are not usually covered.
2nd – University of Cambridge – England
Founded in 1209, Cambridge University is the second oldest in the English-speaking world. Its foundation came from a conflict in Oxford: some academics fell out with natives, and three people were hanged. The episode prompted some students to leave Oxford and set up a new educational institution in Cambridge.
With its reputation for academic excellence and traditional values, the University of Cambridge often ranks among the world’s top universities for teaching, research, and international vision. From there came 15 British prime ministers and 118 Nobel laureates and scientists responsible for major revolutions in science: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Francis Bacon, Alan Turing, and Ian Wilmut.
Being admitted to Cambridge is not for everyone: the acceptance rate is no more than 20%. To apply, you must prove that you have completed high school with good grades and proficiency in English. As in Oxford, letters of recommendation and motivation letters are also required, in addition to tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) for candidates for a medical course.
Cambridge University offers a range of scholarships — although most of them are aimed at graduate students. At graduation, there are some financial support options for students who cannot afford to study.
3rd – Karolinska Institutet – Sweden
Based in Stockholm’s capital, Karolinska Institute is a university completely dedicated to the medical and health sciences, with a reputation for high-quality research and innovation.
Created in 1810 as a training center for army surgeons, Karolinska is a public institution whose name refers to the Carolina soldiers of Swedish King Charles XIII. In 1861, thanks to growing recognition, the institute received university status. Since 1901, Karolinska has been responsible for appointing the Nobel laureates for Medicine.
Home to more than 40 pharmaceutical companies, Karolinska encourages its students to develop and commercialize their ideas. For this reason, the institute teaches entrepreneurship, innovation development, start-up fundamentals, and patent agreements and offers a structured support center for companies.
Among the famous people who have gone through Karolinska are Erik Jorpes, who developed a method of producing pure insulin, and Åke Senning, who placed the first pacemaker in a human being. Karolinska Institute offers eleven programs. All taught in English and with an international focus.
4th – University College London (UCL) – England
Founded in 1826, University College London, better known by the acronym UCL, emerged as an alternative to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which had a strong connection with the church and accepted only the children of wealthy Anglicans. Thus, UCL was the first British university not to require religious affiliation for admission of students. UCL was also the first university in England to receive women and students from any social background.
UCL collects 33 Nobel laureates among researchers, professors, and students. In addition, his students discovered five of the natural noble gases, identified hormones, invented the vacuum tube, and made several fundamental advances in modern statistics. UCL is also proud to have as alumni Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.
Historically, only about 20% of applicants are generally accepted. The requirements vary according to the course, but Brazilian students must have completed high school with good grades to enter the “Foundation Year”, a preparatory course that foreign students need to take before starting their studies. Alternatively, the student can demonstrate that they have completed the first two years of higher education at another university. UCL also requires applicants to submit their academic record, high school diploma, letter of motivation, recommendation, and English proficiency.
5th – Imperial College London – England
Founded in 1907, Imperial College London is one of the youngest institutions on our list, despite being a century old. It was not born as a single institution. It was formed from the merger of several schools and colleges that already existed in England. It became part of the University of London, and only in 2007 did it become an independent entity.
Focused on the areas of Medicine, Engineering, Science, and Business, Imperial College has established itself as a center of technological development and is responsible for several innovations that are now part of our daily lives. Along with Cambridge and Oxford, Imperial College London forms the so-called “Golden Triangle” of British universities.
Imperial College currently holds some of the best-informed predictions about the spread and mortality rates of the covid-19 pandemic. Based on their studies, many governments and agencies are making public health policy decisions around the world.
Imperial College London counts 14 Nobel laureates throughout its history. Among them is Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin and was one of its teachers. The founder of the scientific journal Nature, Norman Lockyer, was also a professor at the institution.
A strong feature of Imperial College concerns its internationalization: its students come from 125 different countries, including Brazil. For Brazilian candidates and students, there is a specific forum created by the institution. Students can learn more about research and ask questions about the admissions process, which follows the model of European schools, meaning that students are evaluated by a series of added factors, including standardized tests, academic background, and references. Imperial College is considered one of the most selective universities in the UK, with an overall applicant acceptance rate of around 15%.
6th – King’s College London – England
King’s College London was founded in 1828 by leading politicians and clergy from the English capital. Its creation was in response to the theological controversy surrounding the founding of the UCL three years earlier. At the time, the creation of a secular university generated great controversy and, therefore, the idea of creating the King’s College to appease the conservative population arose.
King’s College is now the largest education center for healthcare professionals in Europe. It has produced 12 Nobel Prize winners and formed 16 heads of state, in addition to dozens of other world leaders.
The university also played an important role in many advances that shaped modern life, such as discovering the structure of DNA and the research that led to the development of radio, television, radar, and cell phones. In addition, its researchers have made great contributions to treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, and schizophrenia.
The King’s College admissions process is extremely competitive. Of the thousands of applicants who apply for their vacancies annually, only 13% are admitted.
7th – University of Edinburgh – Scotland
Located in Scotland’s capital, the University of Edinburgh is among the oldest in the UK. Founded in 1582, the university began as a law school. The efforts of the locals led it to expand its scope – the second area of study implemented was Theology – and earn a royal charter from King James VI. It was an unusual decision since, until then, most universities were established by papal bulls.
The University of Edinburgh has shaped such historical figures as the philosopher and historian David Hume, the creator of electromagnetism James Clerk Maxwell and the character Peter Pan, James Matthew Barrie. Political leader Winston Churchill was its dean. In total, 20 Nobel laureates have been there and three British prime ministers and many members of the royal family.
From antiseptic surgery to the discovery of carbon dioxide through ATM and in-vitro fertilization, many innovations have somehow passed through the old corridors of Edinburgh. No wonder it is the fourth most popular university in the UK in terms of enrollment. It is also one of the most selective: only 11% of candidates are accepted.
8th – London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – England
Founded in 1899, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) came into being thanks to the donation of Indian philanthropist Bomanjee Dinshaw Petit. Since its founding, it has become one of the highest-ranking institutions in global rankings.
Specializing in public health and tropical medicine, LSHTM was born to generate the knowledge needed to treat British colonial administrators working across Britain’s tropical empire. Among LSHTM’s first achievements are the findings that filariasis is transmitted by mosquito bites and trypanosomes in the brain fluid of people affected by sleeping sickness. Experiments were also carried out by its faculty, proving that mosquitoes act as vectors in the spread of malaria.
During World War I, many of its faculty were recruited into the army, where they treated or researched tropical diseases to protect troops’ health. Since then, LSHTM has been dedicated to improving health worldwide by training leaders to address major public and global health challenges.
More recently, a team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine received $37 million to test an innovative combination of strategies to prevent HIV in African countries. Currently, LSHTM experts are involved in different research related to the covid-19 pandemic.
9th – Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg – Germany
Founded in 1386 by Prince Ruprecht I and reorganized in 1803 by Duke Karl Friedrich, the University of Heidelberg took its name in honor of the two from 1805. It was Germany’s first institution of higher education and soon became a center of education. Theologians and experts in the law.
His medical course has been taught since 1388. In the 17th century, the university suffered a great financial and intellectual decay. It would only recover at the beginning of the 19th century when it became a center of democratic thought and humanist intellectuals and had its model copied by several American universities. Today, it enjoys international renown in the fields of Medicine, Mathematics, and Law.
The University of Heidelberg saw 55 Nobel Prize winners pass through its facilities with a focus on research. Among the alumni are 11 German and foreign heads of state and intellectual celebrities such as Max Weber, Robert Bunsen, and Friedrich Hegel.
Located in the small town of Heidelberg, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, the university is known for its interdisciplinary and collaborative research. The institution participates in a worldwide network of teaching and research collaborations with more than 450 universities worldwide. Among its students, 10% are foreigners from 130 different countries.
10th – Universiteit van Amsterdam – Netherlands
The University of Amsterdam is the largest higher education institution in the Netherlands regarding the number of students and the third oldest in the country. Its roots go back to the year 1632 when it was created under the name of Illustrious Athenaeum. It was only recognized as an institution of higher education in 1815, and only in 1877 did it adopt its current name.
Located in the heart of one of Europe’s most vibrant capitals, the University of Amsterdam currently attracts students from over 100 countries. About 20% of its students are foreigners. This is because it is one of the universities in Europe with the most undergraduate courses taught in English, although this is not the official language of the country.
Studying Medicine in Europe is certainly a great differential for the curriculum, especially for those who plan to dedicate themselves to research. It is also a goal that needs to be drawn from a very early age, as the model adopted by European universities takes into account the candidates’ entire educational background. With such low admission rates, between 10% and 20%, only exceptional curricula can guarantee a place, especially for foreigners.
If that’s not your case – don’t worry, it’s not the case for the vast majority – there are other alternatives to fulfill the dream of Medicine. Other countries offer the possibility of excellent training in medical schools, even better for those who want to practice medicine in practice.
Argentina is one of those countries. With world-renowned quality higher education, free universities, and a completely accessible admission process for foreigners, the neighboring country has been the choice of most Brazilians who decide to study Medicine outside Brazil.
We can help you with the entire university selection, application, enrollment, and immigration process if this is also your option. Talk to us!