If you’re set on studying abroad, you probably know it tends to come hand in hand with a huge cost… But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some countries where international students don’t have their fees hiked thousands of dollars simply because they are from outside the country; in fact, there are some countries where they study for free.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, while you won’t be getting a totally free ride (you’ll most likely still have to pay for your flights, visa, health insurance and living costs while you’re there), you could get your tuition costs for free… and you don’t even have to do anything!
No fancy scholarship, no nasty catches, just you, free (or pretty darn cheap) tuition, and a new adventure furthering your education abroad.
So, where are these mystical lands where the universities come cheap and the good times come easy? Turns out, most of them are in Europe. So pack your bags and head to one of these European destinations for your studies…
Aw, good ol’ Germany, offering free tuition to both domestic and international students on Bachelor’s and consecutive Master’s degree programs since 2014.
Some federal states in Germany charge a small semester ‘contribution’ or administrative fee of around €50 (US$62) per term but other than that you’re free to spend your cash how you wish.
The state of Baden-Württemberg in south-west Germany is the only state that charges fees but these are minimal, at a maximum cost of €1,500 (US$1,850) per semester – a pittance compared with the US, UK and other popular study abroad destinations. Baden-Württemberg reintroduced tuition fees for students outside the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) at the beginning of this academic year in autumn 2017.
Master’s studies tend to come with tuition costs but these are also minimal compared with other countries – and PhD students are only charged tuition after their first 6 months of studying. However, they are required to make a small payment of around €150-€200 per semester, although the majority of PhD students are working on paid research projects or are on a scholarship anyway.
There are plenty of courses offered in English so if you’re not too familiar with Deutsch, don’t assume studying in Germany is off limits to you.
No Norwegian state university charges tuition to any student from near or far, at all levels of study – for almost all programmes. However, there is often a small semester fee of NOK300 (US$38) to NOK600 (US$77).
Some state universities may charge tuition for a select few specialised programmes, usually at the Master’s level. Bear in mind private institutions tend to have tuition fees for all courses but they are often significantly lower than most other countries.
The downside? You’re likely to need to learn Norwegian for undergraduate programs but rejoice as it is much more common for Master’s and PhD programs to be taught in English.
Also bear in mind Norway can be a little pricy to live in, but with all the money you’ll be saving on tuition costs, that’s less likely to sting quite so bad.
Free, free, free for all. France may not be as renowned as Germany for its higher education but it is equally as impressive. With a large number of programmes at all levels of study offered in English, France is becoming an increasingly popular study destination.
Other than a small registration fee, the majority of public universities in the country will charge you nothing.
While tuition isn’t totally free for students outside the EU and EEA, public universities only charge around €360 (US$445) to €725 (US$895) per semester. And if you are a citizen of a less developed country, you might not have to pay anything at all. You’re also in luck if you are coming to Austria from inside the EU or EEA as you are treated the same as domestic students (free tuition!)
You will have to pay around €20 (US$25) for your student union membership but that’s not so bad when your tuition is coming at such a reasonable price.
While international students do have to pay tuition fees in Sweden for Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes if they are from outside the EU, EEA or Nordic countries or Switzerland, there are an abundance of full and partial-paid scholarships available specifically for this group.
When it comes to PhD level, international students are typically paid for the work they do, either by the university itself or through external funding bodies. So good news for PhD students – no fees and you’ll actually be making money.
You could also consider Greece, Hungary or Poland, which do charge tuition fees but at a low cost of around €1,500 (US$1,850) per year in Greece and Hungary, and €2,000 (US$2,470) in Poland.
Europe not for you? Head to South America instead. Argentinians scoop up free tuition but international students have to pay a small fee to enroll themselves in Argentina’s public universities.
However, private institutions can charge US$5,000 or more a year in tuition fees so, as with the majority of countries, if you want to minimise costs, stick to public universities.
You could also consider Taiwan, a small island just off the coast of China, if you aren’t too keen on South America’s Argentina. Taiwan does charge tuition fees but offers some of the most affordable higher education programmes in the world.
Free online study
Not sure you fancy any of the destinations above but still determined to get an international qualification (and get it for as cheap as possible)? You could consider online study.
Numerous universities now offer a number of degrees and courses online for absolutely nothing.
You could look at University of the People which is a non-profit organisation which works to increase global accessibility to higher education and offers accredited Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration, Health Science and Computer Science, and an MBA programme.
Universities all over the world, including three of the United States’ most prestigious universities – Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley – also offer free courses through edX, an online learning platform working with institutions all over the globe.