Duration of degree studies in Europe

Europe follows a model where bachelor’s studies last for 3 years and master’s for 2 years, but there are some exceptions. Learn more about the duration of degree studies in Europe and make your choice accordingly.

Higher education qualifications in Europe are structured according to three “cycles” defined as part of the Bologna process:

  • bachelor’s
  • master’s
  • doctoral studies

Study periods in Europe are calculated in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).

60 ECTS credits are the equivalent of a full year of study or work. Most full-time first cycle bachelor’s programmes in Europe last 3 or 4 years, or 180 to 240 credits. Second cycle Master studies last 1 to 2 years or 60 to 120 ECTS. Most third cycle doctorate programmes in Europe last 3 or 4 years with no specific ECTS range.

In addition to these general rules, Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications defines minimum periods of study in the areas of

  • medicine
  • pharmacy
  • veterinary medicine
  • architecture

In those areas, the length of studies can vary from country to country but is never shorter than the minimum requirements set up in the directive. This also means that in many of those areas, the study periods are aggregated into a period of 5 or 6 years of continuing studies.

In addition to the areas listed above, countries in Europe can agree upon their own regulated professions where minimum study periods are set. Periods of study can be prolonged if there is a possibility to study part-time or shortened, when recognition of prior learning (RPL) is applicable.

To better understand the specific systems in individual European countries, check our country profiles page

For practical information about getting your professional qualifications recognised in another European country, visit Your Europe

Source: EC


European Higher Education Organization

European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe. The EHEO general plan stresses that: Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected. The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders. Thus, EHEO plans: improve academic and scientific interaction of universities; protect the interests of universities; interact more closely with public authorities of European countries; popularize European higher education in the world; develop academic mobility; seek funding for European universities.

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