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“Budget-friendly” destinations gaining momentum in Europe

Demand for lower-cost and budget-friendly destinations are gaining strong momentum in Europe as international students look to tighten their belts, new data from Studyportals has suggested.

Italy has been gaining traction in demand for both bachelor's and master's degrees, from countries both in and out of the EEA. Photo: Pexels

Italy has seen absolute demand rise by a staggering 45% in the last 12 months

The star of the show is Italy, which has seen absolute demand rise by a staggering 45% in the last 12 months.

Portugal is also seeing a big rise, with just under 29%, as is Poland, with just over 28%.

“Italy has been gaining momentum as a more budget-friendly destination for students,” Cara Skikne, Studyportals senior editor, told The PIE News.

“This, together with the high quality of education and good scholarship programs has meant rising student demand.

“The cost of studying and living in Italy is low, especially in smaller cities – universities are offering support to new students in finding accommodation, giving scholarships, waiving tuition fees, among others measures,” Skikne explained.

Italy, she said, has been heavily marketing itself as being student budget-friendly, especially in terms of its low living costs.

Within the EEA, interest is also up for Italy by 18%, which Skikne puts down to interest from Turkey, the UK and the Netherlands – but it’s outside the EEA which has seen the biggest shift.

“Student interest from non-EEA students has surged even more – up by 52%. This strong growth in interest is driven by a surge in students from Iran, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” said Skikne.

The focus on budget friendly options may also account for the surge in interest in Portugal and Poland.

“The cost of studying and living in Italy is low, especially in smaller cities”

According to postgrad, Portugal’s living costs are extremely low, with a room in the country’s capital Lisbon starting at just 250 euros, while all of Poland’s cities also rank low in living costs with a room starting at just 150 euros in Krakow.

In terms of bachelor’s versus master’s degrees, Italy also leads across the board there too, with a 55% rise in demand in bachelor’s degrees and 43% in Master’s, where Poland and Portugal follow in the leading spots.

With bachelor’s degrees, however, Spain and Belgium follow close behind Italy, with 41% and 38% respectively.

Denmarks’ data is not as positive – the country is seeing the highest decline in student interest with an almost 7% drop over the last year.

It also saw a staggering 20% drop in interest for bachelor’s degrees.

In master’s degrees, Iceland suffered the most with a 7% decrease in the last 12 months, compared to 2020-21.

“The number of English-taught programs in Denmark has fallen from 518 in 20129 to 353 in 2022 – the government is focusing on reducing the English-taught courses from universities,” Skikne commented.

Previous estimates from Studyportals also say that a student on average would need up to €1,200 a month to live in Denmark, making it one of the more expensive student destinations in Europe.

European students are slowly but surely leaving the UK behind, as it suffered by far the highest drop in demand from those in the EEA – but it isn’t all bad news for UK universities.

“Between July 2019 and May 2022, EEA students got less interested in studying in the UK, especially post Brexit… the dramatic 25% drop in student interest from EEA after Brexit has been more than offset by a 33% growth in student interest from non-EEA countries. Total pageviews rose 21%,” explained Skikne.

“Germany remains the number one destination in Europe, but relative interest is waning”

Also gaining traction with non EEA students is Malta, which saw a 42% rise in demand, as well as Italy which topped demand with over 50% more in the last 12 months compared to the previous 12.

Skikne also believes it’ would be worth watching Germany, as current trends suggest it could face demand issues.

“Germany remains the number one destination in Europe, but relative interest is waning,” Skikne observed.

“While it gained 1% pageviews in absolute terms, in relative terms Germany noted a negative change in demand as a result of a decreased share of total pageviews from 16% to 15%.

“Each year the number for students searching on Studyportals platforms increases – but interest for Germany rising by just 1.2% is well below the average growth rate,” she added.

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