Most of us have been wanting to study abroad since forever. Studying in a foreign country is a great way to get a degree while traveling and enjoying other cultures. However, studying abroad can come at a cost, especially if you do a full degree abroad. Going abroad for a semester or two will relieve most of the costs, especially with programs that offer grants to promote studying abroad like Erasmus+.
Sometimes, studying abroad can actually be a lot cheaper than studying at home. When tuition for college or university is getting higher and higher in your country, it is a great time to start researching possibilities abroad. In this article, you’ll find out about the countries that will welcome you to study there for free at any public university.
Free for anyone
In Germany, anyone can attend public university for free. This includes all international students, of any age or nationality. If you don’t speak German, you will still have plenty of courses to choose from. On bachelor level, you will have 57 courses to choose from on Bachelor level and 525 courses on Master level (according to the German Academic Exchange Service, in 2018). Public university requires no tuition, but depending on the university you will have to pay a small fee per semester to cover administration costs. This is often no more than €250.
If you are a citizen of the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland, you can enter Germany with just an ID. Once you have found accommodation, you should make an appointment with the residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt). There you’ll receive a document stating your right to remain in Germany.
Students that come from Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, South Korea or the United States can enter Germany without a visa if they intend to stay only three months for their study and don’t work in Germany (limited side work during studies is allowed). If you are from one of these countries but like to stay longer than three months (for example to do a full degree abroad), you will need a visa.
If you are not from any of the countries above, you will need a visa to enter Germany and to study there. You can apply for a student visa straightaway if you have already been accepted to a university. If you don’t have a letter of acceptance yet or have to enter Germany to complete an entrance examination, you will need a prospective student visa. Prospective student visas are only valid for three months but can be extended if you are accepted to a university or a German language course. Even though your education will be free, you still need to have some money. To get a German student visa, you will have to prove that you (or your parents) can pay for your living costs for at least the first year while studying in Germany. You can provide this proof by providing an income form of one or both of your parents, a security deposit in a blocked account (which you won’t be able to access until you arrive in Germany), a banker’s guarantee or a scholarship recognized in Germany.
Like in Germany, any international student can attend public university in Norway for free. However, keep in mind that the cost of living is one of the highest in Norway. Most of the universities have some courses offered in English, which are listed as such in the course catalog on their websites. Norwegian programs are still more prominent on any level, so if you speak Norwegian you have even more courses to choose from. To attend university, you will only have to pay a small mandatory fee. This is usually about 500 to 1,000 Norwegian Krone (US$ 60-100) each semester.
Citizens from a Nordic country can move to or within Norway and will just have to report their move at a selected tax office for an ID check. These Nordic countries are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Students from the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland can study (and live and work) in Norway without a study permit. They will have to register with the local police if they are planning to stay for more than three months in Norway to obtain a registration certificate.
Students from outside of the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland will have to apply for a student permit. To get this permit, you will (again) have to prove you have sufficient savings for the academic year. The high cost of living shows through in the savings requirement. In 2018, the amount of savings you will need for a student permit is 116,369 Norwegian Krone (about US$ 15,000). You will find other document requirements for your student visa on the website of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.
If you would like to get a degree in Iceland, you will have 4 public universities to choose from. English-taught courses are limited and mostly on postgraduate level. However, no tuition fees are charged to anyone, so you’ll only have to pay a registration fee of around ISK 75,000 (around US$ 700).
Students from countries outside of the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland that plan to study in Iceland for more than three months, need to apply for a student residence permit. To be eligible for a student permit, you will need to have some serious money saved before you leave. The savings threshold is set at 163,635 Icelandic Króna (about US$ 1,500) per month. Since student permits are generally issued for six months at a time, you will have to show that you have enough savings for at least six months. The savings should be shown through balance in your own account, be granted by regular support (e.g. disability or unemployment) payments or as a study grant or study loan. Students on a student permit are allowed to work up to 15 hours per week.
Technically, you’ll have to pay tuition to attend university in France. However, the yearly fee is incredibly low since public universities are state-funded. Tuition for one year at Bachelor’s level is only €181 and €250 for graduate degrees in 2018. Doctorate degrees are all €380 and engineering school will cost a bit more at €596. The yearly fee you pay through all two, three or four years you will be attending university will still be less than paying the registration fee in, for example, Iceland. You will also have plenty of programs to choose from that are taught in English at both Bachelor and Master level.
Students from the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland do not need a visa to study in France. If you are a citizen of any other country, you will have to apply for a student visa. Depending on the length of your stay, you should apply to one of the three available visas. The first visa is the Schengen student visa. This visa is issued free of charge, but only valid for three months and not renewable. If you need to make entrance exams in France, you will need another visa, the visa de court séjour étudiant concours. When you pass your exams on this visa and pass, you can apply for a one-year, renewable residence permit. If you are planning to study in France for a longer period, you will have to apply for a temporary student visa that allows you to stay up to six months or a long-stay student visa that will allow you to stay for the full duration of your study period that is more than six months. Like in other countries where you can study for free, you will have to show that you have enough funds to support your stay and tuition. The minimum amount of savings required to show is set at €615 per month.
Free for some
Tuition at public universities is free for citizens of countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area. They will only have to pay tuition if they don’t manage to finish their degree within the minimum duration of their study, plus two semesters of tolerance. After these two semesters, any student from the European Union and European Economic Area (including Austrian students) have to pay €363.36 per semester. Students from other countries have to pay tuition for €726.72 per semester. In 2018, over 200 programs are taught in English. If you have German proficiency, you could also study in German in Austria.
Studying in the Czech Republic is free by law… But only for Czech-taught programs. If you have Czech proficiency, you will have plenty of free courses to choose from. The Czech Republic also offers over 1,000 programmes taught in English, but you will have to pay tuition. The amount of tuition depends on the degree and could be anywhere from zero to over 50,000 Czech Koruna (about €20,000 or US$ 24,000) per year. Luckily, the possibly hefty tuition fee is balanced out by the low cost of living in the Czech Republic. When you apply for a student visa. you will have to show you have 15 times the amount of the existential minimum to live in the Czech Republic, which is only 2200 Czech Koruna (about €85 or USS$ 100) for the first month. For any following month, you should be able to show 4400 Czech Koruna. Students from the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland will not have to apply for a Czech student visa.
Students from the European Union and European Economic Area are entitled to tuition-free higher education in Denmark. International students from countries outside of the European Union and European Economic Area will have to pay up to €16,000 per year. Danish universities offer more than 600 programmes taught in English.
Finnish universities used to be tuition-free for all, but since 2017 only citizens from the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland are exempt from paying tuition. This is also the case for third-country citizens who hold a permanent Finnish residence permit or long-term EU residence permit. The costs for students from other countries are now set by the universities and range between €4,000 and €18,000 per year. Studies and research on PhD level and studies in Finnish or Swedish are still free for anyone who is admitted.
Undergraduate degrees are free for any student that is a citizen of a country of the European Union or European Economic Area. Any third-country students will have to pay around €1,500 per year towards tuition, which often includes textbooks. Together with the relatively low cost of living, Greece could be an affordable destination to study abroad. English-taught degrees are common at Master’s level but also offered for undergraduate degrees.
Students that are citizens of the European Union or European Economic Area countries or hold the Karta Polaka can study full-time for free in Poland. Other foreigners will have to pay tuition fees that are set by the public or private university. More than 400 programs in Poland are taught in English.
Whether you have to pay tuition in Schotland, is determined by your nationality and the country where you normally live. European students who normally live in Scotland or anywhere in the European Union or European Economic area will not have to pay tuition for an undergraduate degree. Their tuition will be covered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland. Students who normally live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or anywhere else outside of the European Union will have to pay tuition in full.
Bachelor and master level degrees are free for full-time students that are citizens of European Union countries or citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, the Republics of Macedonia and Serbia. Students from other countries will have to pay a tuition fee set by the individual university.
Students that are citizens of Switzerland, a European Union, European Economic Area or Nordic country are not only exempted from paying tuition in Sweden, but also from the mandatory application fee for programs on both Bachelor and Master level. This means students from these countries will not even have to pay a penny throughout the whole application process. Citizens of other countries will have to pay tuition, set by the university and varying from 80,000 to 200,000 Swedish Krona. Plenty of courses are taught in English.
If you are looking for a doctorate position, you are in luck. Because PhD studies in Sweden are not taught, but research-based, candidates from any nationality will not have to pay any fees (and will be offered a monthly salary!).
If you’re from Europe, you will have plenty of choices to study for free. Even nationals from countries outside of Europe are able to study abroad for next to nothing. Studying in one of these countries for free is an amazing chance to explore Europe while working on your own future.
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