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Considering pursuing a Masters or Ph.D. in Europe?

Updated: May 19, 2022

Written by Spardha Jhamb

Are you enticed by the culture, work-life balance and the picturesque landscape of Europe? Or are you mesmerized by the engineering excellence and innovative progress in science that the European countries have made? Does this motivate you to pursue your higher education in Europe, but you are unsure how to? Or are you awestruck by the plethora of opportunities but are finding it hard to choose the best for you? If so, you have arrived at the right place. However, this piece comes with a disclaimer that the perspectives articulated here are solely based on my personal experiences and the experiences of friends and colleagues.

Can you do a Ph.D in Europe right after bachelors?

Unlike in the USA or Canada, getting a Ph.D. opportunity in Europe right after a bachelors, is not really an option. So, either one can opt for scholarships to pursue a Masters in Europe or complete their masters from India itself. Post a masters, all Ph.D. opportunities are fully-funded either by the university or external foundation grants held by the university professors. Typically, a Ph.D. project can be initiated by establishing a connection with the professor at a university or research institute in your field of interest. One can come in contact with a professor by establishing a direct connection through contacting professors on their university Email IDs or keeping a tap on the open positions announced on the university websites or EURAXESS website (Jobs Search | EURAXESS ( Moreover, post a two year masters in Europe the Ph.D. in most cases can be completed within three years. So yes, three years of chewing on new knowledge, quenching your curiosity and grinning at your accomplishments and then you can be called a Doctor!

Which universities should I look at? What are the funding opportunities like?

There are plenty of opportunities in mainland Europe: Germany, France, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries: Sweden, Denmark and Norway to pursue a fully-funded doctorate in the field of your choice. If you wish to pursue an academic career in pure sciences, the Max Planck Institutes in Germany (Max Planck Institutes and Experts | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft - Material & Technology ( and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) Centre national de la recherche scientifique (, are some of the coveted and prestigious institutes in Europe. In addition, the six Eurotech universities for Engineering or technical sciences: Technical University of Munich (Degree Programs - TUM), Technical University of Denmark (Technical University of Denmark - DTU), Technical University of Eindhoven (Master programs (, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Switzerland (Master ‐ EPFL), Polytechnic Institute of Paris (École polytechnique, école d'ingénieur) and Technion Israel (Home - Technion - Israel Institute of Technology) are leading institutes working on some of the key cutting-edge problems. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Network Fellowships funded by the European Commission have a good weightage on your CV as well as they help to build a well-engaged network across the European scientific community. Apart from that, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Doctoral Scholarship also allows you to pursue a Ph.D. from the top institutions in Germany.

Which universities are focused on chemical engineering and chemical technology?

Specifically, for students from chemical engineering and other specialization areas within the applied chemistry or chemical technology fields, technical universities, apart from the aforementioned ones, like the Technical University of Delft, Technical University of Dortmund, Hamburg University of Technology, Technical University of Berlin, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology and Norwegian University of Science and Technology also offer state of the art research facilities, knowledgeable and visionary guidance from professors and mentors.

Will I need to learn a foreign language to be enrolled in the course?

However, studying and working in Europe, comes with the challenge of learning a new language. As such all masters courses in the Scandinavian nations, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and also a few interdisciplinary technical programs in Germany are taught in English. However, especially in German and French universities, most courses in core chemical engineering programs are taught in the local language. Only the Technical University of Dortmund has an English-taught Chemical Engineering program (M.Sc. Process Systems Engineering - TU Dortmund ( Another noteworthy English-taught interdisciplinary Elite Masters program is in Advanced Materials and Processes from the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (Elite Master's Programme "Advanced Materials and Processes" MAP at FAU). So, unless you have a good grasp of the German and French languages before moving to these countries, it would not be worthwhile to enroll in core engineering programs. If you plan to learn German, the Goethe Institutes offer language courses and are a good head start.

What are my options if I want to stick to English-speaking universities?

Even though the Ph.D. programs in the Scandinavian countries are not currently recognized as the most prestigious ones in Europe, the administrative and leadership teams of the universities have a concrete vision to make their Ph.D. programs the best in Europe.

The Nordic Five Tech Alliance consists of Aalto University, Finland, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden and Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway. If you wish to pursue your higher education in an English-speaking environment, I can vouch that these would be excellent places. I have experienced this first-hand at the Technical University of Denmark. To top it all, they offer one of the highest salaries while pursuing a “Ph.D.” and you would also be entitled to both student and employee benefits.

So overall, in case your American dream falls a little short by not receiving an admit into the top-ranked universities or the idea of moving to the States just does not appeal to you, then investing in a European education would certainly be a fruitful and fulfilling experience. Today, the PM of our nation wouldn’t have thought of establishing ambitious strategic partnerships with Germany, France and the Nordic countries, had there not been significant technological and innovative advancements made in these nations.

About the Author:

Spardha Jhamb is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Hempel Foundation Coatings Science and Technology (CoaST) center, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Copenhagen Capital Region. Spardha earned her Ph.D. from the Chemical Engineering department of DTU in 2019. She got her B.Tech degree from ICT, Mumbai in 2014. She has more than 10 publications in internationally peer-reviewed journals and has presented her research work at several international conferences in Europe, USA, and Canada. When she is not working, she enjoys swimming, cycling and dancing.

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