The Top European Exchange Destinations 2018-19: Research

Updated on Jul 09 • 4 minute read

Predictions from HousingAnywhere🔮

The European Commission recently announced that they’re planning to double the budget for Erasmus+, the E.U.’s exchange programme. This means that in the years to come even more people will be going abroad to work, study or volunteer, while this figure has been steadily increasing for years.

With more people taking the leap, and shifts in the ways cities and countries are attracting internationals, what are the exchange destinations of the not-so-distant future?

The research

As a global accommodation platform built with mobile students in mind, we took a look at our own data to get some answers. We crunched the numbers on where internationals are searching for and booking accommodation in four European countries, and compared this with statistics on university admissions and institutional ratings.

Here’s where predicts the class of 2019 will lay their (graduation) hats. Let’s take a closer look at the story in some of Europe’s top countries and establish the 2018-19 hotlist.

Rotterdam Rising

2018 International City Predictions: The Netherlands

  1. Rotterdam🔼 +1
  2. Amsterdam🔽 -1
  3. The Hague 🔼 +1
  4. Utrecht 🔼 +1
  5. Delft🔽-2
  6. Maastricht▶️ =
  7. Tilburg 🔼 +4
  8. Leiden 🔽-1
  9. Enschede ▶️ =
  10. Groningen🔽-2

For the first time, Rotterdam surpassed Amsterdam in terms of the number of students active on This is perhaps thanks most of all to the Netherlands’ biggest institution - Erasmus University Rotterdam - and the large number of English-taught courses on offer.

Rotterdam has surpassed Amsterdam for the first time.

A key distinction in the Dutch higher education system is the research university/hogeschool divide, with the latter focussing on applied sciences and generally attracting fewer internationals. All the cities which climbed the list year on year have research universities with the exception of the Hague, where the array of international institutions and embassies ensures a steady flow of interns and aspiring internationalists.

German giants: Future-ready courses on the up

2018 International City Predictions: Germany

  1. Berlin ▶️ =
  2. Munich ▶️ =
  3. Hamburg 🔼 +1
  4. Frankfurt am Main 🔽 -1
  5. Dortmund 🔼 +2
  6. Köln ▶️ =
  7. Bochum 🔽 -2
  8. Heidelberg 🔼 +1
  9. Leipzig 🔼 +1
  10. Nuremberg 🔼 +2

Berlin and Munich both bagged themselves the top spots not only in Germany but in the whole of Europe. This is perhaps unsurprising with Germany recently being ranked by Study EU as the most attractive European study destination based on things like tuition prices and the quality of teaching.

German cities which offer future-ready study programmes on topics like sustainability and technology will attract the students of the future.

With the EU placing particular emphasis on study programmes which build towards a technologically-forward and sustainable future, cities like Heidelberg - where universities offer degrees in areas such as “Integrated Climate System Sciences” - may continue to rise up the ranking in years to come.

¡Hola Murcia! A new kid on the block

2018 International City Predictions: Spain

  1. Barcelona ▶️ =
  2. Madrid ▶️ =
  3. Murcia 🔼 +4
  4. Valencia 🔽 -1
  5. Seville ▶️ =
  6. Granada 🔽 -2
  7. Zaragoza 🔼 +3
  8. Bilbao 🔽 -2
  9. Cordoba 🔽 -1
  10. Salamanca ▶️ =

Spain hosts more Erasmus+ students (45,813 in the 2015-2016) than any other country. Traditionally, these students flock towards the Erasmus epicentres of Barcelona and Madrid, while university cities like Valencia, Granada, Bilbao or Salamanca also welcome their fair share.

Murcia climbs the rankings to take third place, second only to the major capitals of Barcelona and Madrid.

However, this year Murcia has moved up to third place, climbing four places since 2017. New undergraduate programmes in the universities around Murcia paired with more affordable accommodation prices might explain the city’s meteoric ascent from 2017 to 2018.

Florence takes the heat

2018 International City Predictions: Italy

  1. Florence 🔼 +4
  2. Pisa 🔼 +3
  3. Milan ▶️ =
  4. Turin 🔽 -2
  5. Bologna 🔼 +1
  6. Rome 🔽 -4
  7. Siena 🔼 +3
  8. Venice 🔽 -1
  9. Parma 🔼 +1
  10. Catania 🔽 -2

While Rome continues to draw in internationals, hosting 9,000 foreign students in last year, 2018’s top player so far has been Florence, the cradle of art and museum culture. Meanwhile, Pisa climbs a number of places to overtake the fashion capital Milan, perhaps thanks to its renowned institution the University of Pisa. Siena also makes a confident first entry onto the list coming in at number 7.

Siena makes a strong debut on the list, ranking at number 7.

While these results are sure to shift and change in the months to come with Rome as a likely winner in the end, the trend seems to be that smaller cities are punching above their weight when it comes to attracting international students.

The Big Picture

So what does all this mean? The world of education continues to become more international, and the Erasmus+ budget increase brings with it the promise that study abroad will be accessible to more people. With the numerous benefits the experience seems to offer, including improved employment prospects, transversal skills and general open-mindedness, allowing more students take part is a great step forward.

That being said, if we want to ensure that the experience is overwhelmingly positive, more action needs to be taken to ensure the practical issues that stem from internationalisation need to be solved. Research into the area has shown that problems linked to housing are the top hurdle mobile students must jump, with nine key issues being identified, including diverse laws and regulations and a general lack of awareness among universities.

The view from HousingAnywhere

HousingAnywhere founder Niels van Deuren says of the situation, “Studying abroad was what prompted me to become and entrepreneur, and all 80 of our employees today site an international experience as a key life and career motivator. We want as many people as possible to have access to this great opportunity.

At HousingAnywhere, we’re all about collaboration - we hope that predictions on where students are planning to go will help municipalities, universities and companies like ours to be better prepared and work together to fully realise the benefits that a flourishing international population can bring.

I’m also happy to see that smaller cities like Murcia and Florence are moving up - the housing issue is basically a question of supply and demand. A better distribution of students across the country, rather than everyone descending on capital cities where students need to compete with expats and professionals, could help to solve this problem.”

A note on methodology

We looked at the bookings on from 2017 and measured this alongside international student admission levels in each city to check and confirm the external validity of our results to formulate our hotlist from last year.

Our predictions are based on bookings and search volumes from May until now, the period we know according to our seasonality index when most mobile students begin their accommodation search. To understand the changes and shifts in our year-on-year rankings, we looked at the Times Higher Education World University Rankings to identify the universities which improved their rating in 2018.

For press enquiries and interviews please contact: Simone Pouw

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