Did you know that Slovakia and the Czech Republic are the two probably closest countries in the world? They have similar languages (so Slovak students can study in the Czech Republic in Slovak), share the same history (1st and 2nd republic of Czechoslovakia), and split peacefully in 1993. Czechs use to call Slovaks their smaller brothers, as the Czech Republic has a double population and territory. The main rivalry nowadays in hockey and football games.
We will take a look at the rivalry between Czech universities and Slovak universities – their rankings, visas process, recognition of education from abroad and so on. The article will be on full-time studies (so not Erasmus studies which are study exchanges just for a couple of months)
Studying in central Europe
Studying in central Europe (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, or Hungary – called also the Schengen zone) can be an interesting alternative for those students, who would like to study in English but do not have tens of thousands of dollars to study at a prestigious university in the United Kingdom, USA, Australia or New Zealand. Compared to English-speaking countries, tuition fees in central Europe are 10x lower (3000-4000€ for the most of programs – the most expensive is General medicine and Dentistry with price of 10000-15000€ per one year).
Another aspect are living costs – while a rental contract in the UK can reach 500-700 pounds per room in London, you can take a dorm room for 100-200€ in central Europe. The total living cost might be 250-300€ per month in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, or Poland. Prices could be higher in the capitals of countries (Bratislava, Prague, Warsaw, and Budapest), which is compensated by more options for part-time jobs.
If a foreigner is staying over 3 months in central Europe, a residence permit (or long-term visa) is needed. They do refer to the same thing: every foreigner needs to be registered as foreign police and the right to live and study needs to be awarded. We will now compare the process in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Application for long-term visas for the Czech Republic (equivalent institute to a residence permit in Slovakia) could be problematic for multiple reasons. First of all, the process may take up to 60 days and the permit is not awarded for the full length of studies automatically. Instead, students need to go to foreign police every year with an application for renewal of long-term residence. It is also not possible to ask for short-term visas and convert them to long-term visas in the Czech Republic.
One of the documents, which are needed to submit to the Czech Embassy, is the final acceptance letter. This letter is issued by the university only once so-called nostrification (we will speak about it in the next step) is finished. Nostrification could be problematic, especially for bachelor students, where subjects and marks from secondary school are compared with marks and subjects in the Czech Republic.
The benefit of applying for the Czech Republic is, that necessary documents are valid for 180 days from day of issue. That can provide a longer time span for application for long-term residence.
Now let’s take a look at the application for a residence permit in Slovakia. The procedure is needed to be done only once for the whole Bachelor’s studies and once for the Master’s studies. There is no need for multiple visits from foreign police. Another benefit for students is that it is possible to apply for short-term visas (so-called national D-type visas). Students will obtain national visas at the embassy within 30 days and come to Slovakia. Afterward, they can convert their short-term visas to residence permits in Slovakia for studies.
Application for a residence permit or short-term visa is easier compared to the Czech Republic, but it has also its problems. Firstly, only documents issued in the last 90 days are accepted for submission. In addition to a police clearance certificate from your home country it is also mandatory to get police clearance certificate from any country where you spend over 90 days in the last 3 years (during 6 months frame). This can be problematic for students who do study for bachelor’s in different countries and would like to study master’s in Slovakia.
Recognition of completed studies from abroad (nostrification)
Recognition of completed studies from abroad is a process that needs to be done before the start of studies at the University. It is an administrative process, where subjects and marks from your home school (secondary school or bachelor level) are compared with subjects and marks in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
There are no big differences between the recognition of completed courses from the Bachelor’s level of studies in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Bachelor transcript of records and bachelor’s diploma need to be translated by a sworn translator to the local language and submitted to the University. Documents are then evaluated by a competent university. they will compare subjects completed at University abroad and their institution and decide to recognize or reject. The main important rules for recognition are Bachelor level taking at least 3 years, similar subjects, and necessary knowledge for Master studies. There are also fees for recognition (nostrification), which are comparable in both Slovakia and Czech Republic (80-100€)
Nostrification in the Czech Republic
The main difference is in the recognition of the secondary level of education. The process in the Czech Republic can be different now, so we suggest checking with the authorities to get the last update. As per the situation in 2020, the recognition of secondary schools in the Czech Republic was complicated: the county bureau need to compare subjects and marks during the whole secondary school. The process may take up to 60 days. As foreigners do not have any residence in the Czech Republic before studying, there could be also problems in finding out the correct office responsible for the process.
If a student is coming from Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, the recognition of automatic without any further inspection. For other countries, problems may occur. You can contact your future university in Czech republic for more detailed information.
Nostrification in Slovakia
Nostrification in Slovakia is easier. The process may take a maximum of 30 days (if there is an international treaty with Slovakia, it is even faster). Slovakia has currently international treaties with the following countries regarding recognition of academic documents: Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, China, Russia, Croatia, Ukraine, Hungary and Croatia.
If the country is not from the list above, the county bureau has more time to process papers. If correct papers are provided, the nostrification will be awarded in a reasonable time. Students need to submit the following documents: a copy of their passport, translated secondary school diploma, translated marks from secondary school and a conditional acceptance letter from their future university. From our experience, nostrification was awarded in all cases when the correct documents have been submitted.
Tuition fees in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are comparable. If some foreigner is studying in Slovakia or Czech Republic in the local language, the studies are free of charge. Studies in the English language are possible for the most of programs: from aeronautics to mechanical engineering up to medicine or pharmacy (some programs are available even in German, French, or Hungarian).
The cheapest programs in Slovakia cost only 1500€ (for managerial programs), and most of the other programs cost 2500-4000€ per year (bachelor studies take 3 years, master studies take 2 years). The most expensive are programs like pharmacy (7500€ per year), general medicine, or dental medicine (up to 11.000€ per year).
As per portal studyin.cz, aggregator of all study programs in the Czech Republic, the tuition fees range from 0€ to 23000€. The most expensive are medical programs. Tuition fees for economics or IT programs are usually 2500-4000€ per year. Again, a bachelor’s is 3 years, and a master’s is 2 years.
Cost of living
The cost of living depends on the living style. Students have the advantage of various discounts and offers of dormitories. Dormitory prices for international students are approximately 80-130€ per one month, while private apartments (shared apartments) may cost around 150-180€ per month. Food expenses could be around 150-200€, canteen food is discounted for students. The monthly pass for students is around 10-12€ per month. Services, such as hairdressers or gyms will be more expensive in big cities like Bratislava or Kosice. With a budget of 500€, one will not have any problem surviving anywhere in Slovakia.
The cost of living in the Czech Republic will be comparable. A budget of 350€ is considered as a minimum, with a budget of 600-700€ it is possible to cover all expenses comfortably (single apartment, food, travel, free time activities, etc). The budget for living in bigger cities like Prague, Brno, or Pilsen could be more expensive.
Czech universities have longer traditions and positions in rankings. There are 3 universities in the TOP 500 universities according to QS Ranking (2023): Charles University in Prague (288th), the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (358th), and the Czech Technical University in Prague. There are also the following universities in the TOP 1000 list: Masaryk University (551st), Palacky University in Olomouc (651st), Brno University of Technology (701st), University of South Bohemia (701st), the Czech University of Life Science in Prague (801st), Mendel University in Brno (801st) and the Technical University of Olomouc (801st).
Slovakia has the following universities among the TOP 1000 universities as per QS ranking (2023): the University of Pavel Jozef Safaraik (701st) the Comenius University (701st), the Technical University of Kosice (801st), the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava (801st), University of Zilina (801st),
Both Slovakia and the Czech Republic allow students to work during their studies. Students can work up to 20 hours per week (80 hours per month). Students in Slovakia and the Czech Republic can also run a business (sole trading license or private liability company – S.r.o). A residence permit is required in both cases. The basic rule is that foreigners and local students should have the same treatment and rules as per law.