While university fees continue to rise in many parts of the world, some of you might be thinking that getting a recognized degree qualification, either in your home country or abroad, is simply impossible without having a four- or five-figure budget at your disposal.
You’ll be pleased to hear that this isn’t necessarily the case! There are many countries worldwide where students are able to study abroad for free or for a very affordable amount; you just need to know where to look.
Below you’ll find a selection of countries that offer low-cost or free tuition, with details on eligibility and what current (low) university fees you can expect. To find internationally reputed universities in these countries, visit the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15.
Study in Germany for free
Interest in studying abroad in Germany just seems to keep on growing. This is largely due to the fact that there are no undergraduate tuition fees at public universities in Germany, and this applies to both German students and internationals, regardless of nationality. Just a small nominal university fee is charged, of around €150-250 (US$160-270) to cover administration costs.
These low study costs, combined with Germany’s strong economy and excellent higher education system, makes the prospect of undertaking study in Germany for free extremely appealing for both students and their parents worldwide. Indeed, in a recent HSBC report on ‘The Value of Education’, Germany came third – behind the US and UK – in terms of perceived quality of education among surveyed parents. More than 40 German universities are featured among the world’s leaders in the QS World University Rankings – again, beaten only by the US and UK – with the highest place taken by Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.
If you’re successful in finding a university at which to study in Germany for free, you will of course still need to budget for living costs. You should allow around US$10,520 a year to cover living costs and university fees. Two of the top destinations for study in Germany, Munich and Berlin, are also ranked as two of the most affordable cities to study in the QS Best Student Cities 2015.
For more information on how to study in Germany for free, see the following articles:
- How Much Does it Cost to Study in Germany?
- Masters in Germany: International Student Guide
- Scholarships to Study in Germany
- Study in Germany: Frequently Asked Questions
- Study in Germany in English
- Top Universities in Germany by State 2014/15
Study in France for free (or at low cost)
France may not be quite as widely known as Germany for affordable higher education, but again, international students may be surprised to hear that they can also study in France for free (or, at a very low cost), regardless of their nationality.
Although technically university fees do exist at public universities in France, they’re just a fraction of those charged in most countries, amounting to just €180 (US$250) per year to cover course administration. Additional charges can bring this price up, particularly for more specialized programs such as medicine and engineering, but not dramatically. If you’re looking to study at a leading grande école, however, expect fees to vary widely.
As is the case in Germany, the majority of programs offering the chance to study in France for free are taught in the native language. However, there are a growing number of opportunities to study in English, particularly at graduate level. Alternatively, you can also attend a preparatory school to perfect your French skills before beginning your degree, but this you’ll have to pay for.
While it is possible to study in France for free, living costs can be substantial, particularly in the ever-popular capital. That said, despite its notoriety for high living costs, Paris is still fairly affordable, with living costs amounting to around €9,600 (US$10,430) per year. According to Numbeo, cross-channel rival London eclipses Paris in all aspects of expense, with consumer prices marked 20% higher and rental prices a whopping 80% higher than in Paris. The French capital’s comparative affordability, combined with a huge selection of internationally ranked universities, means it continues to top the QS Best Student Cities index.
Find out more:
- Scholarships to Study Abroad in the World’s Best Student Cities
- Scholarships to Study in Europe
- Top 10 Student Cities in Europe 2015
- Top 10 Universities in Paris
- QS Best Student Cities 2015: London Vs Paris
Study in the Nordic countries for free
Known for its high quality of life, stunning nature and liberal politics, Northern European nations (known as the Nordic countries) also boast some of the strongest higher education systems in the world. And for many students, it’s possible to study abroad for free in four out of five Nordic countries!
While Iceland does charge tuition fees, fellow Nordic nations Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden all offer opportunities to study free of charge. However, there are certain requisites students must fulfill.
In Norway, university study is available free of charge to all students, regardless of study level or nationality. The majority of undergraduate programs are taught only in Norwegian, and international students need to demonstrate proof of proficiency in Norwegian in order to study at this level. At master’s and PhD level, however, English language programs are far more common and free tuition still applies.
Denmark and Sweden, meanwhile, only extend their free higher education perks to students from within the EU/EEA and Switzerland, meaning that students from outside these regions must pay tuition fees for bachelor and master’s level programs. PhD programs in both countries are fully funded, offering exceptional PhD candidates the chance to gain their degree without paying fees, and earn a salary.
In both Denmark and Sweden, international fees at bachelor and master levels varies. In Denmark, university fees range from between DKK 45,000 and DKK 120,000 (US$6,550-$17,500) annually, while in Sweden they fall between SEK 80,000 and SEK 140,000 (US$9,400-16,500).
But what about living costs? Well, this is the catch, as the costs of living in Northern Europe are among some of the highest in the whole of Europe. This is largely due to the healthy economy of the region overall and the strength of the Nordic currencies, so paying more for living when the streets are clean and the people are happy perhaps isn’t so bad! Three Nordic capitals were this year ranked among the world’s top 50 student cities: Copenhagen, Helsinki and Stockholm.
Find out more:
- Denmark Rated the Third Best Place to Study in Europe
- International Scholarships for Europe’s Nordic Countries
- Student Satisfaction: Finland Best Place to Study in Europe
- Studying in Sweden: Student Satisfaction Survey Results
Other places to study in Europe for free (or at low cost)
What about other places to study in Europe for free or at a low cost? There are a number of places in Europe which offer affordable and free universities, without any need to sacrifice on quality. See below for more examples.
Another country where students can study in Europe for free (or at a very low cost) is Austria. EU/EEA students enjoy the same rights as Austrians when it comes to the cost of higher education, and can study for up to two semesters for free at any degree level. After this time, students pay a fee of just €360 (US$390) per semester. International students from outside of the EU or EEA should expect slightly higher fees of around €730 (US$790) per semester. Living costs will set all students back approximately between €850 and €1,000 (US$920-1,080) a month. Vienna, Austria’s capital city, was ranked 20th in the QS Best Student Cities 2015.
There are two main speaking communities in Belgium, each with their own stance on university fees. The cost of higher education for EU students in the Flemish-speaking part of the country is approximately €610 (US$660) a year for full-time study, while the French-speaking part offers fees of €830 (US$900). And while it’s just EU students who get the major benefits of being able to study in Europe for free, fees are still very affordable for international students, ranging from €1,900 to €3,850 (US$2,050-$4,170) a year. You can live in Belgium with a budget of around €600-800 (US$650-$860) a month. Brussels, the capital city, was ranked 47th in this year’s QS Best Student Cities.
Students who speak Czech are able to study abroad for free in the Czech Republic at any public university. Students who wish to study in English can also study fairly cheaply, at around CRK 27,270 (US$1,080) per semester. Living costs are more affordable than in many countries in Western Europe, at around CRK 8,800-18,850 (US$350-750) a month. The Czech capital city, Prague, was this year ranked 49th in the QS Best Student Cities.
All students from within the EU or EEA are able to study abroad for free in Greece at public universities and colleges at all levels, with the exception of some master’s degree programs. And if this doesn’t sound like enough, you can also get your course textbooks for free! International students are also eligible for low cost higher education, at approximately €1,500 (US$1,630) per year. Greece offers one of the lowest costs of living in the European Union.
Although private universities in Italy can be known to charge up to €16,000 (US$17,360) a year, public universities in Italy are markedly cheaper, charging between €850 and €1,000 (US$920-1,080) per year for undergraduate programs. EU students are eligible for the same funding opportunities as Italian students, including loans, grants, scholarships and fee waivers. Living costs in Italy are also not as high as you might expect, at around €1,200 (US$1,300) a month. This year, Milan was ranked 36th in the QS Best Student Cities.
With the same education rights as Spanish students, EU students are not required to pay high education fees. International students, meanwhile, are able to study in Spain for a price of between €680 and €1,400 (US$740-1,500) a year at public institutions. Fees are charged on a ‘per credit’ basis and can be higher at graduate level. To live in Spain you should expect to spend between €900 and €1,100 (US$970-1,200) in living costs. Barcelona and Madrid are both featured in the QS Best Student Cities 2015 ranking, at 19th and 39th respectively.
Other places to study abroad for free (or at low cost)
While Argentinian students all enjoy access to free universities, international students should expect to pay a small, nominal fee to enroll at public universities in the country. Private institutions in Argentina, on the other hand, can charge upwards of ARS 43,800 (US$5,000) a year. In the QS Best Student Cities 2015, Argentinian capital Buenos Aires was ranked 24th.
In India, international students at undergraduate level will often pay a combined yearly amount of between Rs 75,350 and Rs 332,400 (US$1,200-$5,300) to cover both their tuition fees and their accommodation. While government institutions charge fairly similar fees, graduate degrees tend to be more expensive and private schools charge significantly more. Living costs in India are, for most students, likely to be very appealing. According to Numbeo, consumer prices are 236% cheaper than in the UK, while rental prices are as much as 471% cheaper.
Tuition fees in Taiwan offer great value, with the nation’s top universities offering affordable programs. For example, National Taiwan University (NTU), the nation’s leading university at 76th in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15, last year charged undergraduate students just NTD 50,460-62,100 (US$1,600-2,000) for the year. In the QS Best Student Cities 2015, Taipei was ranked 25th in the world and the most affordable city for students in 2015.