Higher education in Slovakia is suitable for those who care about affordable education — Slovak universities offer programs in Slovak and English, while the cost of education is lower than the average in Europe. In the article, we will discuss the requirements for admission, features of education, and employment prospects.

Briefly about higher education in Slovakia

  • Higher education in Slovakia is not the most popular choice among international students. Most students come from neighboring countries in Eastern Europe[1] to study engineering, medicine, and economics. However, despite their low popularity, the country's universities are respected in educational circles, and three of them are in the top 100 universities in Eurasia according to the QS ranking: Comenius University in Bratislava (58th place), Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava (65th place), and Technical University of Kosice (99th place)[2].
  • Language. The primary language of instruction is Slovak, but there are many programs in English. In addition, studies in the humanities are available in Russian, Hungarian, French, German, Spanish, and Italian (history, culture, linguistics).
  • Prices can vary greatly depending on the university or program. The most expensive are medical specialties. The minimum cost is 521 USD/year, while the maximum is 12,960 USD/year[3]. However, programs in Slovak are free for full-time students, including foreigners[4].
  • Requirements. Unlike other countries, Slovak universities do not generally require English proficiency certificates for admission to English-language programs[5]. However, prospective students may be required to pass entrance exams or pass a Skype interview.
  • Language classes. If you wish to study free of charge in the Slovak language, you can take a language course and confirm the level of proficiency upon admission.
  • Visa. Students require a national category D visa. But if the estimated time of study exceeds 90 days, then a temporary residence permit will be required.
  • Nostrification. To receive higher education in Slovakia, you need to go through the recognition process for foreign education documents. You can apply for this procedure at your local school office (for recognition of a high school diploma) or directly at the university (for recognition of a high education diploma). The cost of the service is 5 USD[6].
  • Integrated programs. At universities in Slovakia, there is an opportunity to study combined bachelor's and master's programs for 5-6 years, in turn receiving a master's degree.
  • Work. After receiving a temporary residence permit, foreign students can work 20 hours a week throughout the entire period of study.
Advantages
  • Low tuition fees. Education for foreign students is available from 1,062 USD to 5,311 USD.
  • Variety of programs in English. Almost every program in Slovak has an equivalent program in English[7].
  • Free education in Slovak. Upon confirmation of Slovak proficiency, applicants can apply for free education programs.
  • Living expenses. The monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Bratislava, the capital, is 394 USD, which is significantly lower compared to other European countries. For example, the average rent in the Czech Republic is 447 USD[8], in Germany — 591 USD[9], and in France — 562 USD[10].
  • Ability to travel. Slovakia is part of the Schengen area, which allows you to travel within EU countries without the issuance of an additional visa.
Disadvantages
  • Outdated teaching methods. Much attention is paid to the development of theoretical knowledge, which is why practical skills do not receive proper development[11].
  • Low wages. The average salary in the country is 1,062-1,275 USD[12], and the monthly cost of living is an average of 581 USD per person[13].
  • Nostrification. For admission to a university, you need to go through the recognition process for foreign education documents, which increases the duration of the admission process and can cause additional stress for the student.

Tuition fees

Type of trainingDurationMin. cost per yearAvg. cost per year
Language courses6-12 monthsFree2,125 USD
Bachelor's3-4 years1,062 USD3,718 USD
Master's2-3 years1,062 USD4,249 USD
Integrated programs5-6 years5,311 USD8,498 USD
PhD3-4 years1,062 USD5,311 USD
Important
When studying in the local language, education in Slovakia is free.
Additional costs
CostAverage amount
Administrative fee32-85 USD
Flight186 USD
Accommodation501 USD/394 USD/106 USD/month
Utilities177 USD/month
Meals106 USD/month
Public transportation25 USD/month
Fitness club30 USD/month
CinemaUSD/session

How to study in Slovakia

The admission procedure differs depending on the faculty and study program, but usually takes place in 2-3 stages:

  • Sending an application
  • Passing entrance examinations
  • Submitting necessary documents

Applicants must apply directly to the university. You can apply for several study programs at various universities and faculties. The deadlines vary depending on the program, usually being at the end of February or March. The date, content, and form (oral or written examinations, interviews) of the entrance examinations are determined by the relevant faculty. Therefore, it is important to follow the news on the website of the chosen university. Entrance exams are held from June to September. Examinations at art schools start earlier — in January, and the application deadline is at the end of November[3].

As a rule, universities do not require confirmation of language proficiency, but some faculties include a certificate of English (IELTS/TOEFL) or Slovak (Certificate of Slovak Language Proficiency) proficiency in the list of required documents.

What remains is to wait for the decision of the admissions committee. Having successfully passed the entrance exams, the entrant receives an acceptance letter with a "conditional" invitation. The final decision is made after nostrification — confirmation of the documents on previous education. The process can take up to 30 days from the date of the initial application.

Foreign applicants who do not meet all the requirements for admission can be sent to preparatory courses, including Slovak courses — when choosing a program in the local language[14].

Up-to-date information on admission conditions should be clarified on the websites of universities.

Documents for admission

  • Electronic application — you must provide personal data through the portal of the selected university
  • Receipt of the registration fee payment (32-85 USD)
  • Passport copy
  • Document on previous education and transcript notarized and translated into the Slovak language
  • Motivation letter
  • Resume (CV)
  • Nostrified document on previous education

Not all universities:

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Vocational Education — Colleges in Slovakia

Vocational education in Slovakia is represented by secondary vocational schools (stredné odborné učilište) and vocational schools (odborné učilište). You can enter such schools after 9th grade. The training lasts 4 years, during which students master practical skills in addition to the high school program.

After graduation, students receive a certificate of study (učňovský list) and a certificate of passing the final exam (vysvedčenie o maturitnej skúške). Graduates usually look for work after vocational school, but many enter a university for undergraduate programs[15].

For admission, you need to familiarize yourself with the list of available educational institutions, and then contact the chosen one to clarify the availability of placements and admission procedure. Most vocational schools do not charge tuition[16]. However, college admission is not common among international students.

Bachelor’s programs in Slovakia

The higher education system in Slovakia is divided into three levels. Bachelor's studies are the first stage of education. Depending on the form of study (full-time/part-time), studies can take from 3 to 4 years. The academic year consists of two semesters (the winter semester lasts from September to January, and the summer semester from February to June) or three terms, depending on the charter of the university.

The educational process includes lectures, seminars, laboratory work, projects, practical exercises, consultations, etc. To assess the achievements of students, the ECTS credit system is used. The standard workload of a bachelor student is 60 credits per year. A bachelor’s degree (bakalár) requires 180 credits[17].

The average tuition fee for undergraduate programs is 3,718 USD/year[18].

Documents for admission
  • Certified translation of the high school diploma and transcript
  • Receipt of the registration fee payment
  • Motivation letter
  • Nostrification document
Some universities also require a certificate confirming English or Slovak proficiency, depending on the language of instruction. To obtain a nostrification document, you must provide a copy of your passport, certified copies of your high school diploma and transcript, and a receipt of the registration fee payment.

Master's programs in Slovakia

The next level of education is a master's degree, which usually takes two years to obtain. Some qualifications, such as teaching, require only one year. To get a master's degree (magister) or master of arts (magister umenia), you need to attain 60-120 credits.

In Slovakia, there is also an option to study under combined bachelor's and master's programs. These are usually medical and engineering programs. Training lasts 5-6 years, and the number of required credits is 300-360[19], respectively. Upon completion, students receive a master's degree in one of the following specializations: engineering (inžinier), general practitioning (doktor všeobecného lekárstva), dentistry (doktor zubnej medicíny), or veterinary medicine (doktor veterinárskeho lekárstva)[20].

Graduates of master's programs can take the Examina rigorosa, which consists of a written exam and the defense of a thesis (thesis rigorosa). After a successful defense, higher education institutions award the so-called "minor" doctoral degree (malého doktorátu): RNDr, PharmDr, PhDr, JUDr, PaedDr, ThDr.[21] They relate to a master's degree, but testify to a more in-depth knowledge of the specialty.

The main condition for admission to a master's program is a bachelor's degree in the same or a related field of study. Other requirements are established directly by the university or faculty.

The average cost for master's studies is 4,249 USD/year[22].

Documents for admission
  • Certified translation of the bachelor's degree and transcript
  • Nostrified document
  • Receipt of the registration fee payment (32-85 USD)
  • Motivation letter
  • Resume (CV)
Some universities also require a certificate confirming English or Slovak proficiency, depending on the language of instruction.
MBA programs
The core courses of MBA (Master of Business Administration) programs cover various areas of business, such as accounting, finance, marketing, and HR. Unlike other master's programs, it takes less time to obtain an MBA — 17-18 months. The average cost is 2,125-5,311 USD. You can get an MBA both at ranking universities[23] and at specialized universities: International School of Management, Prešov; University of Economics in Bratislava; College of Management, Trencin. Requirements:
  • Completed bachelor's degree
  • English proficiency certificate: IELTS 6.5/TOEFL 87 (or their equivalent)
  • Occasionally — from three years of relevant work experience
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Doctorate studies in Slovakia

A doctorate degree is the highest level of university education in Slovakia. The standard duration of full-time studies is 3-4 academic years.

Doctorate programs at Slovak universities provide deep theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary for independent scientific activity. Students attend lectures and conduct research under the guidance of a supervisor. For the entire period of study, you need to attain 180-240 credits. Then, students take an exam on the topic of research and defend their scientific work in front of a commission. As a result, graduates are awarded a Candidate of Science (PhD) or Doctor of Arts (ArtD) degree.

The average cost of education in doctorate programs is 5,311 USD/year[24].

Documents for admission
  • Certified translation of the master's degree and transcript
  • Nostrified document
  • Receipt of the registration fee payment (32-85 USD)
  • Motivation letter
  • Resume (CV)
  • Research plan
  • IELTS 6.5 / TOEFL 80 or university entrance exam
  • Other documents and certificates relevant to the chosen field of study
Academic career
Another feature of the higher education system in Slovakia are the habilitation and inauguration proceedings. After receiving a level 3 degree (PhD or ArtD) and having fulfilled the requirements for habilitation or inauguration, a scientist can first apply for the pedagogical "docent" title, and then for the "professor" title. The latter indicates the highest recognition of competence in this field[25]. Academic careers in Slovakia consist of 4 levels:
  • Assistant (Asistent) — Usually these are doctorate students
  • Lecturer (Odborný asistent) — a doctorate graduate who carries out teaching activities
  • Associate Professor (Docent)
  • Professor (Professor)

Scholarships and grants in Slovakia

Scholarships that fully cover tuition are not common in Slovakia. However, there are various mobility programs. Detailed information about them can be found on the SAIA (Slovak Academic Information Agency) website in the Scholarships and Grants section. We discuss the most common options[26].

National Scholarship Program of the Slovak Republic

The National Scholarship Program of the Slovak Republic is designed to support the mobility of foreign students, postgraduates, and university professors. The program lasts 1-10 months, depending on the type of program.

Scholarship sizes:

  • Bachelor's/master's students — 372 USD/month
  • Doctorate students — 616 USD/month[27]

To apply for a scholarship, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Study at a university outside of Slovakia and at the same time be a student of a master's or bachelor's degree who, at the time of the application deadline, has already completed at least 2.5 years of university studies in the relevant curriculum.
  • Doctorate students who are studying at a higher education institution outside of Slovakia.

Potential fellows must also receive an invitation from an educational institution that implements academic mobility.

Scholarships provided under bilateral cooperation programs

In 2015, the Government of the Slovak Republic entered into bilateral agreements on cooperation in education, research and culture with several countries to support exchange programs.

The program covers airfare to Slovakia, a monthly stipend of 297 USD for undergraduate and graduate students, and a 351 USD stipend for doctorate students[28]. For each country, a quota of students, the duration of study, and an application deadline are determined. Scholarship applications must be submitted by April 1st.

Motivational Scholarships of the University of Žilina

The University of Žilina, founded in 1953, ranks 168th in the QS EECA[2]. Undergraduate and graduate students can apply for a motivational scholarship (motivačné štipendium)[29]. However, it is not easy to obtain — only 10% of students who demonstrate excellent results in their studies are awarded this scholarship. The payment amount is determined on an individual basis[30].

Work while studying

A temporary residence permit, which foreign students obtain to study in Slovakia, also allows you to work part-time for 20 hours a week without additional permission. The most popular option is to work in the service sector. These vacancies are in high demand among Slovak students, and there can be a lot of competition for a job offer. And given that locals do not always know English well, preference is given to applicants with a high level of Slovak proficiency.

The minimum wage in Slovakia is 4 USD/hour — students can receive an average of 552 USD per month with part-time employment[31]. Considering the low living costs in Slovakia, the average salary is enough to pay for food and accommodation[13].

If a student is unable to find a job during their studies, it is worth considering internships in areas relevant to the field of study. This kind of experience is especially valuable in the eyes of employers. The main idea of an internship is that the student exchanges their time for knowledge and skills that will help them get a job in the future.

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Prospects and employment opportunities

Diplomas received at Slovak universities correspond to the pan-European model and are accepted in all EU countries and outside of the EU.

After graduation, a student can get a full-time job. The advantage is that a graduate of a Slovak university does not need to apply for a work permit. No later than 30 days after graduation, you can apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a residence permit for employment or a job-seeking residence permit[32].

However, Slovakia has a fairly high unemployment rate — 6.4%[33], and the average salary per year is quite low (21,749 USD/year) compared to salaries in other European countries[34]. Often, a completed higher education is not enough for employment. Employers pay attention to relevant work experience.

Also, the probability of employment depends on the demand for the profession in the labor market. Currently, there is a high demand for workers in the fields of logistics, industrial production, marketing, and IT[35].

Immigration to Slovakia

Slovakia is considered one of the most loyal countries for immigrants. Since many EU countries are already crowded with foreigners, they are gradually tightening entry criteria. However, there has not yet been such a strong influx of immigrants in Slovakia.

To obtain Slovak citizenship, you must meet a number of requirements:

  • Reside in Slovakia for at least eight years
  • Absence of a criminal record or criminal prosecution
  • Confirm Slovak language proficiency
  • Confirm general knowledge about Slovakia
  • Submit all required documents[36]
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