Higher Education System and Life as an International Student in Hungary

Hungary, a jewel in Central Europe, stands out for its rich history, culture and architecture. Beyond the picturesque landscape, the country boasts a thriving higher education system that has raised to gain international recognition. This article explores the subject of the higher education in Hungary, its unique features, top universities, challenges and opportunities it offers. Join us as we uncover what is it like to pursue university education in Hungary.

The Hungarian University Landscape: Why choose Hungary for higher studies?

Hungary boasts a multifaceted higher education system that caters to a wide array of academic interests. From traditional universities and universities of applied science to colleges of education, there is something for everyone. The system is known for its flexibility, giving students opportunities to tailor their academic journey to their specific career goals.

A Legacy of Excellence

The beginnings of the higher education in Hungary date back to the Middle Ages, when the first universities were established in Pécs and Óbuda. These institutions laid the foundation for a strong educational heritage that continues to thrive today. During the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, Hungarian scholars made significant contributions to various fields, earning recognition across Europe. 

The thirst for knowledge and intellectual pursuits became deeply ingrained in Hungarian culture. And this legacy of excellence continues to influence Hungary’s modern approach to education. It has as well led their efforts in internationalization and in adapting to the changing educational landscape of the last decades. And to accommodate a growing global student community, universities in Hungary offer more than 700 study programs in English, German, French and other languages. 

A Diverse Array of Institutions

Today, Hungary’s higher education landscape comprises a diverse array of institutions, both public and private. State-owned higher education institutions are accountable and funded by the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities. Non-state institutions, on the other hand, are privately funded. Today, there are 6 state-funded as well as 58 privately-funded institutions of higher education in Hungary. 

Moreover, education are offered in Hungary at universities (egyetem) who are to offer degree programs in at least 2 fields of study to earn the university status. They must as well have at least 3 faculties. And at least half of their teaching and research body should be holders of a doctoral degree and have the capacity to offer courses in foreign languages. 

Other types of HEI in Hungary include colleges of education (főiskola) and universities of applied sciences. The latter are institutions that don’t provide research-related degrees, but only bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Universities of applied sciences in Hungary, also specialize in vocational training and postgraduate specialist training that doesn’t lead to a university degree. What distinguish universities of applied sciences in Hungary, is that they have fewer teachers with a doctorate than traditional universities. 

Bologna Process Integration

Hungary has seamlessly integrated the Bologna Process into its higher education system. This means that programs are structured according to the three-tier system: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate. It also applies an ECTS-compatible system, ensuring international compatibility and recognition. Students therefore receive grades on a five-point Hungarian scale at the end of each semester, which are also converted to ECTS grades. 

And like at any other European institution, students earn a bachelor’s degree in 3 to 4 years and a master’s degree in 1 to 2 years, depending on the program. PhD courses at Hungarian universities usually take 4 years to complete 240 ECTS credits.  Whether you’re interested in STEM fields, humanities, or arts, Hungary has a wide range of courses to choose from.  The diversity of academic offerings ensures that students can pursue their passions and develop specialized expertise. 

For more vocational education in fields such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary, architecture, students’ first degree is a master which they earn after completing 300 to 360 credits or 5 to 6 years of study. 

Learn here how to pursue medical studies in Hungary

World-Renowned Universities

The higher education system in Hungary stands out through the international acclaim that several universities have earned for their academic excellence. And in 2012, 5 institutions received the title of “research-intensive universities” from the Ministry of Human Capacities. This title grants these universities an additional funding from the state. 

These are: 

  • Budapest University of Technology and Economics
  • Eötvös Loránd University
  • Semmelweis University
  • University of Debrecen
  • University of Szeged

Furthermore, there are 5 other institutions in Hungary that have the government’s recognition as excellent universities. They obtain this award according to their achievements in education and research, scientific results, presence, and participation in international student mobility programs among other criteria. 

These include: 

  • Corvinus University of Budapest
  • Szent István University
  • The University of Miskolc
  • University of Pannonia 
  • University of Pécs

Needless to say, all these institutions enjoy a high ranking not only in Hungary but also internationally. Learn more by reading our guide on the top 10 universities in Hungary

Application to Higher Education Instituions in Hungary

Hungarian universities stand out for their inclusive admission policies. While some programs, such as medicine, may require entrance exams or specific prerequisites, many have relatively low entry barriers. This openness encourages a diverse student body, fostering an environment of cultural exchange and collaboration. Admission into Hungarian universities typically requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. Additionally, many programs have specific language proficiency requirements.

To get more details on the subject, make sure to check our separate guide on how to get admission at a Hungarian university

Scholarships and Financial Aid

International students in Hungary can benefit from a few scholarship opportunities. They are provided either by the Hungarian government or by various institutions, and cover students’ tuition fees and part of their living expenses. Knowing the affordable cost of living in Hungary, these financial aid make studying in Hungary not only academically enriching but also financially workable.

One of the most popular programs is the “Stipendium Hungaricum” scholarship. Granted by Hungary’s government since 2013, it provides fully-funded scholarships for international students pursuing higher education in a variety of fields at Hungarian universities. These scholarships cover tuition, accommodation, medical insurance, and a monthly stipend. 

The initiative aims to promote global cultural exchange and to increase the number of foreign students in Hungarian universities. To apply for this scholarship, you can visit the official website of the Stipendium Hungaricum Scholarship Program, or contact the Hungarian Embassy or Consulate in your home country for guidance.

Benefits of Studying in Hungary

Hungary’s geographical location at the heart of Europe makes it an excellent base for exploring the continent. Weekend getaways to neighboring countries are easily achievable, adding a dash of adventure to the academic journey. 

Other advantages of studying in Hungary include: 

Affordable Tuition Fees

One of the most significant advantages of pursuing higher education in Hungary is the affordability factor. Compared to other European countries, tuition fees in Hungary are relatively lower, making it an attractive destination for international students. Scholarships and grants are also available for those seeking financial assistance.

Read here our comprehensive guide on the living and studying cost for students in Hungary.

Cultural Richness

Studying in Hungary is not just about academics; it’s an immersive cultural experience. The country’s vibrant festivals, historical sites, and delicious cuisine make it an exciting place to live and learn. Students get to explore Budapest, known as the “Paris of the East,” and immerse themselves in its rich history and vibrant nightlife.

English-Taught Programs

Many Hungarian universities offer programs taught in English, making it accessible to international students who may not be fluent in Hungarian. This language flexibility also ensures that students from around the world can benefit from Hungary’s educational offerings. 

Research Opportunities

One of the strengths of Hungary’s higher education system is the sheer diversity of academic programs it offers. Moreover, Hungary places a strong emphasis on research, and higher education institutions actively engage students in groundbreaking projects. This not only fosters innovation but also provides students with valuable hands-on experience in their fields of studies. 

Popular Study Destinations in Hungary

Since most higher education institutions are in Budapest, the Hungarian capital city emerges as the top choice for students also. As a matter of fact, more than half of higher education students in Hungary are enrolled in universities in Budapest. Other destinations include: Pécs, Debrecen, and Szeged. 


The capital city, Budapest, is a popular choice among international students. Its universities, like Eötvös Loránd University and Central European University, offer access to a wide array of programs along with a vibrant urban life.


Debrecen, Hungary’s second-largest city stands out for its friendly atmosphere and excellent educational institutions. The University of Debrecen, in particular, attracts students from around the world.


Szeged, situated in the southern part of the country, is another educational hub. The University of Szeged is renowned for its research opportunities and welcoming environment.


Nestled in the southwest of Hungary, Pécs boasts a rich historical heritage, with Roman ruins, a UNESCO-listed Early Christian Necropolis, and a Mediterranean ambiance that adds a unique flavor to student life. Moreover, the University of Pécs offers a wide array of programs taught in English, in German and in French. 

International Student Life in Hungary: Challenges and Solutions 

Here are some common challenges that international students may face when studying in Hungary: 

Language Barrier

While there are many university programs in English, some students may face language barriers. Hungarian being the primary language in everyday life, international students may face challenges outside the classroom when it comes to communication. Fortunately, Hungarian universities often provide language courses to help students overcome this challenge.

Adaptation to a New Culture

Adapting to a new culture can be challenging, but Hungary’s welcoming atmosphere and international student communities ease the transition. Exploring local customs and engaging in cultural activities can enrich the experience.

University Admissions Process

The admissions process in Hungarian universities can be competitive, especially for popular programs such as medicine. It’s essential to research and prepare well in advance to meet the admission requirements and deadlines.


In conclusion, Hungary’s higher education is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. It stands out through its excellence, affordability and the solid support system for students on campus. Despite challenges such as the language barrier or competitive admission to some programs, they are outweighed by the numerous benefits. By choosing Hungary as your gateway to international education, you won’t just strive to get a degree. You are on the path of a transformative journey leading to a bright future.

About Herilalao

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