Choice of Higher Education Institution for Study Abroad

If you are planning to study abroad, you have to think about many things and make some decisions. These should be well thought out so that the study abroad program can be a success – both personally and academically. Of course, the choice of a suitable university also plays an important role.

Criteria for choosing a university for studying abroad

Just as with the choice of study country for studying abroad, there are a number of possible criteria for choosing a higher education institution. These are individually weighted by prospective international students. So it cannot be said in general terms that one criterion is more important than the other. Below we have compiled a series of criteria that should be used when deciding on a university abroad.

Location of the university abroad

This location can play an important role in choosing a university for studying abroad. If you are planning to study abroad, you should first consider whether you would like to study in a large city or in a rural area. There are numerous exciting university locations abroad for friends of urban and rural life.

Some of them already know which city they want to study in. Then it is of course advisable to look for suitable universities in this city.

The location of the university has an impact on many areas of life abroad, whereby each location can have individual advantages and disadvantages. For example, it influences the cost of living, which is usually higher in the city than in rural areas. Leisure activities are also to some extent influenced by the choice of location. Lovers of museums, shopping and clubs, for example, are probably more likely to prefer the big city. Outdoor fans, on the other hand, feel more comfortable in the countryside or in small towns.

Size of the university abroad

Huge campus university or small college with a family atmosphere? This is also a point on which prospective foreign students should think about. A large university with many students offers a spacious campus, usually with beautiful green areas, sports facilities, restaurants and shops. Normally, large universities also have a wide range of leisure activities on campus. At a university with a smaller number of students, the campus is usually also smaller. In addition, there are usually fewer students enrolled in the subjects of the university. This increases the chance of attending more than one course with the same person and thus quickly catching up. No matter whether you are a fellow student, lecturer or other staff member of the university: At a small institution, you often walk over each other and see familiar faces. This makes the study atmosphere a little more personal.

As a rule, however, both large and small universities offer international students ample opportunities to establish contacts outside the classroom as well.

Sponsorship of the foreign university

A criterion for choosing a higher education institution for studying abroad can also be the sponsorship of the educational institution. In general, there are two types of higher education institutions:

  • State Universities
  • Private universities

Whether public or private universities make up the majority in the higher education landscape varies from country to country. In the higher education landscape in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, for example, state institutions dominate the universities. Private universities are few or none at all. In the US, on the other hand, there are more private than state universities.

Private universities often charge higher tuition fees than state-run universities. However, they usually offer more service and are better equipped. But this does not mean that state universities are bad. In the USA, the elite universities of the so-called Ivy League are all privately owned. However, there are also a number of state-run universities in the USA, which enjoy an excellent international reputation and regularly rank among the top universities in various university rankings. And in Australia, for example, where private universities play only a minor role, all the universities of Australia’s most important higher education network, the Group of Eight, are state-run universities.

Before choosing a higher education institution abroad, it is generally advisable to consider the importance of state and private institutions in the country of study.


An objectively very important criterion is the accreditation of the university and the institute. On the one hand, it can have an effect on the recognition of a degree obtained abroad and on the other hand, it can also have an effect on the possibilities for funding a study abroad. A degree from a non-accredited university in the USA, for example, is not recognised in Germany. Accreditations are an important means of quality assurance not only for entire universities, but also for individual institutes and programmes. They play an important role, particularly in the field of economics and business schools at universities.

University reputation and ranking results

The reputation of the university is also important to many students who travel abroad. National and international university rankings can provide an indication of the reputation of a university. They can also allow conclusions to be drawn about the research and study situation. However, many well-known international university rankings, such as the ARWU, QS-Ranking or THE-Ranking, tend to focus on research.

When choosing a higher education institution for studying abroad, the question arises as to how important personal reputation and ranking results are to you. If you want to study at a university that is very well placed in rankings, you have to expect to be challenged there. If one would rather spend a relaxed time abroad and spend a lot of time with new friends, celebrate student parties and discover the study country while travelling, such a university is probably less suitable. Especially for students who spend a semester abroad, such things often play a role. In this respect, reputation and rankings may well fall short of other criteria. On the other hand, it is often the case for students who plan to study full time abroad. No wonder, after all, graduating from a top university can open many doors in professional life. But also a semester abroad at a renowned university is always good on the resume.

University equipment

An important factor in choosing a university for studying abroad can also be its equipment. Anyone who attaches great importance to state-of-the-art equipment such as state-of-the-art multimedia technology, smart classrooms or new laboratory equipment should find out in advance to what extent the foreign university meets these requirements.

Studies and courses offered by the university abroad

A decisive aspect in choosing a higher education institution is the degree and course offerings of a foreign university. After all, this is the basic prerequisite for successful study abroad. If you want to do a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree abroad or do a doctorate there, you must of course clarify in advance whether the university actually offers the desired course of study. For semester students, the following questions regarding the course offer are important for the choice of semester students:

  • Does the university offer courses that interest me?
  • Are the courses offered at the university that I need for my studies and can be credited to my home university?


Studying abroad always involves costs. Prospective foreign students must therefore ask themselves how much money they can or want to invest in their studies abroad.

In many countries, tuition fees are a major cost factor for studying abroad. The amount of the fees can therefore be decisive when choosing a higher education institution for studying abroad. These can also vary widely within a country of study.

A full course of study or semester abroad must also be financed. In addition to the BAföG and student loans abroad, scholarships are also an option. When choosing a university, it may be worthwhile to make sure that the universities award scholarships for international students. These can help to cover the costs of studying abroad.

Semester dates of the university

A selection criterion for students planning a semester abroad or a summer session is the semester dates of the foreign universities. After all, they must not collide with the lecture and examination period at their home university. There are universities abroad with semester or trimester system, some of them offer additional summer sessions.

Admission requirements

Do I have a chance of being admitted to this university? Students should also ask themselves this question when choosing a university. The chances of being admitted as a freemover for a semester abroad are generally very good. For this purpose, students usually only need the Abitur (Abitur) and have to prove that they have sufficient English language skills through standardized language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. However, the minimum scores required for admission in these tests vary from university to university. Some universities also require applicants for a semester abroad to have a certain grade average in their previous studies. The barriers to admission for a semester abroad therefore vary from university to university.

Of course, the same applies to a full course of study abroad, although applicants often have to fulfil even more admission requirements than semester students. In addition to language tests, universities also require academic admission tests in some cases. A good bachelor’s degree is usually important for further studies. Applicants for an MBA degree often require professional experience. Admission requirements for studying abroad vary from university to university and often also from course to course.

Those who would like to study abroad without an A-levels diploma also have the opportunity to do so, for example at community colleges in the USA.

Gut feeling

Even if the so-called „gut feeling“ is primarily a very subjective criterion, it is not insignificant in the choice of university. Who wants to start studying abroad with a bad feeling? One should therefore „listen to oneself“ whether one would feel comfortable at this or that university abroad. For example, reference points can be provided by photos of the campus, videos in which students of the university have their say, or experience reports.