Knowledge comes with a price tag, or so it may seem. After all, it takes a lot of money to run an institution, recruit talented faculty, provide educational resources, and then have some set aside for providing scholarships to the exceptional students. There are many such reasons why degrees have become so costly. In the US alone, knowledge is one of the costliest commodities.
No wonder parents start saving up for their kid’s college even before they plan to have a family! But there are, surprisingly, avenues that you can explore if you want to keep your education meaningful, yet pocket friendly. Read Cost of doing an MS in the US and Cheapest countries to study abroad.
In this article, we have attempted to collate the list of countries, from the European continent, that have policies, and the subscribing universities, that make the pursuit of a degree possible without the doom of an inconceivable student debt. These include undergraduate as well as graduate courses (Read How to study abroad for free). The list below is not comprehensive, but provides a rather useful glimpse at the trends in the European university system.
List of tuition free universities in Europe for international students
Low & Free Tuition universities in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Spain
Tuition free universities in Germany
Germany has been one of the few countries leading the world in treating education as an investment rather than a consumer product. All public universities have been tuition free for not only German, or EU students, but also for other international candidates. Though a Masters degree may come at a small cost, much smaller as compared to US universities, PhD degrees are largely free for at least the first six semesters. Unfortunately though, this happy situation has been reigned back with reforms in the Ministry of Education – Baden Wuttemberg Act on State University Fees 2017 – to compensate for the country’s debts. Undergraduate degrees, in some public universities, are no longer free for non-EU internationals who don’t qualify the following criteria:
- International students who have been educated in Germany.
- International students from the European Union.
- Non-EU students who are German permanent residents.
- And refugees who qualify to stay in Germany.
The fees for qualifying students, exempt from tuition, is less than $250 per semester for administrative costs. For the rest, it is about $1,800 per semester in addition to the administrative fees. While most of the public universities are free, we have compiled a list of ten to give a glimpse of the range of financing, you may need, to get a degree under their excellent tutelage for undergraduate and Masters degrees.
- University of Teubingen (No tuition for EU/EEA students. Only semester fee of $180. Other internationals have to pay $1,800 + semester fee).
- Freie University of Berlin (Bachelors: No fee. Masters: Some like Executive Master of Business Marketing costs $17,000).
- Humboldt University in Berlin (No tuition. Only semester fee of $350).
- Leibniz University Hannover (Free for 6 semesters with only a semester fee of $550. After 6th semester, pay $600 + semester fee).
- Technical University of Munich (Semester fee of $155).
- University of Hamburg (No tuition except for professional Masters degrees. Semester fee of $390 applies).
- University of Cologne.
- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (All Non-EU students will have to pay tuition ~$1,800 per semester).
- Ludwig Maximilians University Munich (No tuition-fees. Semester fees ~$300 applicable).
- RWTH Aachen University (No tuition-fees. Semester fees ~ $310 applicable).
The reforms seems to have touched various public universities to varying extents. Some still offer free education with a semester fee cheaper than an iPhone four generations ago. For further information, read MS in Germany – Costs, Top Universities and Eligibility.
Tuition free universities in Finland
Though not a very well known international student study destination, finishing in a Finnish school keeps your pocket from running dry. Their schools are well regarded with University of Helsinki featuring amongst the top schools in the world. As far as how costly it is to obtain a degree in Finland, well, it depends. You can study for free as long as you are an EU candidate. That one being straight forward, you can also qualify for a tuition exemption if you fulfill one of the following golden criteria.
- You are a Non-EU/EEA student who began her degree, in Finland, before autumn 2017.
- A permanent/long term (Blue Card in Finland or Type P-EU) resident.
- A EU/EEA citizen, a relative of an EU citizen, or a citizen of Switzerland.
- A PhD or a temporary exchange student in Finland.
- A student enrolled in a degree taught in Finnish or Swedish.
As long as you satisfy these conditions, you can be spared a tuition of $5,000 to $24,000 (minimum of $1,800) depending on the category of your degree, professional degrees being more expensive. But if you can wise up early enough and buy your copy of Rosetta Stone for Finnish, or Swedish, you can save a chunk. Here are some of the public universities that have to abide by the University Act requiring the changes to tuition as per the above rules.
- University of Helsinki.
- University of Eastern Finland.
- University of Jyvaskyla.
- University of Lapland.
- University of Oulu.
- University of Tampere.
- University of Turku.
- University of Vaasa.
- Abo Akademi University.
- Lappeenranta University of Technology.
- Hanken School of Economics.
- University of the Arts Helsinki
- Aalto University
- Tampere University of Technology.
Besides these, there are also a list of Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) like the Arcada University of Applied Sciences, Centria University of Applied Sciences, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, and about 20 more that fall under the same category and follow similar policies.
Tuition free universities in Norway
State Universities, in Norway, are largely free barring the payment of a small semester fee of the order of $100. Certain specialized Masters degree may have a slightly higher price tag though. This is true for all students, whether Norwegian, EU, or from any other part of the world. Your health insurance also automatically falls under the care of the National Insurance Scheme, as long as you are enrolled in a program of a duration greater than a year. All you have to keep in mind is the cost of living in Norway. It can be a steep $1,300 monthly expense for a single person, in Oslo. So while tuition will never be a concern, your daily meals might. Here are a list of some of the Norwegian state schools with low/absent tuition-fees.
- University of Oslo.
- University of Bergen.
- Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
- University of Tromso.
- Norwegian School of Economics.
- University of Stavanger.
- Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.
- Ostfold University College.
- University of Agder.
Low and free tuition universities in Sweden
Sweden is not as forgiving, about tuition, as some of the other Nordic countries like Finland or Norway. Cost of a degree depends on where you are from. You may be exempt from paying a single dime if you happen to be
- an EU/EEA citizen,
- a Swedish permanent resident,
- a temporary Swedish residence permit for non-academic purposes,
- a family member of an EU citizen/permanent resident,
- foreign exchange student,
- or one from Switzerland,
For the rest, it can vary from around $20,000 per year, for a Masters course like Bioinformatics, to $17,000 per year, for a Bachelors in Physics. Here are a list of some of the public universities where EU citizens can enjoy free education, in Sweden.
- Lund University (~$20,000/year for Masters. $17,000/year for Bachelors).
- Uppsala University ($9,000 per semester).
- University of Gothenburg (~$8,000/year for Masters and Bachelors).
- Royal Institute of Technology (~$19,000/year for Masters in Science).
- Stockholm University ($11,300 for Masters and Bachelors).
- Karolinska Institute ($22,000 for Masters in Biomedicine).
- Linkoping University (Between $10,000 to $17,000).
- Umea University ($11,000 to $18,000).
- Linnaeus University ($10,000 to $33,000).
- Malardalen University ($11,000 to $17,000)
Low cost and Tuition free universities in Denmark
Yet another Nordic nation, its tuition fee policies are similar to that of Sweden. EU/EEA citizens, permanent residents, exchange students, temporary residents who can be upgraded to permanent residentship, children of non EU/EEA parent holding a resident permit, and citizens of Switzerland, are exempt from ponying up on study fees. For the rest it can range between $7,000 to $20,000. A glimpse of some of the universities, and their payment, are listed below.
- Technical University of Denmark (~$18,000 tuition. $9,000 per semester fee applies if Masters students enroll for less than 30 credits or extend their period of study beyond the normal duration + one year).
- University of Southern Denmark ($10,000 to $20,000)
- University of Copenhagen (~$12,000)
- IT University of Copenhagen
- Aarhus University ($9,000 to $15,000 for Masters and Bachelors).
- Aalborg University ($12,000 to $17,000)
- Roskilde University ($17,000/year for Mathematics & Computer Science).
Low cost and Tuition free universities in Belgium
A highly multilingual nation, the teaching medium mainly follows French with some courses offered in English as well. While it may not be completely free, the tuition is comparatively low and manageable. We have listed some of the low cost education centers in Belgium.
- Katholieke Universitiet Leuven (~$700 for Bachelors. $1,200 to $10,000 for Masters)
- Ghent University (~$1,000 for Bachelors. $2,000 for Postgraduate)
- UC Louvain (~$1,000/year)
- University of Antwerp (~$300/credit for Masters. Certain Masters have a reduced fee for EU/EEA citizens).
- University of Liege ($1,000 for EU citizens. Non-EU citizens pay an increased fee depending on the program).
Low cost and tuition free universities in Austria
In the case of Universities, in Austria, students from the country and other EU/EEA nations are exempt from paying any fees for the normal plus two semester tolerance of the course duration. Beyond the extra two semesters, they are liable to pay $480 per semester, for Bachelors, Masters and even Doctorate studies. Other categories that fall under the exemption include,
- Swiss nationals,
- persons entitled to Austrian asylum,
- Turkish students living with their parents in Austria, or whose parents have been employed in Austria.
- And finally students with a residence title – Red-White-Red Card plus, family title and residence card holder.
For students from third countries, a fee of $870 per semester applies. Tuition for Applied Sciences universities doesn’t come cheap and the individual amount is the discretion of the particular university. The same is true for private universities. Here are some of the public universities in Austria.
- University of Vienna.
- Johannes Kepler University
- TU Wein
- Graz University of Technology
- University of Salzburg
Low cost and Tuition free universities in Italy
As you can probably already guess, tuition in public universities is lower than private. Public universities, however, can charge tuition in the neighborhood of $1,000 a year, but a lot depends on the applicant’s financial situation. Some of the universities have individual means to determine the cost of a degree. Here are some public universities listed.
- University of Bologna (Tuition decided on an Equivalent Financial Situation Indicator – ISEE. Exemptions are given to anyone with ISEE values below $27,400).
- University of Milan ($190 to $5,000 based on your economic situation).
- Sapienza University of Rome (Reduced fee for low economic background, foreign students with less means, and families with more than one child enrolled at the university).
- Polytechnic University of Turin ($3,000 per academic year liable to reduction based on economic condition).
- University of Turin (Fee reduction based on ISEE evaluation of less than $35,830).
…and some more low cost and tuition free universities in Europe
Below are a list of a few more countries with excellent faculties at a reasonable fare. In the interest of not overwhelming the reader, we will stick to a few well known countries. You are strongly advised to follow the lead and check out what the rest of the European continent has in store.
National students of EU states, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Andorra, have a reduced fee per credit. In all, Bachelor degrees cost less than $2,500 while Masters and PhD cost less than $3,500. University of Barcelona, Autonomous University of Madrid, and University of Valencia, are some of the well known universities in Spain.
Holland too has a reasonable take on education with tuition costs approximately at $2,500 for EU students, with non-EU students expected to pay between $7,000 and $18,000 (for the more expensive professional courses) for a Bachelors degree program. Some of the public schools, in the country, are University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, University of Twente, Leiden University and so on.
Public universities, in France, predominantly use French as the teaching medium. While private university tuition-fees can be up to $8,000 a year, with professional degrees soaking up even more dough, public university tuition fees can be greatly reduced if you are willing to be taught in French. Undergraduate tuition can be within $200, with Masters around $300, and PhD in less than $400. Engineering and Medicine can be higher in the range of $1,000 a year. University of Paris, Ecole Polytechnic, Pierre and Marie Curie University, Aix Marseille University, University of Paris Sud are some of the public schools in France.
The information above is subject to change and obviously begs your close attention, and thorough research, at the country, school and program of your choice. For completeness, we have provided the following links to finance your university degree abroad.
- Best Business Schools in Europe
- Factors to compare while choosing an International Graduate Student Loan
- How responsible lenders are tackling the student loan debt crisis?