In Brief: Greek Educational System
Greece is often called the cradle of European civilization, and this is certainly true when we consider its impact on education. Greek philosophy profoundly influenced the generations of thinkers. The country also produced some important educational institutions, namely gymnasiums, lyceums that continue to exist today as forms of secondary education.
Today, there are traditional and quite old public universities of Greek origin that are recognized by the Greek government. The total of all higher education institutions is divided into two parts: 24 universities and 16 higher technological educational institutions. There are also foreign institutions, called "colleges", which are not constitutionally recognized, but where teaching is in English.
Greeks have always been very protective of letting foreigners into the country, and studying in Greece is no exception. There are certain rules a foreign student must satisfy in order to successfully apply to a Greek higher educational institution.
Study in Greece: Degrees, Fees, and Requirements
So, what documents will you need to study abroad in Greece, and what other requirements do you need to comply with before joining a Greek university?
Access to Greek Education for Foreign Students
The first thing a foreign student has to do is to prove that neither he nor his parents are of Greek origin. The reason is simple: on some occasions, it is possible to obtain Greek citizenship by way of education. The Greek government thereby protects its system of education by prohibiting people over the age of 18 of Greek descent to apply for a Greek university.
If there is no such impediment, the next thing the foreign student has to prove is the knowledge of the Greek language. There are two ways of doing so:
sit a national KPG exam, or
submit an application from a Greek public university.
Most Bachelor programs are taught in Greek. However, if you apply to an English-speaking program, you will probably need to prove proficiency in English, not in Greek. Applicants usually need a certificate of English language proficiency (IELTS or TOEFL).
As for Master's programs, these are increasingly taught in English, as well as Greek.
However, the previously obtained Bachelor's degree had to last four years. If the student had a 3-year Bachelor's program, they will have to attend additional courses, likely provided by IKY, the Greek State Scholarship Foundation.
In the UK, for instance, a foreign student submits their application pack directly to a chosen university. In Greece, an application form is submitted to the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. In a separate application entry form, the student lists the desired university programs. As one can see, education in Greece is very much centralized.
Another admission requirement is the score of an applicant's educational certificate. The higher the score, the bigger is the chance to be accepted into a desirable study program.
Note: all documents must be translated and certified (sometimes directly in Greece) and submitted within the seven-day period. This means that for some interviews the prospective students will have to travel to Greece.
Academic Degrees: An Overview
There are three academic degrees to which a foreign student may apply: a Bachelor's, a Master's, and a Doctorate.
Most Bachelor's degrees are four-year programs and are free. The exceptions are programs in Medicine, Dentistry, and Engineering that take five to six years to complete. A standard secondary education course is usually sufficient to enter a Bachelor's program. However, a foreign student will have to pay for a language course in the first year, usually around 500 euros.
These degrees normally last one or two years and can be read in English or Greek. Proof of the command of the English language is required. Additional entrance exams check the oral and written communication skills.
These postgraduate degrees take no less than three years to complete. Foreign students are accepted provided they have obtained a Master's degree and have got a necessary number of European Transfer Credits. Doctorate-level degrees consist of research courses and culminate in submitting one's personal research work, a thesis. Requirements of a Greek Doctorate differ from institution to institution and are updated prior to each academic year.
Tuition Fees and Scholarships for Students
Foreign students pursue education in Greece due to fairly low tuition fees. There are some free Master's degrees, while education in private colleges costs over 10,000 euros.
European students study at Greek public universities for free. For non-European students, this fee is 1,500 euros. Master's degrees cost around 1,500–2,000 euros.
The Greek State Scholarship Foundation, IKY, offers scholarships and special language and culture studies courses for those who want to study in Greece. IKY works together with the National Bank of Greece, the EU, and many other organizations to support students. However, the number of scholarships is limited. Students must satisfy some specific criteria, including the area of academic studies and the country of origin.
Another reputable place to go for a scholarship is the Aristotle Onassis Foundation. The requirements for scholarships change from year to year.
Note: the competition to obtain a Greek scholarship is reasonably high, so it is important to prepare the application pack well and apply in advance.
Students' Life and Work in Greece: Perspectives and Costs
A student's life is not all about learning. When considering studying abroad in Greece, explore the opportunities for students’ work and leisure, as well as the cost of living in Greece during your degree program.
Cost of Living for Students
In addition to the course's tuition fee (which may not be applicable in some cases), students must arrange their monthly and annual budget for the duration of the course. And as much as Greece is an affordable country, students will still have to bear certain expenses.
Some public universities in big cities, like Athens or Thessaloniki, have campuses. However, students have to undergo a complicated application process to get a place there. In short, a place on campus is not guaranteed, so students often turn to rent accommodation in the city. The rental price of a one-bedroom apartment in the city may be as much as 450 euros; in the outskirts, it is usually around 350 euros. Utility bills may amount to 100 euros, and the Internet may cost as much as 25 euros.
Medical care is free for students.
The monthly bus and metro bill is around 30 euros but students are usually eligible for discounts.
Universities offer many free opportunities for leisure via a Student's Union, including theatre plays and concerts. Of course, there are many other ways to spend free time in Greece. For example, a night out at the movies will amount to 8 euros.
Most universities offer free food at their canteens. Meeting for a meal may cost around 10 euros, while a cup of coffee with friends will run up to 4 euros. A Friday or Saturday night out with drinks will cost as little as 4 euros for a pint of beer.
The materials such as mandatory textbooks are provided free of charge.
Note: in total, an average student's monthly bill is expected to be about 750 euros including rent.
Student's Work Opportunities
Many foreign students in Britain, for example, often find themselves a part-time job to cope with tuition fees and living costs. The case is slightly different in Greece: thanks to the state-funded educational system students receive free education, which arguably allows them not to work until they finish their degree. Understandably, some students do not want to postpone acquiring work experience until they have a degree certificate. Foreign nationals with a valid long-term visa are entitled to 20 working hours per week or 40 working hours during holidays.
However, the Greek educational system is organized in such a way that students learn to be self-reliant and make up their own schedules. It is likely that they are left with very little free time to dedicate to earning money.
The best option, in this case, is a part-time job during the high season. From May to October, a lot of tourists visit Greece, and foreign students will certainly find a chance to work as guides. Other jobs in demand for this season are a waiter, a shop assistant, a bartender, a hotel worker, and an entertainer. The average monthly wage in Greece is $730.
Postgraduate Job Opportunities
By these, we mean the opportunities to be employed with a Greek degree certificate. This is possible either in Greece or elsewhere.
Working in Greece
Whilst studying at a Greek university, students are invited to attend career days and job fairs where they can learn about the most required work opportunities in Greece. Internships are also offered at such events, which is a great way to acquire the necessary work experience.
Graduate employment centres at universities are another great place to go when charting out a career path. Job vacancies are regularly posted in the classifieds and may be obtained at a local job centre.
Speaking of the sectors where specialists are required, they are:
The following professions are currently in big demand: lawyers, sales personnel, engineers, financial service specialists, executive managers. Private businesses are also very welcomed.
Understanding the job landscape may significantly improve the chances for a successful application to study in Greece.
Upon the completion of a degree, the student may get a European Blue Card that serves both as a residence permit and the right to work in the EU. However, experts state that such cards are rarely issued in Greece, apparently so as not to encourage using the Greek educational system as the way to sneak into the EU. Instead, Greek universities issue their graduates with a Diploma Supplement that describes in detail their program of studies. This supplement has been approved by UNESCO, the European Council and the European Commission. It helps the graduates of Greek universities to obtain a job in Europe.
Greek universities are especially credited for the quality of higher education in the fields of Medicine and Engineering.
Internships in Greece
Obtaining an internship while studying is an excellent way to get the feel of the chosen field of work and to acquire the work experience to put on your CV later. Internships are advertised at career days and job fairs.
Applying to Study in Greece: Visa Requirements
Greeks are known to be slow. However, as we noted above, the application process at the university takes only a week. So, those who plan to study in Greece must take all preparatory steps long in advance.
First, a prospective student is advised to visit a Greek embassy or consulate in their country of residence to collect the necessary information. Next, it is highly desirable to contact a chosen university and ask for their guidance in terms of visas, permits, and application process. Other places to consult regularly during the application are the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.
The Foreign Affairs ministry also provides certified translations of documents into Greek. Non-EU nationals who plan to study in Greece must obtain a National-D category visa.
In order to study in Greece, a prospective student must apply for a visa and a residence permit. This is done after the application to study was approved.
Note: all processes take many months to complete.
The following documents are required to apply for a Greek student visa:
a valid passport;
a fully completed student visa application signed by the applicant and the relevant authority body;
two passport-sized photographs;
a letter of acceptance on a course of study;
the payment of university fees;
proof of income. A student must demonstrate that they can support themselves. The estimated amount is 400 euros per month. The following may serve as proof: a scholarship, a bank transfer, a deposit account. If a student plans to work as well as study, they must provide proof of salary;
a certificate of the knowledge of the Greek language;
a clean criminal record;
a medical certificate issued by either a state or private healthcare institution;
a travel health insurance.
The average visa fee is 90 euros, excluding the translator's and notary's services.
To obtain a residence permit, the applicant provides all the above documents, and also:
a fully completed and signed application form.
The average residence permit fee is 150 euros.
Best Universities to Study in Greece
Public universities and technical educational institutions are located in 60 cities across the country, including islands. Over 140 Master's degrees are offered annually. Still, there are some universities that are notably more popular among international and EU students.
National Technical University of Athens
Founded in 1836/1837 and also known as Athens Polytechnic, this is one of the country's oldest higher educational institutions and one of the most prestigious engineering schools. The programs include Architecture, Medical, Agricultural, and Civic Engineering, Naval Architecture, and some others.
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Established in 1925 and named after the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, this university comprises a wide range of subjects, from Technical and Exact disciplines through Medicine and Agriculture to Law, Fine Arts, and Theology.
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Founded in 1837 and normally referred to as the University of Athens, this educational establishment has a range of subjects similar to that of Thessaloniki University. However, its primary focus is shifted to Political Science, Economy, and Humanities.
University of Crete
Although it was only founded in 1973, this university has had time to become one of the most reputable in Greece. The following subjects are taught there: Medicine, Education, Philosophy, Science and Engineering, and Social, Economic and Political Sciences.
University of Patras
Another fairly young Greek university (founded in 1964), the University of Patras is the third largest university in Greece by the size of the student body, the staff, and the number of departments. The departments are accumulated into schools:
School of Agricultural Sciences;
School of Engineering;
School of Health Rehabilitation Sciences;
School of Economics and Business;
School of Health Sciences;
School of Humanities and Social Sciences;
School of Natural Sciences.
What to Consider When Choosing a Greek University
Evidently, it may be hard to make up one's mind when choosing a place to study in Greece. So, the following things should be taken into account:
research and subsequent employment opportunities;
a usual career path for the alumni;
the history and culture of the university and its city or island;
the cost of living and opportunities to travel outside the place of study.
Foreign students should remember that university time is a fantastic and precious period in life. Many important friendships and professional connections are made then. And just as it is wrong to waste time on socializing, it is also wrong to miss the opportunities to form long-lasting relationships, memories of which will last a lifetime.
Greece is the most ancient country on the European continent and is credited with many inventions that have formed the basis of European culture, including the educational system. It provides excellent undergraduate and postgraduate education opportunities, some of which are free of charge. Greek degrees are recognized in the EU, and the Greek universities regularly show good rankings. The cost of living during studies in Greece is one of the lowest in Europe.
However, in order to come to study in Greece, the student must apply for a university, a visa, and a residence permit. The application process is fully centralized and takes a lot of time. Students are advised to examine their options and prepare all documents well in advance to be in the chance to enjoy the benefits of studying abroad in Greece.