Higher education in Europe will not be as expensive as in the USA, Canada, or Australia. In many countries, a year of study costs around 1,500 USD, while in America this figure will be 20 times more — 30,000 USD. In Britain, prices are also much higher than in the EU countries — from 12,090 USD per year. At the same time, in terms of the quality of education, universities in Europe are not inferior to universities in English-speaking countries: among the top-100 best universities in the world according to QS, 16 are European. However, there are some specificities.

Features of education in Europe

  • There are few programs in English. At the undergraduate level, English-taught programs are not universally available. Even in Germany, where English is quite widely known[1], public universities only offer 40 options (according to the DAAD search tool). On the other hand, at the Master's degree level, English-language programs have already become quite common.
  • Affordable education in the national language. In the Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, Norway, Greece, and Estonia, education in the national language is completely free. The language requirements are high, however — not lower than the B2 level, and in Germany — up to C1.
  • Discounts for students. The student card provides benefits throughout the European Union: public transport, accommodation, museums, and cafès, cost less for students.
  • It gets even cheaper in Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe, it is cheaper to study not only because of the low tuition fees but also because of the low cost of living. In countries like Russia, Poland, and Bulgaria, living expenses are 2-3 times lower than in Germany or France.
  • Part-time work and employment. In most European countries, students can find employment and work up to 20 hours a week. You won't be able to earn a lot, but you can be compensated for food or housing costs. Also, many universities offer internships and help their graduates find work. For this, universities have special career centers.

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Affordable Master's degree in Europe

Master's degree programs in Europe last 1-2 years, depending on the country of study. As a rule, a Master's degree must correspond to a Bachelor's degree. This differentiates European education from American. One of the few exceptions to this rule is Russia. There are other things to keep in mind:

  • Language of teaching. The cost of studying depends not only on the country but also on the language and the type of program. For example, in Finland, you can study in Finnish and Swedish for free, including a Master's program. But English-taught programs are expensive — from 10,480 USD per year. There are also tuition-free Master's degrees in the national language in Norway, Czech Republic, Poland, Greece, and Estonia. In the rest of the countries, Master's programs in the local and English language will not differ much in price.
  • Types of programs. MBA and medical courses are much more expensive than all other Master's programs. Studying for a Master of Business Administration is considered particularly prestigious and costs 10,480-15,719 USD per year in most European countries. The same is true about medical education.
  • Study in English. Unlike the undergraduate degree programs, at the Master's level, English-taught programs are available in any major university. You may not find your specialty in one university, but it will definitely be in another.

Affordable universities in Europe

Western and Northern Europe

#UniversityCityCountryUndergraduate degree in the national language, yearUndergraduate degree in English, yearMaster's degree in English, yearDorm accommodation, month
3Scuola Normale Superiore di PisaPisaItalyfreen/afreefree
1University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinlandfree13,623-18,863 USD13,623-18,863 USDn/a
3Tampere UniversityTampereFinlandfree10,480 USD6,288-12,576 USDn/a
2Aalto UniversityHelsinkiFinlandfree12,576 USD15,719 USDn/a
4Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorwayfreen/afree419-629 USD
1University of OsloOsloNorwayfreen/afree375 USD
3University of BergenBergenNorwayfreen/afree314-524 USD
36FH Vorarlberg University of Applied SciencesDornbirnAustria43 USDn/a43 USD258-406 USD
11University of FlorenceFlorenceItaly163-2,777 USDn/a163-2,777 USDn/a
18University of StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance193 USDn/a268 USDn/a
6Free University of BrusselsBrusselsBelgium257-1,520 USD257-1,520 USD875 USD333-501 USD
4University of ParisParisFrance274 USD274 USD350 USD296-524 USD
2TU MunichMunichGermany303 USD303 USD303 USDn/a
10Free University of BerlinBerlinGermany655 USD655 USD655 USDn/a
6Humboldt University of BerlinBerlinGermany661 USD661 USD661 USDn/a
9University of GranadaGranadaSpain794 USDn/a860 USD210-1,782 USD
6University of ValenciaValenciaSpain871 USDfrom 943 USD2,469 USD340-547 USD
37University of AlicanteAlicanteSpain871-1,258 USDn/a940-2,469 USD350-560
5University of BernBernSwitzerland903 USD903 USD903 USDn/a
6University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland951 USD951 USD951 USD422 USD
2Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium1,007 USD1,950 USD1,936-5,960 USD445-481 USD
18UC Leuven -LimburgLeuven, Dist, Hasselt, Diepenbeck, GenkBelgium1,007 USD1,007 USD1,007-1,844 USD314-524 USD
1ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland1,389 USDn/a1,389 USDn/a
1University of ViennaViennaAustria1,564 USDn/a1,564 USD309-576 USD
9University of GrazGrazAustria1,564 USDn/a1,564 USD297-498 USD
11University of SienaSienaItaly1,886 USD1,886 USD1,446-3,094 USD314 USD
46University of OrleansOrleansFrance2,903 USDn/a255 USD181-677 USD

There are many universities in Northern and Western Europe with affordable prices for education. In Germany, France, and Austria, prices in public universities are fixed by law, and in Norway and Finland, education in the national language is completely free. On the other hand, the high cost of living there "balances out" the low cost of education. The major expense in most countries is housing. Universities rarely have dormitories, so students have to rent apartments or rooms on their own.

  • Germany. Education in German state universities is free for everyone, including foreigners. Students only pay administrative fees from 168 USD to 734 USD per year. These cover, for example, travel on public transport. Accommodation will cost at least 10,480 USD per year — having that much in your bank account is a requirement for a student visa. Scholarships such as DAAD can help cut costs. Another important condition: you will not be able to enroll in a Bachelor's program immediately after school if it lasts 11 years or less in your home country. First, you have to spend a year at the preparatory courses at Studienkolleg or in a university at home.
  • Austria. In Austria, as in Germany, in public universities students pay fixed fees — 734-1,572 USD per year. It is still incomparably cheaper than studying in the USA or the UK. The requirements for a student visa depend on age: if you are under 24, you will need at least 6,288 USD for a year, if more — 11,213 USD. The minimum level of German for admission to a university is C1, but you can also enter preparatory courses with A2+.
  • France. In all public universities in France, the tuition fee for foreigners is universal: 2,903 USD per year for Bachelor's and 3,951 USD for Master's degree programs. But some universities, for example, the University of Paris, gave foreign students partial benefits in 2020/21: now they pay the same as locals — 274 USD for Bachelor's and 350 USD for Master's programs[2]. However, English-taught programs, as a rule, are more expensive — 4,192 USD/year or more. To obtain a student visa, the applicant must have at least 644 USD on their account for each month of stay.
  • Belgium. Prices in Belgian universities start from 1,048 USD per year. There are a few English-language undergraduate programs, and prices for them can go up to 4,192 USD. Most of the teaching is in French, Dutch or German. The minimum level of language proficiency is B2. It will take about 14,671 USD per year in living expenses, and for a student visa, it is necessary that the sponsor of the student earns at least 2,060 USD per month.
  • Italy. Education in Italy is considered relatively inexpensive, the average cost is 2,096-3,144 USD per year. There are also completely free universities that even cover the cost of living and meals. For example, the Teacher Training School of Pisa. But the competition is very high there. Also, some universities give discounts to children from large and needy families. Accommodation will cost at least 6,500 USD per year. It is impossible to enter immediately after grade 11, first you need to take preparatory courses or study for a year at a university in your homeland.
  • Finland. In Finland, foreign students can get a completely free education in both undergraduate and graduate programs. There is only one condition: the program must be in Finnish or Swedish. English-language programs are expensive — 10,000-12,000 USD/year. To obtain a student visa, you will need 7,042 USD per year, but the actual costs will be at least 10,480 USD/year. More money will be spent on housing in Finland, since many universities do not have residences.
  • Switzerland. Studying in Switzerland is surprisingly cheap: on average it costs 943 USD per year. But in order to enroll, you will have to spend two years at a university at home or complete a one-year preparatory program at a local university. Teaching is done in French or German, the minimum language level is C1. The cost of living in the country is very high. For a student visa, you need a minimum of 23,148 USD per year.
  • Norway. Education in Norway is free for all students, regardless of the language. You only need to pay small contributions of 28-55 USD. Though there are very few English-language programs — 15 in the whole country. And life in Norway is also not cheap: for a student visa you need at least 12,680 USD per year.
  • Spain. You cannot study for free in Spain, but the tuition fees there are relatively low: they start from 838 USD per year, for example, at the University of Granada. The average cost in other public universities is 2,096-3,144 USD/year. At the same time, some universities offer discounts for students from large families. Living in Spain is also not very expensive: for a student visa you need to have 7,336 USD per year in your account. Because of this, Spain is one of the most affordable options among Western European countries.

Eastern and Southern Europe

#UniversityCityCountryUndergraduatedegree in the national language, yearUndergraduate degree in English, yearMaster's degree in English, yearDorm accommodation, month
8Czech University of Life Science in PraguePragueCzech Republicfree201-3,271 USD201-4,364 USD94-157 USD
17University of GdanskGdanskPolandfree1,150-2,852 USD1,610-1,782 USD126 USD
4Warsaw University of TechnologyWarsawPolandfree1,572-2,201 USD1,048-2,829 USD105 USD
1Charles UniversityPragueCzech Republicfree2,096-8,887 USD2,096-14,543 USD157 USD
2Masaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republicfree2,306 USD2,096-13,623 USD70-189 USD
6University of WrocławWroclawPolandfree3,144-3,825 USD3,668-3,825 USD166-239 USD
3Tallinn UniversityTallinnEstoniafree3,458-4,821 USD1,914-4,192 USD178-215 USD
1University of TartuTartuEstoniafree3,982-5,240 USD3,982-6,288 USD56 USD
2National and Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreecefree6,288 USD0-6,288 USDn/a
3Aristotle University of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreecefreen/a0-5,240 USDfree
1University of CreteHeraklion, RethymnononGreecefreen/a0-4,192 USDfree
7Estonian Business SchoolTallinnEstonian/a2,410-2,651 USD2,594-3,537 USDn/a
1Eötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary1,048-1,677 USD3,773-8,803 USD2,725-8,782 USD82-190 USD
6University of PecsPecsHungary1,048-4,716 USD3,773-7,965 USD4,611-11,528 USD116 USD
3University of SzegedSzegedHungary1,153 USD3,144-6,497 USD3,982-8,593 USD52 USD
5Klaipeda UniversityKlaipedaLithuania1,383-2,719 USD1,383-2,987 USD2,934-4,297 USD58-126 USD
2New Bulgarian UniversitySofiaBulgaria1,415 USD1,415 USD1,572 USD73-105 USD
14Varna University of EconomicsVarnaBulgaria1,572 USD1,572 USD3,144 USD73-105 USD
15Ventspils University of Applied SciencesVentspilsLatvia1,593-3,144 USD2,201-5,240 USD2270-341050-96 USD
4Latvia University of Life and Sciences TechnologiesJelgavaLatvia1,635-3,144 USD2,096-4,192 USD2,306-4,192 USD87-141 USD
4Vytautas Magnus UniversityKaunasLithuania1,749-7,307 USD2,754-7,973 USD4,180-5,017 USD157-189 USD
10Varna Free UniversityVarnaBulgaria2,012 USD2,012 USD3,144 USD73-105 USD
1University of LatviaRiga Latvia2,306-4,192 USD2,306-5,030 USD2,478-6,288 USD105-283 USD
2Vilnius Gediminas Technical UniversityVilniusLithuania2,754-18,827 USD1,749-3,093 USD3,094-4,437 USD115-157 USD

The universities in Eastern and Southern Europe are considered less prestigious than in Western and Northern. But education there is also good. St. Petersburg State University, for example, is considered one of the 50 best universities globally to study for a Master in Management[3]. In addition, these universities have many English-language Bachelor's programs — many more than in Western Europe. And education in the national language in many countries is completely free. Living expenses are about as low as it gets: universities have dormitories that cost 105-157 USD per month, so you won't have to spend a lot of money on accommodation.

  • Russian Federation. Russian universities offer a good balance between price and quality — the cost of a single year ranges from 600 to 6,288 USD, averaging around 2500. The majority of programs are taught in Russian, but there is a growing number of options in English, especially at the graduate level. Russian universities offer about 15000 state-funded seats for international students. To apply for a program in English, you will need a certificate of previous education, a motivation letter, and IELTS/TOEFL results (unless you are a native English speaker). An interview is also relatively common. You can learn more on the official website for international students in Russia.
  • Czech Republic. Studying in Czech is completely free. For admission, you must pass a language exam at the B2 level. You can prepare for it both at home and at a university in the Czech Republic. There are also English-language programs, but their prices start at 3,000 USD per year. To obtain a student visa, you need to have 3,668 USD in your account per year of study.
  • Poland. Just like the Czech Republic, in Poland education in the national language is free. Universities accept students with a C1 level and above. But in general, knowing Polish is not necessary to study, there are many English-language programs in the country. For non-EU citizens, education costs 2,000-3,000 USD per year. For EU citizens, prices will be lower. A year of living in Poland will cost at least 4,192 USD.
  • Bulgaria. Education is conducted mainly in Bulgarian, but there are also English-language programs — about 20% of total. There are also programs in Russian, German and French. The average cost of education is 2,000-3,000 USD per year, at least 4,192 USD will be spent on living. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, so Bulgarian education can be a good start for immigration to the EU.
  • Hungary. In Hungary, compared to other European countries, there are many English-language programs. There are almost two hundred of them at the undergraduate level[4] alone. There are programs in other languages, too. The average tuition fee is 3,144-5,240 USD per year and about 7,336 USD will come in living expenses. But the costs can be reduced with the help of scholarships and grants offered by the government and universities.
  • Greece. Education in Greek public universities is free but available only in the national language. It can be learned in the year-long preparatory courses at universities, tuition there costs only 838 USD. There are also Master's programs in English, but most of them are paid. The minimum monthly budget is 314-419 USD, which is quite cheap for Europe. And because of their low cost, local medical programs are especially popular. Prices start at 1,572 USD per year.
  • Baltics. Education in the Baltic countries is becoming more and more popular among foreign students. In Estonia, for example, the number of international students has doubled since 2014. Students are attracted by relative economic well-being, a large number of English-language programs and low tuition fees: in Latvia and Lithuania, prices start from 1,572 USD per year, in Estonia — from 3,144 USD. Moreover, education in the national language in Estonia is free.
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