An Introduction: The Background
Tuition free education, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, have been around for several years. This policy recently became extremely popular amongst international students wishing to attend tuition free European schools, largely because of the internet.
The tuition-free policy, reported severally by Study & Scholarships in the past, was possible because some countries had governments that used billions of dollars of public funds in public spending to finance the running and administration of these tuition free schools. Although completely tuition free, high levels of academic excellence was maintained over the years, and the quality of education was never found wanting.
Several European countries, well known for this include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany. The United States of America also have some tuition free schools. The offer for tuition free study, was not only for native students of the sponsoring countries, but also for intelligent but financially needy students from both developing and developed nations whose students successfully gained admission into these schools.
In the past few years, however, and with increasing awareness amongst international students of this splendid schools, sponsoring governments have begun to talk about policy change, presumably because of the downturn of the world economy biting hard on nations.
The relevant question now is: "Do we still have tuition free universities and education in existence?"
Tuition Free Education: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and GermanyAlthough many countries (like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark etc) offered tuition free study in the past, students are now concerned with pertinent questions like:
- “What is the current status of tuition free schools for international students?”
- “Are there still higher institutions out there offering free education for international students from developing countries?”
1. SWEDENSweden was one of the few countries in Europe that never charged any fees for both their native home and foreign international students.
In the past, all students, regardless of nationality were funded by Swedish taxpayers' money. In 2010, however, while presenting the 2011 draft budget; the Swedish non-socialist coalition government suggested the introduction of tuition fees in public schools.
The draft bill suggested that all students from countries outside the EU/EEA would have to pay a tuition fee, to cover the whole study program, and the specific amount of money is to be decided individually by each of the higher educational institutions.
Later on in 2011, the Swedish parliament passed the draft bill into law thereby introducing tuition and application fees for non-EU/EEA and non-Switzerland students, starting from the 2011/2012 academic year. This fee is, however, to be supplemented by diverse scholarship programs which will be awarded based on academic merit, thus giving qualified students who lack the appropriate funding, the continued opportunity to study in Sweden.
Tuition fees are to be set by the institutions themselves, covering the full cost of offering studies to students. Thus the fee amounts may vary depending on the type of course and institution, and in what part of Sweden the course is offered.
2. FINLANDIn Finland, on the other hand, while some universities charge tuition fees for international students, others still remain tuition free. Let's take two case studies for example:
(a) The University of Eastern Finland: Here, both foreign and home students are NOT charged any tuition fees at the moment, but students are expected to cover their own living expenses valued at a minimum of 500 Euros per month for a single student in Finland;
(b) The Aalto University: In this school, most programmes charged a tuition fee of 8000 EUR/academic year from non-EU/EEA-citizens (i.e international students) for the 2011/2012 session, however, the university offers the Aalto university scholarships for international students.
In summary, universities that charge tuition fees complement with full or partial scholarship programmes for qualified students.
For more on free education and schools in Finland, see our guide to tuition free schools in Finland.
3. DENMARKCurrently, tuition is free for undergraduate and masters (MSc, MA) studies for EU/EEA students as well as for students participating in an exchange program in Danish universities; but the situation is different for international students.
As far back as 2006, a tuition fee system was introduced for all international full degree students from outside the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries.
Scholarships and tuition fee waivers for international students, however, are available from institutions and the government (the Danish Ministry of Education scholarship fund) for master’s degrees. Scholarships are offered as either full grants or partial tuition fee waivers towards covering your living costs.
4. NORWAYForeign students are admitted to universities and other institutions of higher education in Norway mainly through international programs and bilateral agreements with comparable institutions abroad.
Currently (i.e. in 2011), no tuition fees are charged at any of the Norwegian universities, except for special programs and at private and specialized schools.
Higher education is free for international students and Norwegian nationals at all Norwegian public institutions. Presently, therefore, Norway is the only country in Scandinavia where higher education is still completely free for all students (although in Finland, there is a mix of free universities and paid ones).
If Norway continues to ignore the persuasion to join other Scandinavian countries to introduce tuition fees for foreign students, then there is still hope for tuition free universities. Students can, however, continue to take advantage of the full and partial scholarships offered in these and other countries to get a near free education.
While some parties believe that education will continue to remain free in Norway, there is still uncertainty as to what might happen in the near future.
For more on free education and schools in Norway, see our guide to tuition free schools in Norway.
5. GERMANYWere universities in Germany ever tuition free? Yes! In the past, Germany did not generally charge tuition fees; but this has since changed.
Some federal states are now charging fees, while others are about to abolish them. You will have to contact the university of your choice to find out whether it charges tuition fees.
Initially, fees were introduced for long-term students, visiting students (i.e. from other universities) and for participants of postgraduate and Master’s programmes. Now, however, some federal states also charge tuition fees of around 500 Euros per semester for first degree (undergraduate) courses such as Bachelor’s, Diploma, or Magister programmes. Most Master’s programmes charge tuition fees.
Tuition can amount to between 650 and several thousand Euros per semester. Students also have to pay the semester fee for each semester.
Organizations and institutions also offer scholarships in Germany for international students.
Related: Tuition Free Doctoral Programs in Germany for International Students
DISCLAIMER: The above article on tuition-free schools was relevant and correct as at the time of publishing (December, 2011). Study & Scholarships is NOT responsible for any misinformation as governments and schools may change policies as they see fit. Note that schools may also change or edit their school web addresses resulting in broken links. It is wise to write admissions office of schools to ascertain their most current policies.