English-taught bachelor degrees proliferate in Europe

The past decade has seen an impressive proliferation in English-taught bachelor degrees or ETBs in Europe as they have become an increasingly common feature of international higher education, according to a joint study across 19 countries.

The countries with the highest reported number of ETBs are Turkey, the Netherlands and Spain, whereas Switzerland and the Netherlands have the highest percentage of higher education institutions offering ETBs, followed by Denmark, Finland and Sweden, says the report by the European Association for International Education and the global education search platform. 

The Netherlands is leading both in the number of ETBs and the spread of such programmes across its higher education institutions. Romania, France, Poland, Italy, Turkey and Germany, by contrast, have the lowest percentage of higher education institutions with ETBs. 

Often beginning just as translations of local-language programmes, ETBs have grown into distinct programmes catering to the needs of a diversified student population, says the report, English-taught Bachelor’s Programmes: Internationalising European higher education, written by Anna-Malin Sandström and Carmen Neghina. 

The introduction of English-taught degrees at continental European universities has been part of a larger internationalisation trend that took place after the completion of the Bologna Process. 

The development started at the graduate level with the introduction of English-taught masters programmes. In 2001, findings from a study identified 725 English-taught masters programmes in Europe, a number that soon rose to 2,389 in 2007 and 8,089 in 2014, the report says.

The report also explores the benefits, challenges and impact of these programmes on the institutional and national level. 

Three of the five most common reasons given for offering ETBs – in response to growing competition, to attract international talent and to prepare local students for a global world – resonate with the most important reasons for European institutions to internationalise. 

According to the EAIE Barometer: Internationalisation in Europe, the main reasons to pursue internationalisation include preparing students for a global world (second most important reason), attracting more international students (third), and increasing competitiveness (sixth). 

“ETBs hence have a potential to become an instrumental part of internationalisation, allowing for institutions to achieve their goals,” the authors say.