Higher Education Articles

Where is higher education free?

by uniRank Team, 25/Mar/2023
Where is higher education free?In which countries is higher education free? There are several countries where higher education is free or heavily subsidized by the government. According to uniRank, they are mainly located in Europe and mostly in countries with a strong and long-established welfare system:

Free higher education in Germany Germany

In Germany higher education is free in most states. All public universities in Germany, with the exception of those located in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, offer free tuition for both domestic and international students. Normally students enrolling in bachelor's programs don't have to pay tuition fees. Low tuition fees may be charged, however, for some master's degree programs regardless of the nationality and/or permanent residency of the student.
All students have to pay a small semester contribution that varies between higher education institutions and ranges between 100 and 400 euros (110-435 USD, 2023). It includes contributions to the body providing student support services (Studentenwerk) and the students' representative body (AStA). At many higher education institutions, the semester contribution also includes the cost of a "Semesterticket" which is a travel pass that allows students to use public transport.
Despite being higher education free in Germany, students are still required to pay for their living expenses (rent, food, clothing, textbooks, telephone, private transportation, etc) and health insurance. 900 euros (980 USD) a month is what students can reasonably expect to pay for living expenses in 2023, depending on the location and personal living habits. These expenses do not include costs related to travel, visa and insurance. Living costs are typically higher in larger German cities than in smaller ones.

Free higher education in Iceland Iceland

In Iceland higher education is free. Icelandic tuition fees at higher education institutions differ between each institution and the amount can depend on whether the institution is state or privately owned.
Icelandic public universities do not have tuition fees although they do have an annual registration or administration fee of around 75,000 ISK (500 EUR, 540USD). In 2023 Iceland is, therefore, one of the Nordic countries with the most open higher education system offering options of free higher education for citizens of non-EU/EEA countries.
Estimated monthly living expenses for students (including rent, food, clothing, telephone, local transportation and miscellaneous expenses but excluding textbooks and student union memberships) are around 190,000 ISK (1,270 EUR, 1370 USD) in 2023, depending on the location and personal lifestyle. These expenses do not include costs related to insurance, travel and visa fees. Living expenses are typically higher in larger Icelandic cities than in smaller ones. Living costs in Iceland are therefore among the highest in Europe for international students.

Free higher education in Finland Finland

In Finland higher education is free depending on the international student's citizenship and/or permanent residence, degree level and chosen program language. Finnish universities do not charge tuition fees for EU/EEA students, but non-EU/EEA students are required to pay tuition fees for bachelor's and master's programs that are taught in English; programs taught in the Finnish language are, however, free of tuition regardless of the country of citizenship. At doctoral level, tuition fees are not charged, regardless of the international student's nationality and program language. In 2023 Finland is, therefore, one of the Nordic countries with the most open higher education system offering options of free higher education for citizens of non-EU/EEA countries.
According to the Finnish National Agency for Education, the annual tuition fee depends on the chosen university and the degree program and can range between 4,000 (4,300 USD) and 18,000 (19,500 USD) approximately (2019/20).
Estimated monthly living expenses for students (including rent, food, clothing, telephone, local transportation and miscellaneous expenses but excluding textbooks and student union memberships) are around 850 EUR (930 USD), depending on the location and personal lifestyle. These expenses do not include costs related to insurance, travel and visa fees. Living expenses are typically higher in larger Finnish cities than in smaller ones.

Free higher education in Norway Norway

In Norway higher education is free depending on the international student's citizenship and/or permanent residence. Starting from Autumn 2023, Norwegian universities do not charge tuition fees only for international students, studying at public universities, who are citizens of countries located in the EU (European Union) or European Economic Area (EEA) as well as Switzerland. Moreover, Norway's government does not offer individual scholarships to international students and students are expected to cover their living expenses. The reason why higher education is free in Norway, as well as in other Nordic countries mentioned below, is rooted in the country's extended social welfare system and the belief that education should be accessible to all. Norway, similarly to other Nordic countries, is a welfare nation, which means that the government is committed to providing its citizens with high-quality social services and promoting equality and social justice. This commitment extends to education and the government invests heavily in education at all levels.
Accordingly, all EU/EEA/Swiss students are expected to pay only a very small semester fee which is, based on sources from the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills, ranging between 1,000 and 2,000 NOK (88-176 EUR, 96-192 USD) in 2023.
Estimated living expenses are approximately 10,750 NOK a month (950 EUR, 1,035 USD), depending on the location and personal lifestyle. These expenses do not include costs related to insurance, travel and visa fees. Living expenses are typically higher in larger Norwegian cities than in smaller ones.

Free higher education in Sweden Sweden

In Sweden higher education is free depending on the international student's citizenship and/or permanent residence. Higher education in Sweden is free for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens or permanent residents of Sweden.
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss international students are required to pay tuition fees and a one-off application fee of 900 SEK (80 EUR, 87 USD) in 2023. The average tuition fee in 2023 is 129,000 SEK per academic year (11,500 EUR, 12,460 USD) which makes Sweden not a very affordable option for international students from non-EU/EEA/Swiss countries of origin. According to the Swedish Institute, tuition fees depends on the choice of the University and the program and can range from as low as 80,000 SEK (7,140 EUR, 7730 USD) to as high as 295,000 SEK (26,330 EUR, 28,500 USD).
According to the Swedish Institute estimated living expenses (including rent, food, clothing, telephone, local transportation and miscellaneous expenses but excluding textbooks and student union memberships) are approximately 9,500 SEK (850 EUR, 930 USD) per month, depending on the location and personal living habits. These expenses do not include costs related to travel, visa and insurance. Living costs are typically higher in larger Swedish cities than in smaller ones.

Free higher education in Denmark Denmark

Similarly to other Nordic countries, higher education is free for international students from EU/EEA countries and Switzerland. Non-EU/EEA international students are required to pay tuition fees.
According to the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science, tuition fees range between 45,000-120,000 DKK (6,040-16,100 EUR, 6,540-17,440 USD).
Estimated monthly living expenses for students (including rent, food, clothing, telephone, local transportation and miscellaneous expenses but excluding textbooks and student union memberships) are around 7,500 DKK (1,000 EUR, 1,090 USD), depending on the location and personal living habits. These expenses do not include costs related to travel, visa and insurance. Living costs are typically higher in larger Danish cities than in smaller ones.

Other countries, worth exploring, that do not offer free higher education but still have low-cost yearly tuition for international students at public higher education institutions are: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Greece, India, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Taiwan.

Please note that currency exchange rates, tuition fees and living expenses can change substantially in time and have an impact on the total cost faced by international students. Please feel free to submit your feedback on the estimates given above or on other countries where higher education is free. © uniRank

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