Higher education in Serbia is a great option for those who want to study in English at European high ranking universities with relatively low tuition fees.

In this article, we explain in detail how to enter Serbia, what career opportunities are available after graduation, as well as how to immigrate to Serbia after studying.

Briefly about higher education in Serbia

  • The merit of Serbian universities is advancing with every year, and this is noted by international rankings. For example, the University of Belgrade takes 51st place in the QS EECA 2022 ranking, while the University of Novi Sad — 113th place[1]. According to the Shanghai Ranking, the Faculty of Food Industry and Technology at the University of Belgrade is in the top 70 among all universities in the world[-].
  • Language. The official language of instruction in the country is Serbian. However, universities in major Serbian cities offer about 180 programs in English.
  • Visa. To study in the country, you must obtain a visa for temporary stay (type D). After enrolling at a university, you can apply for a temporary residence permit.
  • Cost of education. For foreigners, education in Serbia is several times more expensive than for citizens of the country. The minimum cost of a bachelor's program is 1,299 USD per year, while the maximum is 10,828 USD per year.
  • Entry requirements. Upon admission, you need to translate your education documents into Serbian or English and nostrify them at the Ministry of Education or at the chosen university. To study in Serbian, you need to confirm your language proficiency. This can be done at the Center of Serbian as a Foreign Language at universities in large cities. At these centers, Serbian can be studied in parallel with the main educational program. For admission to English-language programs, you must provide an IELTS or TOEFL certificate.
  • Relatively low cost of education. The average cost of education in Serbia is one of the lowest among European countries — 2,707-3,248 USD. For comparison, a year of studies in the Czech Republic — 3,790 USD, in the Netherlands — about 10,828 USD, and in Spain — 12,994 USD.
  • Opportunity to study in English. Many major universities in Serbia offer programs in English, and also actively support inclusive education programs for foreign students to exchange experience and knowledge.
  • Ability to travel. Serbia is located in the center of the Balkan Peninsula, surrounded by countries with a rich history and culture. Studies here can be combined with travel and excursions.
Disadvantages and features of education
  • Higher prices for foreigners. In Serbia, foreigners must pay higher costs for education than citizens of the country. For example, the average cost of bachelor’s programs for Serbians is 920 USD, while for foreigners — 2,707 USD. English-language programs cost up to two times more than those taught in Serbian.
  • Serious approach to the educational process. In Serbia, there is a strict approach to the organization of the educational process: for example, cheating is punished up to expulsion, and there are a high number of exams during the semester. At some universities, you have to pay for each additional attempt to pass a sessional exam.
  • Lack of scholarship programs. The Serbian Ministry of Education annually allocates scholarships for talented students and representatives of national minorities[2]. These scholarships allow students to study at a university, live in a hostel, and eat at the student canteen completely free of charge. Unfortunately, they are only available to citizens of Serbia. However, there are ERASMUS+ scholarships at many major universities in Serbia, which foreign students are eligible for.
  • Accommodation. Many universities in Serbia either do not have student dormitories, or have limited placement for housing. This entails significant housing costs — about 217-271 USD per month for a two-bedroom apartment.

Tuition fees

Type of programDurationMin. cost per yearAvg. cost per year
Professional bachelor's3 years650 USD1,083 USD
Bachelor's3-4 years1,083 USD2,707 USD
Master's1-2 years2,166 USD3,248 USD
Integrated programs5-6 years3,790 USD6,497 USD
Doctorate3 years2,166 USD3,248 USD
Additional expenses
Accommodation (rent + utilities)217-271 USD/month
Groceries108 USD/month
Public transportation (monthly pass)30 USD/month
Mobile internet (1 GB)11 USD/month
Personal expenses43-54 USD/ month
Consular fee119 USD
Medical insurance for one year450 USD
Nostrification of educational documents45 USD
At some universities in Serbia, foreign applicants are required to pay for registration (55 USD) and entrance exams (21 USD).

How to enroll at a Serbian university

Before starting the admission process, you need to pass language proficiency exams — depending on the program, Serbian (exams can be taken at the Faculty of Philology at universities in large cities, such as Belgrade or Novi Sad) or English (IELTS / TOEFL). The certificate is a mandatory document for admission. If your knowledge of Serbian is insufficient, the language can be studied in special online courses for beginners from the Center for Serbian as a Foreign Language at the University of Belgrade.

In order to enroll at a Serbian university, you must first fill out an application for enrollment and submit the necessary documents to the selected university. This can be done both in person and remotely — by mail or via the Internet.

The next step is the nostrification certificate. It is needed in order to confirm that your level of education is sufficient for admission to a higher educational institution in Serbia. Nostrification of secondary education certificates takes place at the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technological Development of Serbia. You need to submit your high school diploma and a scan of your foreign passport in person, as well as pay a fee of 45 USD.

You can nostrify a diploma of higher education for admission to a master's program online. You need to fill out a form on a specific website, attach scans of the necessary documents, and wait for a response within 3 months.

Further action involves entrance examinations. The content of the exams corresponds to the curriculum: the technical faculties test mathematics and logic, while the humanities test Serbian language proficiency and knowledge of literature. The list of exams and preparation recommendations can be found on the official websites of the faculties in the "Admission" section. For English-language programs, entrance examinations are conducted in English.

Deadlines for admission to Serbian universities

Below are the approximate dates for the main admission stages at Serbian universities. Check the current dates and deadlines on the official website of the selected university.

Registration of candidatesJune 23-26
Publication of applicant listsJuly 26
Entrance examinationsJune 28-July 2
Publication of ranked listsNo later than July 5
EnrollmentJuly 12-16

The enrollment period ends on July 16th. If you successfully pass the competition, you will be enrolled in the chosen faculty. Afterwards, you will need to provide original copies of the following documents to the admissions office: a nostrified diploma, birth certificate translated into Serbian, receipt of full or partial tuition payment, and other necessary documents.

After that, you need to apply for a type D visa at the migration service. The university will issue an invitation that serves as the basis for temporary stay. The visa can later be extended, or a temporary residence permit can be issued.

Documents for admission
  • Admission application
  • Certificate of secondary education translated into Serbian
  • Nostrification of the certificate (the nostrification procedure takes place at the Ministry of Education of Serbia and costs 45 USD)
  • Entrance examination results
  • Medical insurance
  • Certificate of Serbian or English proficiency (depending on the chosen program)
  • Receipt of the registration fee payment
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Vocational programs in Serbia — college

Vocational education in Serbia can be obtained at colleges (viša škola). They offer specialized education with an emphasis on obtaining a profession in applied fields: agriculture, design, tourism, management, and others. This is analogous to a specialist program in Russia or Fachhochschulen (universities of applied sciences) in Germany.

College education lasts three years, with graduates receiving a bachelor's degree in applied sciences and a diploma of higher education that has no analogues in other countries. With such a degree, graduates do not have the opportunity to enroll in Serbian master's programs.

In colleges, teaching takes place in Serbian. For foreigners, admission is available on the basis of a general competition — you must pass the entrance exams in the specialty, consisting of two parts. The main difficulty here lies in the language — without knowledge of Serbian, it is impossible to pass these exams. College education is much cheaper than that of universities, costing an average of 1,083 USD per year.

Bachelor’s programs in Serbia

Serbia participates in the Bologna system, which involves three levels of academic education. Bachelor's programs are the first stage of higher education in Serbia, with studies lasting from three to four years. During this time, it is necessary to collect 180-240 credits (at applied faculties — 180 credits). Upon graduation, students take a final exam or write a final thesis. They receive a diploma and are awarded the title of graduate (diplomirani).

The educational process includes lectures, practical classes, seminars, along with independent work — colloquia, individual and group research projects, term papers, internships, and volunteer activities. Leading universities in Serbia actively support student exchange programs. For example, the University of Belgrade has ERASMUS+ and CEEPUS programs.

Foreigners wishing to receive higher education in Serbia can enter the university on the basis of a general competition. To do this, you must provide the admissions committee with a nostrified document on previous education and pass the entrance exams.

The official language of instruction is Serbian. Some universities, such as Nikola Tesla University, have programs in English. The Center for Serbian as a Foreign Language at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Belgrade offers intensive Serbian courses for international students. You can take these courses parallel to your main program of study at the university. Language programs last from 3 to 12 weeks. The Center also offers online courses for beginners, which is suitable for those who wish to go to Serbia and decide to study the language in advance.

Major universities in Serbia also offer integrated programs — a combination of undergraduate and graduate studies. You can study in Serbian and English. At the University of Belgrade, such programs are available at the Faculty of Architecture and Veterinary Medicine, along with the Faculty of Physical Culture and Sports. To successfully complete the program, you need to attain 300 credits. Graduates of such faculties receive a master's degree.

Integrated programs in English are offered at medical, pharmaceutical, and dental faculties. Studies last five to six years, and students are required to collect at least 360 credits and pass final exams in biology and chemistry. Upon graduation, graduates receive a Doctor of Medicine degree.

The average cost of studying in Serbia for foreigners:

  • Undergraduate programs — 2,166 USD per year
  • Integrated programs — 3,790-6,497 USD per year

The current costs of education at Serbian universities must be specified on the official websites of the chosen faculties and universities.

Documents for admission
  • Admission application
  • Certificate of secondary education translated into Serbian
  • Nostrification of the certificate (the nostrification procedure takes place at the Ministry of Education of Serbia and costs 45 USD)
  • Entrance examination results
  • Medical insurance
  • Certificate of Serbian or English proficiency (depending on the chosen program)
  • Registration fee payment receipt

Master's programs in Serbia

The second stage of higher education in Serbia is a master's degree. Master's programs involve an in-depth study of a chosen field as part of an academic career or are aimed at obtaining professional education for further employment. Programs last 1-2 years, requiring students to obtain 60-180 credits. Upon graduation, students must pass a final exam and publicly defend a thesis. Then, a master’s or specialist (for applied faculties) degree is issued.

The official language of instruction, as in bachelor’s studies, is Serbian. However, the choice of master’s programs in English is much greater: there are about 20 programs in English at the University of Belgrade, and 40 at the University of Novi Sad.

Master's programs in Serbia cost an average of 2,166-3,248 USD per year, while the cost of individual programs can reach 9,745 USD per year.

Documents for admission
  • Admission application
  • Bachelor’s degree translated into Serbian
  • Certificate of nostrification of the diploma (in case of admission to a master's program, the legalization procedure takes place at the university itself and costs from 200 to 2,707 USD)
  • Medical insurance
  • Certificate of Serbian or English proficiency (depending on the chosen program)
For some universities:
  • Motivation letter
  • Entrance examination results
  • Receipt of registration fee payment
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Doctorate in Serbia

The third stage of academic education, according to the Bologna system, is a doctorate degree. Without such a degree, it is impossible to teach at a university and engage in scientific research.

Doctorate studies last at least three years and require at least 180 credits. To graduate, it is necessary to write and defend a dissertation. A dissertation is an independent and original research project in the relevant scientific fields. Students who have fulfilled all of the requirements established by the educational program and passed the final exams are allowed to write a dissertation.

Graduates are awarded a PhD title in the relevant scientific field. A special ceremony is held, during which the rector of the university publicly and solemnly declares the student a Doctor of Science.

Major universities in Serbia have English-language doctorate programs. Moreover, there is a so-called international integrated scientific management of a doctoral dissertation. This means that dissertation research can be carried out with the joint participation of two professors, one of whom is from a foreign partner university.

The cost of doctorate studies in Serbia averages at 3,248 USD per year, but expenses at some faculties reach up to 5,414 USD per year.

Documents for admission
  • Diploma and transcripts of previous education (bachelor's and master's degrees)
  • Documents confirming the presence of publications in scientific journals
  • Certificate confirming proficiency of one of the official languages of the UN (English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and French)
  • Receipt of registration fee payment
Foreign students also need to provide:
  • Medical insurance
  • Certificate of Serbian or English proficiency (depending on the chosen program)
  • Certificate of nostrification of the diploma (nostrification takes place at the university)
Academic career
An academic career in Serbia starts with the role as an Assistant. As a rule, this is a doctorate student who helps a current professor or lecturer conduct classes. Sometimes, he can lecture on his own under the guidance of a professor, but does not have the right to evaluate students.
The next step is Associate Professor. This is an independent teacher who is allowed to lecture, evaluate students, and supervise scientific papers and theses. To become an assistant professor, you need to have a doctorate degree, several scientific papers, teaching experience as an assistant, and an introductory lecture. The appointment is made by a special commission within the university.
The next stage of an academic career in Serbia is the specific position of Vanredni Professor, which is equivalent to Associate Professor in an English-speaking environment. Appointment to this position occurs after four to five years of work as an assistant professor. Mandatory requirements include a positive assessment of pedagogical work, publication of at least two scientific articles, reports at domestic and international conferences, and the publication of a textbook or monograph.
To become a Professor, you need to have at least five years of teaching experience, publish more than five articles with a high citation index, be present in at least three commissions for the defense of a final thesis or dissertation, and publish a book or participate in the translation of a foreign scientific source.
The teaching profession is considered to be in demand and highly paid in Serbia. Being a teacher is not easy, requiring perseverance and hard work. Therefore, representatives of this profession are highly valued in Serbia. On average, a university professor earns from 1,169 USD to 3,541 USD per month[3].

Work while studying in Serbia

To work in Serbia, you must obtain a work permit in addition to the type D visa or residence permit. Students in Serbia can work part-time, no more than 20 hours per week. The average salary per hour is 11 USD[4]. Jobs can be found right on the campus of your university: in the library, student canteen, or administration office. In addition, you can get a job as a gardener, waiter, bartender, English tutor, or nanny, and work on weekends or during holidays.

For clarity, we present the average cost of living in the capital of Serbia per month.

Accommodation (rent + utilities)217-271 USD
Groceries108 USD
Public transportation (monthly pass)30 USD
Internet (1 GB)11 USD
Personal expenses43-54 USD

Thus, living expenses in Belgrade average at 379-433 USD/month. Income from part-time work is not sufficient to cover these expenses. Moreover, education in Serbia costs money, and foreign students need to take out medical insurance for a year. If you are not studying on a scholarship or in an exchange program, your part-time salary will not be enough for tuition and will require an additional source of income.

However, this does not mean that you should give up work altogether. Some educational programs in Serbia involve internships and volunteer activities as part of the educational process. This helps students gain experience for further employment after university. For foreigners, this is also a great opportunity to practice the language and establish contacts with local companies.

Job prospects and opportunities

Diplomas from Serbian universities are recognized in all European countries. After graduating, you will be able to find a job in any of these countries.

In 2021, the unemployment rate in Serbia was 11%[5]. For comparison, the average unemployment rate in Europe is 7.2%[6], and in neighboring Bulgaria it is about 4.8%[7]. Therefore, the chances of finding a job in Serbia are low, especially if you do not speak Serbian or are not a citizen of the country. Both citizens and foreign migrants note that it is very difficult to find a job in Serbia. Most of all, this affects young professionals who are forced to accept jobs for which their level of education is higher than required. However, in areas such as engineering, information technology, pharmaceuticals, sports, and entertainment, there is a shortage of qualified specialists in Serbia[8].

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Opportunities for immigration

If you graduated from a Serbian university, you can return to your native country for a short period of time and then re-enter Serbia to look for work. It should be remembered that foreigners can work in Serbia only if they have a temporary residence permit and a work permit. Upon employment, the employer draws up an invitation to the future employee and concludes an employment agreement with him, which serves as the basis for obtaining a temporary residence permit in Serbia. After that, it is necessary to obtain a type D visa and work permit, attaching the invitation from the employer and employment contract to the rest of the documents .

Serbian citizenship is issued after five years of continuous residence in the country. One of the conditions for obtaining a Serbian passport is to pass an exam in the Serbian language and prove knowledge of the customs and laws of Serbia. Serbian citizenship can be claimed by highly qualified specialists who permanently work in one company under an employment contract. Also, foreign university graduates can apply for citizenship if, after studying, they have worked in their specialty for several years.

Required documents
  • Completed citizenship application
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport copy with a photo
  • Confirmation of financial solvency
  • Certificate of citizenship in the country of which the applicant is a citizen
  • Certificate of non-conviction in the territory of the home country
  • Receipt of payment of the fee
  • Other documents — for example, a document on education
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