One in five university students in Czechia are foreigners – and half want to stay after graduating

Strong educational and job offerings have made Czechia an increasingly attractive destination to international students in the past 20 years.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 03.10.2023 14:58:00 (updated on 11.10.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Every fifth university student in the whole of Czechia is an international student, and half intend to stay in the country after completing their studies, Seznam Zprávy reports. Currently, over 55,000 foreign students study full-time in Czechia.

Sharp rise in students

The number of foreign students enrolling in Czech universities has seen a significant increase since the turn of the millennium. According to the Czech Statistical Office, in 2012 under 40,000 students from foreign countries studied in Czechia. This figure was at just 11,000 in 2002, when one-tenth of students were from abroad. 

Last year, students from 166 different nations comprised 18 percent of all university students in the country. Despite facing challenges relating to the high costs, low earnings, and language barriers, foreign students are drawn to Czech universities for the quality of education and the vibrant student life they offer.

Strong university rankings and reputation

Michal Uhl, the director of the international-focused Czech National Agency for International Education and Research, views the surge in international students as a positive development. He believes that it is a testament to the quality of Czech schools, as internationalization is considered a crucial indicator by esteemed international rankings like the QS University Ranking. 

Uhl emphasizes the benefits of cultural diversity, stating that Czech graduates from universities with international student bodies are more competitive both domestically and globally. Furthermore, they gain a deeper understanding of diverse cultures and global issues.

Many universities actively target foreign students through their promotional campaigns. Antonín Janák, spokesperson for the University of Economics and Business, cites modern teaching methods accredited by foreign entities, safe locations, extensive partner networks, and a thriving social scene as key factors that attract international applicants. 

According to a June 2023 ranking by British consulting firm Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), three Czech universities made it into the world’s top 500 higher-educational institutions, with Charles University ranked highest, at 248th.

Medicine and business are popular

Other institutions, such as Masaryk University, have observed particular interest in subjects like general medicine, dentistry, business management, and international relations. Out of the 527 accredited study programs in Czech universities, approximately one-fifth are taught in English, with two programs also available in German. 

The majority of foreign students – about one in five – studied business, administration, and law. The least-frequently studied degrees were in education faculties as well as in agriculture and veterinary-related subjects.

Slovaks, Russians, and Ukrainians are most representative

Regarding national composition, Slovak students constitute the largest group of foreigners studying in Czech universities, followed by students from Russia and Ukraine. Ukrainian student enrollment witnessed a nearly 50-percent increase between 2021 and 2022. On the other hand, Russian student numbers experienced a decline due to the ongoing situation between the two countries.

Where do most foreign students come from?

  • Slovakia - 20,920
  • Russia - 7,645
  • Ukraine - 6,224
  • Kazakhstan - 2,747
  • India - 1,815
  • Belarus -1,074
  • Germany - 871
  • Italy - 785
  • China - 669
  • Iran - 573

    Source: Czech Statistical Office, 2022 data

Prague remains the most sought-after destination for students from other countries, followed by Brno, Olomouc, and Ostrava. Nearly half of foreign graduates choose to remain in the Czech Republic, entering the labor market and contributing their expertise to stimulate the country's economy. 

While foreign students acknowledge the advantages of studying in the Czech Republic, some raise concerns about financial matters. Compared to other countries with similar or even lower living costs, PhD students in the Czech Republic earn significantly less. This issue warrants attention and potential solutions to ensure that the Czech Republic remains an attractive destination for aspiring international scholars.

Foreign migration, in part driven by the influx of students, plays a critical role in the country's population growth. The aging European and Czech population necessitates the future reliance on foreign migration to sustain the economy and social systems, according to the Czech Statistical Office. Consequently, the presence of international students contributes to the long-term prospects of the Czech Republic.

The internationalization of Czech schools enhances cultural diversity and provides Czech graduates with a competitive edge in the global job market. However, further attention needs to be given to financial issues faced by students, particularly regarding doctoral studies. Overall, the rise in foreign student enrollment positively impacts the Czech Republic's economy, social systems, and international reputation.

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