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Why You Should Study Medicine in Eastern Europe

By Sabrina Collier

Updated March 5, 2021 Updated March 5, 2021

If you want to study medicine abroad, it can be hard to choose the right study destination and university – there are more than 500 institutions in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 for medicine alone. An increasing number of international students are choosing eastern Europe in recent years, with universities in Romania, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic among the most popular. Read on to discover why an eastern European country could be the ideal choice.

A range of prestigious universities

While eastern European universities may not be as internationally celebrated as others for medicine, the region is nonetheless home to some highly reputable universities. Many of these have also been featured among the best in Emerging Europe and Central Asia in the latest QS EECA University Rankings.

Located in Prague (which was ranked joint 26th in the latest QS Best Student Cities ranking), Charles University ranked 151-200 for medicine in the latest Rankings by Subject and fifth in the QS EECA University Rankings. It achieves the second-highest score in EECA for the Academic Reputation indicator.

Ranked 151-200 for medicine, Semmelweis University is located in Budapest and is the oldest medical school in the country (established in 1769). It’s not eligible for inclusion in the EECA ranking due to its specialized focus, but it also appears in the top 150 for pharmacy in the subject rankings.

The University of Debrecen is currently ranked 201-250 for medicine and 35th in the EECA ranking, earning its highest score for its proportion of international students (18th in the ranking).

Ranked 301-350 for medicine and first in the EECA ranking, Lomonosov Moscow State University was ranked the best in EECA for both the employer and academic reputation indicators.

The national university of Estonia, the University of Tartu is ranked 301-350 for medicine and third in the EECA ranking, achieving 11th place for its academic reputation. It offers a good range of English-taught programs, including medicine.

Ranked 301-350 for medicine and joint 14th in the EECA ranking, Jagiellonian University is located in Kraków and is the oldest university in Poland, established in 1364. It ranks sixth for its academic reputation in the EECA ranking.

Although currently not featured in the medicine subject ranking, Bulgaria also has a good selection of medical universities, including Plovdiv Medical University and Sofia Medical University, both of which offer English-taught medical degrees.

You can study medicine abroad in English

Getting to grips with a foreign language is one thing, but knowing it to such a high standard to be able to study medicine in it is a lot easier said than done. The good news is, many international students are able to study medicine abroad in English. Many universities also offer optional courses to help students fit in to their new study destination by learning the basics of the local language. This may also be required as part of your course, in order to communicate with patients during as you progress with your medical degree.

It’s affordable

Another huge incentive for studying in eastern Europe is its affordability: four of the 10 most affordable cities for students in the latest QS Best Student Cities are eastern European cities (five if you count Tomsk, which is technically in the Asian part of Russia). These are Warsaw (capital of Poland and third for affordability), St Petersburg, Budapest (capital of Hungary) and Kiev (capital of Ukraine).

Looking at another source, the Expatistan Cost of Living Index for Europe, many eastern European cities are featured as the cheapest to live in in Europe (Ukraine’s Odessa has the lowest costs of living of the 96 cities in the index).

Tuition fees can still be fairly high, but are still lower than in other countries. Here are some examples:

  • According to StudyInBulgaria.com, Bulgarian universities tend to charge €5,000-8,000 (~US$5,800-9,300) a year for general medical programs, which take six years to complete. At Sofia Medical University, for example, fees are €7,000 (~US$8,140) a year for Bulgarian-taught medical programs and €8,000 (~US$9,300) a year for English-taught programs.
  • Poland’s Jagiellonian University Medical College charges €13,400 (~US$15,550) per year in the first year for MD programs and €13,000 (~US$15,100) per year thereafter.
  • Charles University’s First Faculty of Medicine in the Czech Republic charges CZK360,000/€14,000 (approximately US$16,300) per year for its six-year General Medicine program, taught in English. Tuition is free if you study in Czech.
  • At the University of Debrecen in Hungary, English-taught MD programs currently cost US$16,900 a year. This includes the cost of health insurance, a medical checkup and a student card.
  • Estonia’s University of Tartu charges €11,000 (~US$12,800) per year for English-taught medical degrees. Medical degrees taught in Estonian are free as long as you don’t miss more than six credits.

As you can see, you can typically study for a lower cost (or even for free) if you study in the local language. If you need a scholarship, you can find a range of scholarships to study in eastern Europe here, and it’s also worth checking official university websites.

Admission requirements

Another big plus of studying medicine abroad in eastern Europe is that many universities do not have entry exams, making admission a less stressful experience. To gain admission you’ll need:

  • To have completed high school successfully and have a high school leaving certificate or equivalent, with strong grades in biology and chemistry.
  • To be in good health, both physically and mentally (you may need to have a medical exam to prove this).
  • To be able to fund your studies.
  • Letters of recommendation and/or a personal statement (or statement of purpose).
  • Evidence of extracurricular activities, internships or volunteer work, particularly those that demonstrate your commitment to healthcare.
  • To meet the language requirements of your course i.e. proving your proficiency in English with TOEFL/IELTS if you’re not a native speaker and studying in English.

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This article was originally published in October 2017 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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