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Central and eastern Europe

Bach, business and borscht

Studying in central and eastern Europe is increasingly popular and, according to those who have done it, quite deservedly so. The fine arts and basic sciences have traditionally been taught at a very high level in the region, and western students are also pursuing subjects such as economics and business studies here.

Growing reputation
It may be hard to imagine the immediate benefit of studying economics in a country where, until very recently, teaching in this field was guided by principles entirely foreign to people in many other countries. But the region is now the fastest-growing trade partner and market for the EU, with the first countries scheduled for accession into the union as early as 2005. Links with other parts of the world are also growing, so acquiring experience of countries such as Poland and Hungary is almost guaranteed to yield results in a later career.

The price is right
The biggest attraction for many students considering full-time study in central and eastern Europe is undoubtedly the price tag. Although prices have risen sharply in recent years, the programmes that are most expensive in western Europe – such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences – still cost only US$7,000 to US$10,000 per year in the Czech Republic and Hungary, and a mere US$3,000 per year in Estonia (Tartu). Fees in Poland are slightly higher.

The average cost of living for two semesters in central Europe is about US$2,500 to US$3,000. Most universities provide access to very cheap dorms, but the facilities are often extremely basic. Even in Prague and Budapest, private accommodation is still affordable by western standards, and food is cheap if you learn to shop with the locals.

Top destinations
The most popular destinations for western students are Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. The availability of English language courses, together with the well-organised provision of information for foreign students, makes Hungary the most accessible of all countries in the region. The prestigious Eötvös Lórand University in Budapest attracts the most foreign students, but other universities in the capital, and in Pécs, Debrecen and Szeged, offer excellent courses too.

As for Poland, the Jagiellonian University in historic Cracow is the main magnet, but it has been slow to develop a broad offering of courses taught in English. Many foreign students also choose to study in Warsaw, Lodz and Wroclaw. The Technical University of Wroclaw has developed a recognition system that is far more advanced than those of many western European universities, and other Polish universities are following the example. Its counterpart in Lodz has an international faculty where all teaching is conducted in English.

In the Czech Republic, restrictive legislation in place until early 1999 somewhat hampered the development of a strong international culture. But the demand for places in the country is high, particularly in Prague, and things have developed rapidly in recent years.

Admissions regulations continue to change frequently though, so check one of the websites in the box ‘Further information’ or contact an international office at one of the Czech universities before planning your application. Apart from Prague, the two universities of Bratislava and Palacky University in Olomouc are also particularly worth checking out.

Further information
A guide to the education systems and useful resources in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are also online. For other central and eastern European nations, try these websites as starting points:

Bulgaria: www.acad.bg/servers.html
Estonia: www.vm.ee/eng/estoday
Latvia: www.aic.lv
Lithuania: www.ktu.lt/en
Romania: www.infotin.ro/cd
Slovakia: www.uniba.sk
Slovenia: www.uni-lj.si/UoL/