Tim Rogers reveals some of the world’s best-value destinations for international students.
Everyone wants to get more for less when economic times are tough, and studying is no different. With tuition fees in the news across so many countries, perhaps now is the time to look at some of the better value study destinations, where the quality of education and student experience doesn’t necessarily mean a compromise in academic quality.
Dotted across Europe are a number of value-for-money study destinations promoting their unique study experiences to those eager to balance their thirst for quality graduate education with their wallet.
Mariann Lugus from the Archimedes Foundation, an independent body established by the Estonian government in 1997 to promote mobility and internationalization in Estonia, believes that emerging study destinations can offer students an excellent experience.
“Quality, English-language taught programs are available in many countries and it is only now, when more students are really thinking about studying abroad, that some of the less obvious choices are becoming more popular.”
Estonia is typical of many smaller countries, particularly those in Northern Europe, who offer both reasonably priced tuition fees – often less than €3,000 (US$4,000) a year - and a modest cost of living without compromising the quality of the education system.
The six publically funded and four private universities all offer degrees in English and play an active role in the support of students throughout their study period.
Mariann Lugus continues, “In a recent survey of our international students we discovered that we are regarded as one of the most enjoyable and best value-for-money study destinations anywhere in the world, with low cost housing being a particular feature for students.”
Less than 80 kilometres from Estonia, across the Baltic Sea, lies another value-for-money study destination – Finland. For many years, Finland has been attracting the more adventurous students with the quality of their research-led degree programs, the unique natural environment and their national policy of not charging tuition fees.
Kimmo Kuortti, Director of International Relations at one of Finland’s leading universities, the University of Oulu, believes that countries where there have traditionally been no or low tuition fees for international students, have largely been disregarded by many students.
“Too many students have historically thought that if there are no tuition fees then the quality of the degree is likely to be bad. This is just not the case – we have had this policy of no fees because we want to make sure good students can come to us whatever their background and our government has been prepared to fund these students.”
But there is a not so hidden cost all international students should take into account when considering a university where no tuition fees are charged – the cost of living.
In both Finland and its neighbor, Norway, the absence of tuition fees for international students disguises the fact that the cost of food, entertainment and accommodation can be more expensive than anticipated.
Even so, without the level of fees typically charged by universities in the UK and the Netherlands, such study destinations do represent viable alternatives to some of the more established and expensive countries typically favored by students.
But perhaps one of the best value-for-money study destinations for international graduate students, certainly in Europe, continues to be Germany. With the majority of state-funded universities not charging tuition fees to students, and those that have implemented new laws allowing fees to be charged asking for less than €1,000 (US$1,300) a year, German university programs attract international students from all over the world in greater numbers than many of her neighbors.
As is the case in many other countries, most international students are drawn to the capital city – in Germany’s case, Berlin, regarded by many as the “coolest” and most vibrant city in Europe.
Home to some of the country’s leading universities, Berlin provides the perfect mix between access to high quality academic programs and low cost living.
Dr Ursula Hans, Director of the International Office at Berlin’s Humboldt University, sees the city’s advantages as being tailor-made for international students.
“Living in Berlin is still very reasonable and is surely one of the most cost-effective student cities in the world. What we call co-op living arrangements with other students are often very reasonably priced, as well as a great communicative and intercultural learning opportunity.
"Food and culture are a steal throughout the city and public transportation is included in our low registration fee. It is easily possible for an international student to live on €400-600 (US$540-800) a month. Here, we believe that knowledge does not weigh you down with debt.”
Whether you choose Germany or another low-cost study destination in Europe, it clearly pays to research in more detail the range of countries that welcome international students. Beyond the popular and comparatively expensive choices of the UK, the US and other countries, are plenty of opportunities to study at the highest level without having to break the bank.