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, or without obtaining a scholarship.
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.
Study in Germany for free
Interest in studying abroad in Germany just seems to keep on growing. This is largely due to the fact there are no undergraduate tuition fees at most 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$170-280), to cover administration costs.
The exception is the state of Baden-Württemberg in south-west Germany, which reintroduced tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students in autumn 2017. These students must pay €1,500 (~US$1,660) a semester (€3,000 or ~US$3,320 per year).
PhD students and refugees aren’t affected, and the fees are reduced for those pursuing a second degree (to €650 (~US$720) a semester, which is €1,300 (~US$1,440) a year. It’s possible that other German states will follow and reintroduce fees in the future, as they seek to invest in and improve university education, so watch out for this.
Germany’s low study costs, combined with its strong economy and excellent higher education system, makes the prospect of undertaking study in Germany extremely appealing for both students and their parents worldwide.
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 the Technical University of Munich.
If you’re successful in finding a university where you can study in Germany for free, you will of course still need to budget for living costs. If you need a German student visa, you’ll need to prove you have around €10,236 (~US$11,330) per year for living expenses (with the average student spending €850 (~US$940) a month).
Two of the top destinations for study in Germany, Munich and Berlin, were also ranked within the top 30 most affordable cities to study in the QS Best Student Cities 2019.
Study in France for free (or at low cost)
France may not be quite as widely known as Germany for affordable higher education, but international students may be surprised to hear 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 €170 (~US$190) per year at undergraduate level for EU/EEA/Swiss students.
However, from the 2019/20 academic year non-EU/EEA students will begin paying higher rates, with fees going up to €2,770 (~US$3,065) per year for a bachelor’s degree. However, the French government will be tripling the amount of scholarships available to international students, from 7,000 to 21,000.
Additional charges can bring the price of your studies 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 you’ll have to pay for this.
Living costs in France are also relatively affordable, amounting to around €9,600 (~US$10,620) per year, though you should expect to pay more if you choose to live in capital city Paris.