Is studying abroad risky and expensive? Not always. In this article, we discuss the options for free education, compare universities and countries, and figure out what you still have to pay for.
Is it possible to study abroad for free?
Free universities abroad certainly exist, and anyone who meets the requirements of the university or country can enter them. There are two main ways of doing so.
The first option is to get a scholarship with full tuition funding. Such an opportunity is available in almost every country, like the USA, Canada, Greece, Italy, and Denmark. But receiving 100% tuition coverage is challenging — you have to seriously prepare for admission. Achievements will be required not only in academic studies, but also in sports, creative pursuits, and volunteering. This is what the average profile of a student receiving funding from a US university looks like:
- average GPA of 5.0
- Participation in school, city, and national olympiads
- Average SAT score of 1400-1500 or higher out of 1600 (ACT 27-32)
- Average TOEFL iBT score of 100 (IELTS 7.0) and above
- Volunteering experience or other socially involved activities
The second way is to go to a country where education is initially free. But there are several nuances here:
- In some countries, education is free only in the local language. We recommend pulling your language proficiency up to the C1 level, even if the requirements indicate a lower level. This way, you will learn more effectively and stay on top of the curriculum.
- Before you prepare for admission to a free university, check out the cost of living in the country. It may turn out that you save money on your studies, but spend a fortune on housing and other living costs, in turn paying more than you would at other paid universities. For example, you can study at the expense of the government in Norway, but not all universities pay the scholarships necessary to compensate for living. Granted, studies there will cost 15,000-25,000 USD per year.
How much does free education cost?
If you are proficient in the local language, you can study for free in Finland, Argentina, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Greece. In Germany and Norway, even English-language programs are available. However, not all of these so-called "free" universities are budget-friendly. Possible costs at free universities:
- Semester fees of around 300-400 USD. These include public transportation fees, libraries, and student discounts. They are charged in Germany and Norway.
- Certificate of financial solvency — 4,000-14,000 USD in your bank account or confirmation of third-party financing. This is a mandatory requirement for obtaining a visa in almost every country.
- Application fees of around 100-150 USD, required for university admission.
- Membership in a student union — 60-100 USD. This is mandatory in countries such as Finland.
- Medical insurance — 60-300 USD. This is one of the conditions for obtaining a visa in Europe.
- Language courses at universities — 3,000-4,000 USD. It will be necessary to take such a course if your language proficiency is insufficient for studying. They will ease the admission and adaptation process.
Where to get a free education
The following table shows living expenses in countries with free education and the average salaries of university graduates.
|Country||Living expenses per month||Salary per month||Visa requirement per year||Top 500 universities (QS)|
|Germany||1,504 USD||2,928 USD||11,670 USD||38|
|Finland||1,584 USD||2,903 USD||7,588 USD||7|
|Argentina||648 USD||488 USD||-||5|
|Norway||2,142 USD||3,833 USD||13,755 USD||4|
|Poland||658 USD||932 USD||4,504 USD||4|
|1,107 USD||1,266 USD||4,585-5,731 USD||1|
|Estonia||588 USD||1,335 USD||6,877 USD||1|
|Greece||523 USD||829 USD||5,631 USD||1|
In Germany, it is believed that education should be accessible to everyone, and is thus paid for by the state. There are exceptions only at private universities, in some specialized master's programs and in Baden-Württemberg.
- Universities charge a student fee of 185-810 USD
- There are 117 English-language bachelor’s programs, and 830 master’s programs
- Foreign students are allowed to combine their studies with work (20 hours a week)
- Foreign students are required to have health insurance, which costs 90-110 USD
- After graduating, you can stay in the country for 18 months to look for work
- Students can work 25 hours a week, but they will not be able to find a job without knowing the Finnish language.
- Many universities conduct entrance examinations.
- In addition to hostels, it is common to find student apartments which cost 180-430 USD.
- After graduation, you can stay in the country for a year to look for work.
In Argentina, education is free only for bachelor’s programs. However, master's programs are very cheap — from 200 USD per year.
- Instead of entrance exams, you need to pass an annual preparatory program.
- There are no work restrictions for students.
- It is possible to apply for citizenship after two years of residence in the country.
In Norway, the standard of living is very expensive, but education is free at every level. However, universities do not offer scholarships that could compensate for living expenses. Most often, they only offer exchange programs.
- It is impossible to enter a university after the eleventh grade, you need to complete a preparatory program or the first year of the university in your home country.
- There are only 27 English-language bachelor’s programs.
- A student visa is not issued for taking language courses at universities.
In the Czech Republic, if you know the local language, you can study for free at all levels.
- To enter the country, you need to pass two exams: language and field of study.
- Student benefits and insurance are not available to people over 26.
- Students have no restrictions on working hours.
- After graduation, students have nine months to find a job.
In Poland, foreigners with a certificate indicating a B2 language proficiency can study without payment. Universities have language courses that will improve your chances of admission, but cost 3,439 USD per year.
- There is low competition among university entrants.
- You have nine months to look for a job after graduation.
In Estonia, programs in the local language are free. But if you fail to cope with the workload (less than 75% of students pass the courses), education will become paid.
- Language courses cost 1,375 USD/per year.
- A visa is valid for nine months after graduation.
- There are no restrictions on working hours for students.
In Greece, education is free in the local language. However, you must take a mandatory language course before or after admission to a university. The course costs 930 USD per year.
- For admission, only a high GPA is required.
- Students receive benefits for all types of transportation, theater, cinema, concerts, as well as free meals at university cafeterias.
- Few dorm rooms are available. The average price for renting an apartment in Athens is 283-397 USD/month.
Universities with free tuition
|Ranking (QS)||University||Country||City||Language level||Conditions||Details|
|54||Technical University of Munich||Germany||Munich|
English TOEFL 88 IELTS 6.5
300 USD/per semester
|62||Ludwig Maximilian University||Germany||Munich|
English TOEFL 80
|450 USD/per semester||Navigate|
|69||University of Buenos Aires||Argentina||Buenos Aires||Spanish B2||Complete the Foundation Program (one year)||Navigate|
|104||University of Helsinki||Finland||Helsinki||Finnish B2|
|112||Aalto University||Finland||Espoo||Finnish B2||130 USD||Navigate|
English TOEFL 84 IELTS 6.0
|130||Free University of Berlin||Germany||Berlin|
English TOEFL 80 IELTS 5.0
|135||University of Oslo||Norway||Oslo|
English TOEFL 90 IELTS 6.5
|144||RWTH Aachen University||Germany||Aachen|
|159||Berlin University of Technology||Germany||Berlin|
|171||University of Bergen||Norway||Bergen|
|214||University of Hamburg||Germany||Hamburg|
|266||Charles University||Czech Republic||Prague||Czech B1||-||Navigate|
|295||University of Turku||Finland||Turku||Finnish B2||130 USD|
|300||University of Tartu||Estonia||Tartu||Estonian B1||-||Navigate|
|308||University of Warsaw||Poland||Warsaw||Polish B2||-||Navigate|
|309||Jagiellonian University||Poland||Krakow||Polish B2||-||Navigate|
|358||University of Jyväskylä||Finland||Jyväskylä||Finnish B2||130 USD||Navigate|
|363||Norwegian University of Science and Technology||Norway||Trondheim|
|369||University of Tromso||Norway||Tromso|
|373||University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague||Czech Republic||Prague||Czech B2||-||Navigate|
|377||University of Oulu||Finland||Oulu||Finnish B2||130 USD||Navigate|
|403||Czech Technical University||Czech Republic||Prague||Czech B2||-||Navigate|
|414||Lappeenranta University of Technology||Finland||Lappeenranta||Finnish B2||130 USD||Navigate|
|477||National Technical University of Athens||Greece||Athens||Greek B2||-||Navigate|
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