European Universities vs. American Universities: We Win

European universities are nothing like American colleges and universities.

That’s the conclusion that I drew during our family’s two-week vacation in Spain and France. We were visiting my daughter Caitlin, who has been attending the University of Barcelona for two semesters.

During the vacation, I kept getting into conversations with Europeans about their universities. I had some knowledge about European universities, but the conversations reinforced what I already believed:

Compared to the European universities, Americans are very, very fortunate to possess their own unique higher-education system.

In Europe, a college education is cheap or even free and offer no frills. In Europe, you won’t find the cute liberal arts colleges where the classes are small and the professors are eager to be mentors. In Europe, classes are typically held lecture-style and professors don’t consider their roles to be mentors.  But size alone doesn’t explain the difference. Most Americans, after all, attend large state schools.

At the University of Barcelona and many other European universities, there is no central campus. The university buildings are scattered across the city. Lots of these buildings look more like office complexes. There is no heart of the university. No quadrangle to meet. No dormitories. No sports teams. No mascots.

In a subway in Paris, I struck up a conversation with a young Parisian attorney, who told me that he had gotten his MBA at the University of Chicago. He said he loved going to the University of Chicago and what he really appreciated was being about to touch his professors. I thought it was a curious choice of words, but Caitlin explained that from her experience in Europe the professors stand on raised platforms during lectures and their desk are equipped with see-through panels that separate them from pupils.

I also struck up a conversation with a physician in Great Britain, who had attended the University of Oxford. He said he wished that Great Britain offered liberal arts colleges as they do in The States. At Oxford, he only got one year to pursue a broad array of liberal arts before he was required to only take courses in his major.

We all like to gripe about higher-education in the United States, with cost being the No. 1 complaint.  I thought, however, that I’d give everyone a reason to feel fortunate that our children will be receiving their college degrees from institutions in this country.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

Further Reading:

German University: Roughing It In College

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  1. Hi Lynn not sure if you’ll be reading this, but I am a professor at a German university. In my class last semester I had 5 students, we were on fist name basis, and they could very much “touch” or interact with me. And they get top-class education for free (also, nobody has ever got shot on our campus). I come from Italy, where I also attended small classes, and paid ca. 2000USD/year for school. Sure in Europe (which, only counting the EU, has 26 countries) we do have our problems, but I am not sure you “win”. I am sure the US have great colleges, and I think we all could profit from learing something fro you guys, but education is pretty good over here, too.

  2. In the United States, if you are talented and more capable than your peers, your PhD studies will be fully funded by the higher education institution. If you cannot qualify for those awards, less competitive institutions will allow you to pay them to work towards their credential with the implicit understanding that your competency and potential is inferior to your peers. That’s the major difference between USA and European doctoral studies. The real question is why anyone would consider pursuing a PhD if they are demonstrably not capable of receiving full funding from the institution. If you are not capable of competing for admission in a given field, find another line of work, or become an autodidact and self-publish. A new PhD who has not significantly contributed to the advancement of a field is pretty much worthless to society. Hard facts but true. It’s not a “fair” world and everyone is not equally endowed.

    1. Clearly it was a post from someone believeing he got all the relevant information in a two weeks vacation in one place in Europe. We are a family of Europeans Americans, meaning born and raised in Italy myself and Germany my wife and we lived long time in the USA and have a daughter that now has decided to study for her bachelor in Europe and not here although she was accepted by some of the best colleges. Some key observations:

      1. Who cares about sport teams, quadrangles and mascots especially if to have them you pay 60k a Year? A university is for an education and that is what you pay for and the value you should get. In European Universities you still will have friends, sport teams from the town, pubs and bars to go out to… the only difference they not part of the university. Here in the USA we are at a point where some colleges are more famous for the football teams than their academics or research.

      2. People that excel in sports not always will be great or motivated students so it is not clear why they should take the place that could have been taken by a great students. You can still be a great athlete and great student you just have to do it in dfferent places

      3. European universities do have dorms and in many cases these are much nicer and spacious than the US ones. (we know not because of our vacation but because we did visit each university here and there)

      4.There is no such thing as a standard European University. Scotland is different from England, England different from Germany and colleges in Holland are different. For instance if you like the freedom of the US system where you do not need to specialize right away you will like Scotland Universities or some Dutch colleges

      5. Bachelor, Master and PHD are different programs. Can argue that some PHD in USA may be worth as it is with completely different financials, focus and resources. A Master in business in a good US school will not teach you anything better than a European one but will be better for networking and getting the buzzwords used in Corporate America (if that is where you want to work)

      6.The ROI. In Europe you can get your bachelor in 3 or 4 years at a global top university for maybe 50,000 US$ in total for 4 years including dorm or apartment vs a US college not even in top 100 worldwide will cost you 250,000 $ or more than100,000 in state, Are these mascots and sports justifying these money?

  3. I think it really depends on the Uni, the Major, and the specific professors. I currently study at the University of Warsaw (Poland), and I have one ~100 person lecture and the rest are 10-20 person classes. I find the professors to be very helpful and willing to engage with students.

    Yes, there are much fewer resources available for students in terms of housing, how to organise your plan (it’s up to each student to register properly for classes) and other “extras,” but it’s great practice for adulthood.

  4. First, universities in Europe are not always cheap or free. For example, I go to a private one. Anyway, money doesn’t guarantee quality, one of the best education systems in the world is in Finland, and it’s all FREE (they also give you money to rent an apartment). Don’t say yours is better when is not the case; you’re just speaking about what you wanted to see.

  5. This is one of the most poorly written blog-styled argumentative essays I have ever read and glorifies everything I hate about American colleges and universities. I’m a young adult attending an American community college and going into massive debt to do so. My debt will go up to $3,000+ a semester when I go to university to complete my BA – if it stays at the same rate it is now. It may very well go up. I’m not here to please immature classmates who can’t separate themselves from their cellphone for 1-2.5 hours to respect their instructors, be harassed by obnoxious mascots, fawn over sports teams, or take part in rallies and events. I have plenty of opportunities off campus to relax and have fun. On campus I am all business because I’m there for my education. If it wasn’t for the fact I’m poor and have actual obligations here in America, I would move to Europe for an education. I have many European friends have received a equal and even better of education in less time, with less distractions. College and universities in Europe are geared more towards the serious student. At least, they are in my experience discussing with my friends, who do still take into consideration the occasional disinterested student. Colleges and universities in America, unfortunately, target themselves towards – I’m going to have to say the only adequate word is “boneheads.” Most of my classmates do not want to be in college and are only attending because their parents told them to. They have no clue or interest being in college. That’s why they need all the distractions.

    1. Well this is probably based on your college selection. If you were to go to different colleges, yes you would find all the same things you would at your college, yet with other students who are there for the main purpose of colleges which is to study and get a degree. What’s wrong with participating in on-campus events anyways? Supporting your school in different events is a wonderful thing to do. As for education itself, there are plenty of schools which provide honors programs for students who wish to have a more rigorous education, so you are in the wrong here.

  6. To believe Spanish universities and French universities are representative of Swiss, German, Dutch, Danish universities shows incredible ignorance.

    1. Your being as ignorant as the writer of the post. You cant say that without even knowing the name of any French or Spaniard university. French has the best aeronautical and aerospace university in Europe, said from a aeronautical Spanish student.

  7. PhDs in the U.S, at least in most of the science fields that I am familiar with, are payed for by the school, usually pretty handsomely. Math PhDs in top 30 schools always receive upwards of $30k grants a year and an additional paycheck for the courses they teach. If cost is why you are shying away from applying to a US PhD program, I’m pretty sure that if you are studying a science you will find a school that pays for you, that’s how it’s always worked.

    If you are smart the U.S can offer you more opportunities for education and employment than any other place. People who throw away 100k for an undergrad and 2 years of a masters program have no guidance and no sensitivity whatsoever for the workings of the job market. You can get good public school education for $5k a year including a master’s degree and if you are excelling academically graduate programs will be glad to have you. America is what it has always been, if you are smart you will do really great, if you are dumb you will fall victim to each and every vulture waiting to pounce down on you, from private colleges to the pharmaceutical mobsters. Germany, the U.K and other northern european countries are great, but there is no Silicon Valley, there is no Wall Street, there is no Cambridge, MA. Certainly there are great programs, often better than their American counterparts, but there’s just not enough money and economic activity to compare with what’s happening in the big American metropolis.

    Of course, you need to remember that Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, all these southern european nations are far poorer than their northern counterparts, you cannot talk about Spain and Norway under the “european” umbrella, their facilities and economies are very different.

  8. In your piece about Lynn you introduce yourself as a higher-educated journalist. Then why do I find myself thinking that school projects I made when I was 12 had more depth to them than this rubbish article with a lot of highly irrelevant research (or perhaps the lack of it). I’m Dutch and also studying in the Netherlands. In contrast of what you’re saying I have classes of about 20 people and we use problems based a learning (PBL) which means we work in groups of 5 to 6 people solving real life problems for actual companies. We have big lectures only once or twice a month (one of many faults in your article). At my study about 50% of the people are foreigners because of this very effective and fun way of learning. That all comes at a price of not even 2k a year for Dutch or European students and I believe 6k for non-European students, so compare that with your ‘great’ american system where students start with a dept of around 200k when they finish university. We have an average of 1 teacher for every 10 students so it’s not unpersonal in any kind of way. Apparently school mascots are important for you, well we don’t have those and I don’t think you would find any student in Europe who says that they miss it.
    So Lynn, next time you write an article do your homework and don’t call yourself an expert when you’re clearly not and I hope people who read this article don’t take it serious in any kind of way but do your own research and you will find very interesting and different facts than this article gives you.

  9. …European universities are nothing like American colleges and universities.


    …We were visiting my daughter Caitlin, who has been attending the University of Barcelona for two semesters.


    …During the vacation, I kept getting into conversations with Europeans about their universities. I had some knowledge about European universities, but the conversations reinforced what I already believed.


    …Compared to the European universities, Americans are very, very fortunate to possess their own unique higher-education system.


    …In Europe, you won’t find the cute liberal arts colleges where the classes are small and the professors are eager to be mentors. In Europe, classes are typically held lecture-style and professors don’t consider their roles to be mentors.


    …But size alone doesn’t explain the difference. Most Americans, after all, attend large state schools.


    …At the University of Barcelona and many other European universities, there is no central campus. The university buildings are scattered across the city. Lots of these buildings look more like office complexes. There is no heart of the university. No quadrangle to meet. No dormitories. No sports teams. No mascots.


    —I wil put it to a vote: shall I continue? —-

  10. Level of higher education in most European countries is far more superior than United States essentially speaking. For example level of math, statistics and econometrics in most European schools greatly exceeds corresponding level in the US. Passing math or econometrics in European Business or Economics colleges drains you out completely even if you are an expert. In US Business Schools that skill leaves much to be desired… working with calculus, integration, stochastic processes etc… is a nightmare for American students

    1. It’s hard to make your points about education when you type them out in all caps. It really counteracts tem. Just food for thought…

  11. In all seriousness? You were able to assess the quality of the European academic institutions within a two-week family holiday? Gosh, you must have been working a lot during that time. Respect!

    First off, Spain, France and the UK aren’t representative for the whole of Europe. Secondly, journalism is supposed to be neutral (i.e. unbiased etc)…putting a “We win” into the headline therefore isn’t very professional (you already lost me as a reader even before the article actually starts). Thirdly, the points that you do actually make are ridiculous, like “The buildings look more like office complexes”, “the buildings are scattered across the city” and so on. This may apply to some European universities but definitely not to the majority. And even if that was true for every university in Europe, what would be the problem? People usually don’t attend university to look at beautiful buildings. And guess what, students can meet outside a university campus just as well. I could go on like that for hours because there is not a single sentence that I can agree on but I got better things to do.

    Read the following article and tell your readers again that they should feel fortunate for their kids to be receiving their degrees in the US while education is regarded as a human right in most European countries like Germany and therefore free, thus so extremely worse than in the US.

    Btw after reading the article I just had to know who is responsible for such poor content so I read through (your) “About Lynn”-site……….coming across statements like “Best-selling author/journalist” …I heavily doubt that. At least with the quality standards applied to the article about European universities you wouldn’t even get an internship position at any publisher, at least in Europe you wouldn’t. Most definitely not.

    Overestimating yourself maybe? !
    And not by a little!

    My suggestion for the future: think first, then write. And thinking implies getting some proper information in your head first (hint: biases, clichés etc. are not considered as proper information, at least not by intelligent people).

    1. The “problem” as you would say is not in the European education system. The real problem is in American students expectations. See, what Europeans don’t understand when you sneer at those of us in the US who are resistant to paying for higher education here, is a lot of these poor, poor students clamoring for a free education in the US are expecting that to come with all the trappings they get now at University for free. You think what you read and heard about is unreal, you should come visit a typical US University with expensive “rec centers” that are state-of-the-art with fancy, expensive equipment most of us can’t afford ourselves as far as gyms. Check out the dorm rooms with their fancy dining halls, and some of the newer dorms are pretty damn nice themselves. Take a walk around the multi, multi million dollar athletic complexes, the student common areas, etc. All of these are included in that tuition. Think I’m kidding? Check this out.

      That doesn’t even touch on the Professors who make big salaries, and are tenured. All the while, rarely teaching, and leaving it to teacher assistants while they go off and try and make the University a profit through research grants, etc. So we’re expected to pay their bloated salaries while they’re off making universities money?

      See, I could consider getting behind paying for college if it was basic and focused on actual education like Europe, but to even get to that point, they’d have to completely dismantle the current system, and not only hold Universities to strict standards, but tell the students they don’t get to have that experience anymore. Also, tell a large percentage that they don’t even get to go, because unlike the US, Europe tends to have lower enrollment rates, and many opt for vocational schools.

      Honestly, college here is awesome (aside from the cost.) it’s an amazing experience, and if you have discipline, you can get a great education. But as this blog highlights, American ideas of college are way off from those of European standards. Which is why I get irritated at students who don’t know better calling for free education, yet expecting nothing to change in order to make that happen.

  12. I don’t find any value in your arguments and wouldn’t buy your book. Sounds like most other commenters agree. There’s too much anger about the high cost and low benefit to American colleges, and you’re not going to change our minds with your fluff.

    1. Ver interesting to read for someone in the process of choosing where to go to college. I agree, rankings give you no real information. Does anyone know about art colleges? Faculty and teaching quality is what I am looking at………..? Interiors and space design. All colleges are always stronger in some areas than others, though they may offer a whole range of subjects. Europe or the U.S?

  13. ‘No sports teams. No mascots.’

    The author just made us all look like idiots with these two lines. You go to college to learn, not to play sports, not to go to prep rallies, not to learn libral arts that your lazy butt should be learning and reading on your own. You learn. Either learn or stop whining and drop out. Or better yet, go get a fake a$$ degree from North Carolina if you can’t handle real schooling.

  14. I am an American applying to Universities in America and I find it ridiculous that you pass off the fact that colleges are expensive here as something that seems to be no big deal. I am currently upset right now because my dream school is too expensive (60k a year??) and the other schools do ask for a lot as well. I want to go to medical school eventually so I really can’t place myself in debt during undergrad. Money should not prevent us from receiving an adequate education and I honestly wish Universities were cheaper here like they are in Europe. money is a huge deal especially since student loan debts are even worse than credit card debts here

  15. The British and the US research are made for rankings, nobel prizes and upper-classes, the German research is made for the manufacturing sector and the world market. You have several universities and “Hochschulen” in a radius of 100 kilometers all over Germany. Everybody can study. This is the difference. In reality the US are just as long attractive for foreign scientists as the FED simulates growth! I miss any efficiency in the US system. There is a huge disproportion between the ranking of US universities and the real impact of US goods on the world market. Of course the US have very good high-tech products, but a economy of 320 million people cannot live from some top-research centers and some giants like Apple, Microsoft, Boing, Intel etc. Where is the niche research in US? Where is the foundation of the American system?

  16. I have been educated in 3 countries.

    I’m sorry, but your naive assumptions fail to do European institutes justice. Firstly, in Europe, if you cannot read and write at a high level, college and university are out of your league…they only accept the top eschelons. As a result, people are there to study and acquire knowledge and thought processes, not some warm, fuzzy feeling on a campus.

    There is a lot of socializing…academic socializing, not puking with your frat brats because you had too much alcohol or pot. I hate to say it, but i would put a vocational school grad in europe’s 12th grade equivalent against American highschoolers, and i am pretty sure who is going to succeedd. Unfortunately, statistcs bear this out.

    As for lack of mentors, that is utter rubbish. Introductory classes are often auditorium style, but there are small group breakouts. Higher level classes sometimes only had four or five students.

    America will regain its former glory when it values education and teachers, not curricula, sports stars, business giants or buildings. We spend more per capita on compulsory education and have significantly less to show for it.

  17. Your article is clearly biased and you need to reconsider your point of view about European college education. After getting my bachelor in France I have been brought to teach my mother tongue in the U.S

    These 3 years of studying gave me an almost fluent level in English, more than enough to be able to teach there by myself. But when I see the level of the students attending college in America (especially the foreign languages classes), I can only be depressed by how these guys waste their money everyday. None of them, even among the seniors or those who actually been to a foreign country, are fluent, or even advanced in the idiom they are studying.

    To provide a fresh perspective here, I had the feeling that students in my department were constantly being seduced into staying in classes where the level was so low that it could have been compared to what you would do in a random high school. As a company, I would definitely NOT have hired any person coming from there, even though they can mention a major/minor in their resume, because they can actually do very little when it comes to speaking or even writing.

    To conclude, free education gave me critical thinking, a great deal of knowledge, maturity, and the possibility to dedicate entirely to my studies without having to take a job on the side because tuition is too expensive. Expensive private universities are robbing their students who will never get the knowledge and discipline they deserve for these prices, and are lowering the educational level of their country. They get rich, though.

  18. My personal opinion on education in Europe versus USA is that in Europe you benefit from low cost higher education and similar yer lower quality schooling. This being said, the majority of the tuition fees a person is expected to pay in America is covered by ludicrously high sales and income taxes.

    The US university system works differently but there are still cheaper alternatives by going to a community/state run college first then transferring you credits over to a 4 year institution and finishing off your 2 years and getting your bachelor’s. USA also provides other incentives for those that excel at sport and very bright and talented and sometimes offer a massive discount on their tuition. Also investing money in your education most likely pays off and enables you to get a higher paying job. The US on average earns per capita a lot lot more than the most europeans and taxes are lower. The reason for this is that the individual must look after their own affairs.

    Europe offers low cost education but the ability to earn the same as someone in USA is unlikely. So it works out in the end, spend less, earn less. Spend more, earn more.

    Both systems have their problems and benefits but i personally prefer the US system but requires a lot of debt upfront in order to a degree. Europe requires less of personal investment but the opportunities and earnings are far limited.

    I think europe has a more fairer system for all and the US has a reward based system. Put in the money and the work and you get it back plus more.

    I would class both as a tie because it is too hard to decide what is a pro or a con of either education system.

  19. I’m studying in the Czech republic (Graduate school) and I’ve been to US last month as a turist. I was talking with a math professor who teaches undergraduate students. I asked him to show me the books they use in the classes. When I saw them what he teaches, I was literally shocked. I’ve done all this stuff in my gymnazium (high school).

    I paid nothing when I was in high school and I pay nothing in my university. However I’m getting a better education than some people in US who pay thousands of dollars per month.

    So next time please think before you blink.

  20. Your arguments are the most superficial ones I have ever heard. You should definitely continue attending your U.S. University. You will undoubtedly find those great things there… plus a great debt to enjoy for many years…

  21. I think your arguments are invalid…
    Do you know that the education system in Europe is WAY better than the American one (i’m only referring to USA). For example, what kids in USA learn in high school, we already know it from way earlier…
    In terms of university, Europe has some great ones and we do have dorms (at least in mine)…and as for the mascot thing, well that’s an American thing…

    1. I think what a lot of people neglect when criticizing American schools is that in the USA, there is a whole new variable which is unmatched in any other country. There are so many immigrants and diverse students all attending the same schools. Teachers are faced with the task of teaching every student the same information and its a lot harder when there are cultural and language barriers. The schooling may not be as good in the US, but that;s just because it’s harder to teach.

      I’m glad that i’m an IB Student here in Massachusetts (which by the way has way better colleges than anywhere else in the world).

      1. “so many immigrants”
        yeah and Europe is famous to have really locked borders and long distances between the single countries…

        The US education has 2 main problems:
        – the fear to “kick the backside” of the students. Everybody becomes a prize or they put the name on a wall for something special. Contrary where I go they tell you “Giddyap! You still need a lot of work for a Nobel”.

        – Confidence: the most believe that the own school is so cool, nice mascottes and so on. And the rest consequently rubbish. One day somebody from a normal backwood school of the US asked me about my school: “Never heard about it”… “Ever heard something from Albert Einstein? He is an alumni”…and then slowly the confidence disappears.

    2. The US educational system COSTS. TOO. MUCH. Period. I already have one Bachelor’s, one Master’s, a law degree, and a secondary Mathematics teaching license from several US states, and I’m done. Finished. Finished drowning in debt paying for things that all seem NOT to get me jobs anywhere these days. People from almost every European country I’ve ever met seem to have learned way more in their version of “high school” or “A level” or “ecole secondaire” than what passes for college-level education in the States lately. Ever heard of this concept called “the dumbing down of America….”? America teaches at the college level, maths and sciences that I’m sure Europe teaches in their high schools….at the very LEAST. And the same or similar levels of college education take less time in European universities than their American counterparts – probably precisely because those “liberal arts” and “general education” classes aren’t required. The liberal arts classes are a waste of time for Math or Science or Engineering majors anyway. Those requirements add one to two years’ worth of time, and being the US where you’re paying for it out of pocket, MONEY to the grand total. I”m looking forward to NOT having to work my butt off trying to do the “work-study” thing while doing my PhD somewhere in either France, Belgium or Finland; as an EU citizen I won’t come out of it with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of MORE debt. The “value” of another STEM degree nonwithstanding – that’s why I don’t want to go into more debt doing it.

      And for those who insist that the STEM fields in the USA are “free” at the PhD level – that’s only for the well-connected or the fortunate. I’m going to where university education is “free” for EVERYONE who wants it, not just “those who come highly recommended” or whatever.

      Furthermore; as female, minority, and a Math and Physics major, I’m sick and tired of the US job market in those fields. There ARE other countries that treat brown-skinned women in the STEM fields, better than the USA. Someone at UC Santa Barbara recently published a study on it: it’s third world countries.

  22. Hello people

    Here is what I have experienced.

    I am looking at Uni of Helsinki, Finland, and looking at UCLA / CSU systems.
    Hands down Uni of Helsinki wins in CompSci. they got more classes and more budget to do stuff than UC.CSU … CSU Northridge computer science is a joke!

    Here comes another issue which is driving me bananas.
    Here in the US, a student is driven to get an A. When he/she is out of the class, everything he/she learned flies out!
    You do not see this in Europe, you are taught to think.

    Right now i am sitting in community college just for the kicks picking up comp sci classes and i realized that if you dont sit your ass down and teach yourself, professor will not be able to help cause he/she is has 40 people who either need a class just to get financial aid or just
    refresh and not helping the ones that need help. SOOO having said that… If you want to learn, YOU WILL LEARN regardless of the school cost. US school cost is a disaster it does not justify the cost. European school is better in many many ways.

  23. I emailed them not that long after I posted that
    Just waiting for response back. I have to agree that American universitys are just money based. I looked into m.I.t its like 160000 for 4 years its redicul1us

    1. I’ve noticed that, too, as a public school high school Maths teacher: I’d have kids show up whenever they wanted, not pay attention to me while I was explaining the concept (this was an Algebra “2” class) not do any of the work, turn in NOTHING, and then want me to “give” them a B when they hadn’t done anything at all. Then they’d say that I was the one who “hadn’t taught” the lesson. Can the teacher help it if, when she IS trying to teach, they’re either not there at all or they’re not listening?!

      This is part of the reason for my aforementioned comment about being DONE with the United States!! THAT was and has been the “best” job I’ve been able to get with my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Mathematics teaching license in the last 10-15 years or so.

      I’m waiting “with baited breath” for the French Embassy to send me my passport – sometimes I can’t stand it!!

  24. I am looking to attnd the. Uni. versitià di bologna I have heard from one person that it costs thousands apon thousands of dollars but I heard from the new York times that international students only pay like $1500 a year which should I believe

  25. I was so discouraged when I read the article because I am an American and I want to go to a European university for a degree in creative writing. I was happy to read the comments and find out that the article is complete rubbish! It’s nearly impossible to find reliable information about European universities! Everyone here is much like the article, so convinced that America is the “god” of higher-level of education that no one tells me anything. If anyone has any real information to help me e-mail me at!

    1. You’re right. To contact the universities in Europe directly requires precisely that: contacting them directly. Each. Take it country-by-country. I started with Switzerland, then Belgium, then France for the heck of it (besides, Universite de Pierre et Marie Curie is in Paris; so since I”m looking at Mathematical Computational Physics I “had to” look at the ones in France…) and have Finland, Norway and Sweden “on the back burner.” You see, “the price is right.” Besides, I can always then, a decade from now, take that PhD and go off to some country where minority women in maths and sciences can get jobs…in other words, NOT the USA. (And what I do NOT mean is being a “token” – getting the Physics or Math job just because the hiring manager thinks you look like some kind of prostitute and likes your boobs. Gross. I’ll get fluent in Spanish and go to CUBA if that’s what it takes….)

  26. From your comments it seems that you have a very limited perspective, probably based upon your limited experience with this subject and possibly due to the bias from the few people you interviewed.
    I would suggest that in order to put forth a more open-minded article for those people seeking information that you would look further into the subject. Being an educator in the USA and having been a European university student, I have an insight into both sides. I am neither American nor European.
    Your article reads like an American 6th grade essay! It is vague,lacking research, narrow-minded and utterly mis-leading. I truly hope no one is reading this looking for valid information.

  27. You clearly are the typical “dumb American” brainwashed to believe everything American is better. And for the record I live in the USA so no I am not “anti-USA”, I am however, anti stupidity..
    you do realize that European education is of a much higher level than American right .. ? Read into a few official studies about the subject and you’ll quickly feel sorry for ever writing such a completely ridiculous article..

    1. Agreed! I have people on Facebook constantly feeling a need to tell me that THEY somehow got their PhD in Maths for free right here in the good ol’ USA…every time I mention the lack of tuition in Finland, to someone else. If they’re so “smart” how do they NOT know that the European system of education is not only free for EVERYONE (certain countries) but of higher quality (most countries) than the American one?! I wonder how someone got a MATH degree when they’re that stupid….

      In Europe (and probably parts of Asia as well) people get as much “book knowledge” in their version of “high school” as Americans get in a four-year Bachelor’s degree…and it’s been going steadily downhill in the past 3 decades or so. I got my Bachelor’s degree from M.I.T. in the 1990’s – but people still treat me like they’re surprised I can read and I get a lot of “can you even DO Maths” sort of rubbish from people (in person, not usually online or over the telephone). Well, MIT and Yale have never, certainly not back in the 90’s, accepted anyone who scored less than 95th percentile on the ACT’s – and I scored in the 97th percentile. Now as I take a step back, I realise that part of why I get treated the way I do about my education is the fact that people then rush to defend themselves with “but you look young.” As in, I look like I’m part of that generation for which the dumbing down of America has taken its toll – those in their 20’s. This is why I don’t take that I “look” 20 years younger than I am, as any kind of compliment, as it’s meant as an insult to my intelligence!!

  28. Wow, this article is so vague and misleading. You need a broader perspective on European universities. I go to uni in Maastricht, Holland and we have small classes where teachers see themselves as mentors and help you. Don’t be so close-minded about this and visit more places. Barcelona is something special but a great university

  29. That´s so wrong what you publish here. I am from Germany and I KNOW that German and other colleges in Europe have a very high standard and great education! That´s why germany and others are likely to get jobs in foreign countries since people know that our education is really good. I am German and I am studying in Utah currently, it is great, but very expensive and I think i will pursue a PhD in Europe somewhere.

  30. Your idea of higher education seems to be highly flawed.

    1. “In Europe, you won’t find the cute liberal arts colleges where the classes are small and the professors are eager to be mentors.” You don’t usually find that in American universities either. That’s for K-12th grade. You’re at college to become an adult, further your education, and learn to do things on your own. If your student still needs personal attention and a “mentor” they shouldn’t be in college.

    2. “Lots of these buildings look more like office complexes. There is no heart of the university. No quadrangle to meet. No dormitories. No sports teams. No mascots.” Again, this is higher education we’re talking about. Sure these things might be fun in America, but if anything they distract students from their REAL mission in college, and that’s to be successful, mature, and get a better education.

    3. “At Oxford, he only got one year to pursue a broad array of liberal arts before he was required to only take courses in his major.” That’s the whole reason we major in college. This is what college is FOR. We get a board enough education and plenty of chances to pursue interests in middle/high school. College is about preparing you for a professional job, which means you need to be focusing on your major.

    You also don’t really seem to state why these things are “bad” from an educational point of view. You may have talked to a few people, but you can do that here in America an find a lot of dissatisfied students. Nowhere in this article do you discuss the level of education they receive. If their schools are cheaper (often free) and they get a similar education, is it really worth it to Americans to spend thousands of dollars a year for things like mascots and sports? You need to research more countries and interview a large range of people before you make assumptions. Your idea of life in college even in America seems really flawed. I have a BA degree from Texas Tech University and working on my masters from New York University.

    1. As an English professor in Germany, I completely agree with the Lynn. The degree of education you receive in the United States is far better than the degree you receive abroad. That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. Oxford and Cambridge are examples of these exceptions.

      In the top 10 schools, the US takes credit for 80%, while the UK takes credit for the other 20%

  31. The need to have comforters/pacifiers like quads and mascots is typical of a dumbed down sickly sweet country that hasn’t grown up…

  32. College is not just for sports, mascots, etc. We have this in American high schools. I attend college in Germany, and frankly, I believe that not only is the education better here, but I also don’t miss the school sports, raggy mascot costumes, but yes, most of all I don’t miss waking up knowing I will need to work half my life for my education. I agree with the statement above. You were there for two weeks.

      1. A ranking is something for politicians, not for scientists. Scientists research at institutes in Germany not at universities. I think, the US rankings are garbage. You cannot compare different systems. US universities need a good ranking of course — they are mainly financed by private institutions. Therefore they make their o w n chauvinistic rankings. It is easy for an institution like the Havard University to claim to be the “best” in the World. This is just the size, not the quality! Do you really think, that the “old-fashioned” nobel prize committee is objective?

  33. I got my BA in political science at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, briefly attended the University of Baltimore Law School (I eventually left law school in good standing due to general disillusionment with the legal industry) and later completed my MSc in International Relations and foreign languages at Royal Holloway, University of London in Egham, Surrey, UK and also received certificate degrees in foreign languages from the London School of Economics and Political Science in London and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

    I must say that your perspective is baffling to me and it really doesn’t appear that you’ve done any serious investigation into the subject. My time at these two school as well as within both the UK and US educational systems made me realize some sad truths about what I had always believed about US education. Sadly, it’s primarily money driven for one thing and the education in our liberal arts colleges is mainly fluff…good parties though, those I did enjoy but the education wasn’t as good as I got elsewhere (and there are apparently only 39 other colleges ranked higher than mine in the US) and then there is the price and the loans. I paid 3 times what my EU counterparts did to get a masters and it was still a deal compared to what my expenses would have been in the US. Plus, I feel I got so much more than I ever could have in the US; I doubt you would see the advantages during a 2 week family vacation.

    I want to get a PhD but I want to keep the loans down. I’ve already completely and totally given up on applying to US school because my experience has taught me that, frankly (and I hate saying this), they are more expensive and nowhere near as good as my options elsewhere. And, while I almost want to go to a US school based on sheer patriotism, I realize how foolish that would be (the same US school system is keeping so many in massive debt).

    So, my question to you is, if I have to take US based loans, which would you advise. Additionally, what are your thoughts on this.. or any thing related to getting rid of existing loans. Can I return my degree for a refund? Thanks

    1. If you’re that patriotic, then by all means stay in the US and stay in debt. You dropped out of law school – good one, because nothing in the legal profession in the US will ever hire you drowning in student loan debt. You also wouldn’t get admitted to most states’ Bar associations after they checked your credit from all that student loan debt.

      Why bother wondering if you could return your US PhD for a refund if you couldn’t get out of the debt it got you into – just go somewhere where it’s free, then you won’t have wasted money on top of time.

  34. You need a wider perspective. Visit institutions in Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and other countries and then come back to the table.