If you have been unable to get an international university scholarship, it is perhaps time you start to consider applying to one of the many tuition-free (or minimal tuition-fee) schools. Although unarguably fewer in number than in the past, yet a good number of countries still offer free tuition education to international students.
Study & Scholarships had previously compiled a comprehensive list of tuition-free schools on this very page. However, with countries in Europe currently reviewing their tuition free school model, it has become necessary to rewrite and update this article. The article below reflects the recent and current realities concerning the tuition free model of education in Europe.
Tuition Free Education and Schools in FinlandFinnish higher education consists of two complementary sectors: universities and polytechnics (also known as universities of applied sciences, UAS). Universities promote research and provide academic higher education based on research, whereas polytechnics/UAS's provide professional or ‘vocational’ higher education. Additionally, post-Master’s level degrees can only be awarded by the universities.
Do you need to pay tuition fees in Finland?
The answer to this depends on the level of your studies, your nationality, and also on the programme you are interested in. In Bachelor’s or Doctoral level programmes, the higher education institutions will not charge tuition fees. Several Master’s level programmes also do not charge tuition fees either, however, some Master's may charge tuition fees from non-EU/EEA students. (NB: Erasmus Mundus Master’s programmes always charge a tuition fee – for information on Erasmus Mundus Master’s and related scholarships, click here.)
Remember that even if the programme you're applying to does not charge tuition fees, you still need to plan your finances so that you'll be able to independently cover your all everyday living expenses during your studies in Finland.
In summary, higher education is funded by the State through the Ministry of Education, such that all Bachelor's and Doctoral level programmes -as well as many Master's level programmes- do not charge any tuition fees. However, in those Master's level programmes that charge a tuition fee from non-EU/EEA international students, institutional scholarships for these non-EU/EEA students are available.
Now, let us look at another important issue. Although no tuition is charged, students in both universities and polytechnics have to pay for their books, accommodation and other living expenses. The general cost of living in Finland is relatively high, but still approximately the same as in other EU countries. The estimated total monthly living expenses of a single student averages approximately EUR 700-900. This would however depend on personal habits and location of school in Finland.
For more on free education and schools in Finland, see our guide to tuition free schools in Finland.
Tuition Free Education and Schools in NorwayCompleting a university degree is often considered an expensive endeavour and tuition fees make up the bulk part of the cost. Norway is an extremely popular study destination for international students because Norwegian education is very high quality; and Norwegian state universities and state university colleges as a rule do not charge tuition fees for both native and foreign students. The government finances education with taxpayers' money.
According to the official Norwegian web site, www.studyinnorway.no: “Living expenses in Norway are considered to be higher than in many other countries. You should expect to have NOK 8900 - per month for subsistence.” True, living in Norway has a reputation for being expensive, but studying in Norway may not be as expensive as you think! The estimate of NOK 8900 (approx. EURO 1200) per month for subsistence refers to board and lodgings, clothing, transport, medical and dental care and other necessities. Living expenses vary from person to person depending on personal habits.
International students can further financially support their stay in Norway depending on several factors: current country of legal residency; current home institution; previous education; AND what institution/degree/subject area you are seeking admission to. You may want to first contact the International Office at your home university to see if institutional agreements, you can take advantage of, exists with any Norwegian institution. Further more, you may be eligible for support through many of the Norwegian scholarship programmes or schemes.
For more on free education and schools in Norway, see our guide to tuition free schools in Norway.
Tuition Free Education and Schools in GermanyFor many years, there have been no tuition fees at higher institutions of learning in Germany.
For undergraduate studies (like degree or bachelor courses), this still holds true in many universities. Students pay only a small enrollment or confirmation fee, which gives access to wide concessions like bank accounts, sometimes telephone companies, cinema and theatre tickets, etc.
However, education policy in Germany is increasingly seeking to change this. After the Constitutional Court of Germany lifted the ban on tuition fees in January 2005, many federal states announced that they would introduce tuition fees. A number of Federal states now charge tuition fees for students who study for considerably longer than the stipulated period required for course completion.
Due to the federal structure of Germany, education costs in individual states differ. In some states, tuition fees have already been introduced - Master’s courses are especially liable to costs. Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine Westphalia have been charging tuition fees for first degree since the summer term 2007, Hesse and Saarland were to follow suit from the winter term 2007/08 onwards. Currently fees of up to 500 Euro per semester are being charged. In these states, therefore, undergraduate studies will be subject to charges.
There might be special regulations for international students. This is why it is important to get detailed information from individual universities on whether tuition fees will be charged. Information will generally be provided by the enrollment offices or the international student offices. Detailed information on tuition fees for international students in the 16 federal states can be found here.
For a list of all German Schools: Database of all German Institutions of Higher Learning
Tuition Free Education and Schools in SwedenThis year 2010, the Swedish parliament passed a law outlining tuition and application fees for students from non-EU/EEA countries as from the 2011/2012 academic year, to be supplemented by scholarship programs. (See 'Foreign students shun Swedish universities' and 'Swedish govt increase scholarships for international students').
Up until now, Sweden has been one of the few countries in Europe that has not charged any type of fees. All students—regardless of nationality—have been funded by Swedish taxpayers. Global competition for talent is increasing sharply and the government wants Swedish universities to compete on equal terms with universities in other countries thus the charging of tuition fees.
Since Sweden acknowledges that non-EU/EEA students add value to the Swedish educational system and recognize them as an attractive talent base, the government will introduce two new scholarship programs in succeeding years.
Source: Tuition fees and scholarships for non-EU/EEA students
Tuition Free Education and Schools in AustriaIf you are a non-EU student, federal/public universities in Austria only charge about 363.36 Euros for tuition fees plus 16.86 Euros for the Austrian Student Union and insurance fee per semester.
If you are a citizen of a least developed country, you are exempted to pay tuition fees at public universities in Austria and only need to pay 17 Euros per semester for the student union fee.
Cost of Studying in Austria:
The cost of living for students in Austria is approximately 800 Euros per month. This estimate is expected to covers an average student's accommodation, food, and personal expenses.
External links: List of Austrian Universities AND Austrian Grants Database.
Related: Tuition Free Universities and Education
DISCLAIMER: The above article on tuition-free schools was relevant and correct as at the time of publishing (September, 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.