Study in Europe for Free or Cheap


Going to university can be an expensive business, especially if you’re an international student. Right?

Wrong! It all depends on where you go. In many European countries, higher education fees are often heavily government-subsidized, meaning that overseas students often find themselves paying considerably less than they would have at home – or even nothing at all.

What’s more, there are an increasing number of English-taught programs appearing in non-English speaking countries, meaning that not being bilingual need not stop you from gaining your qualifications abroad.

Here’s a run-down on some of the best value destinations for overseas students, all of which offer programs in English as well as their native languages:


It doesn’t matter what you’re studying or where you’re from – in Finland, it’s all FREE! That’s right. They’ve been trialing a fee-paying system over 2010-2014, but for the moment at lease they’re reverting back to the free system, so get in now in case it changes again.


Another free for all, the only costs for students at public universities in Norway, regardless of citizenship, are small semester admin fees of around NOK 500 (€60). Students are also given student cards which give them access to free healthcare and reduced transport costs.


For a Bachelor’s or Master’s, Sweden isn’t the cheapest options for some international students – although it’s free for Swedish and EU/EEA/Nordic citizens, tuitions fees for students from further afield cost between SEK 80,000-140,000 (€8,700-15,200) per year – prospective PhD candidates might be interested to know that all PhD programs in Sweden are tuition-free for all. Once you are there, you are also entitled to free insurance and medical care.


German courses are generally extremely cheap or flat our free, depending on the region – for most programs, the maximum a non-EU overseas student can expect to pay is €1,000 per year. There are, however, a few specialist graduate programs that charge more.

In addition to tuition fees, there are also admin costs that can reach up to €200 for a year.


France’s public university fees are set by law at the following:

  • €189 per year for a Bachelor’s
  • €261 per year for a Master’s
  • €396 per year for a PhD
  • €615 per year for programs leading to the diplôme d’ingénieur

France’s grandes écoles and grands établissements (which offer five-year courses) charge a little more – generally around €500-600 per year.

These costs are irrespective of students’ nationalities.


Spanish public university tuition fees are set by regional governments, and apply to all students regardless of nationality.

  • At the undergraduate levels, overall costs usually run to between €500-1,250 per year
  • Graduate study, meanwhile, is calculated per academic credit, and usually adds up to a little more

Spain is a hugely popular destination for overseas students, especially students from Spanish-speaking Latin America, and it is currently working to bring its international student population to 10% by 2015, so you won’t be alone.


Although tuition fees are only charged to students from outside Europe, their low cost ­– between €750-1,500 per year – won’t leave you feeling too resentful. All students must pay €17.50 to the Austrian Student Union every semester as well as €0.50 accident insurance – but honestly, who’s complaining?


On average, tuition fees for public universities in Italy range from €850-1,000 per year depending on the university and your family income (but not your nationality). Private universities can break the bank though, charging up to €16,000 annually.


Swiss universities offer good value and an array of courses taught in English, French, German and Italian – which is perhaps what attracts the 28% of university students and 50% of PhD candidates from overseas.

Although foreign students pay more than their Swiss counterparts, they can still expect tuition fees starting from as low as CHF 1,200 (€1,000) per year.


What have your experiences of studying in Europe been? Would you recommend it? Share your experiences below.


About Author

Leah Eades is a compulsive traveller and freelance writer, whose adventures so far include working in an Italian nightclub, contracting a mystery illness in the Amazon, studying at a Chinese university, and cycling 700km along the Danube River. She blames cheap Ryanair flights for her addiction. Having recently graduated with an English degree, she is currently based in Florence, Italy.


  1. I’ve just begun my 2-year Swedish adventure! I chose to study here because the quality of education is very high, as is quality of life, and the crippling fees imposed but English fees are waivered. It was a leap if faith coming here but I am so happy I made the decision and was accepted.

    Although not necessary, I’d say it would help if you try and learn a few basic phrases and use coachsurfing to make some connections before coming over. Finding accommodation is a real challenge so knowing someone with a spare couch is a real bonus

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