Free University? It’s possible! 10 countries with low or no tuition costs at all

University is an expensive affair, especially if an international education is on the cards. For most of us, this is simply something we can’t afford. Fret not, though, there are ways to reduce expenses: what if we tell you that you could study for free*?

If you look hard and fit the criteria, that is! We save you some detective work and present you a list of countries where this is very much a reality and if it isn’t, have lower tuition fees. Maybe learning a third language is in order?

*Disclaimer: this refers to tuition fees and does not include a university’s administration fees. All information is current and accurate as of October 2018. This is merely a starter list and not an endorsement of any of the universities listed.

1) Norway

Bergen Coast, Norway

The first on our list is Norway. It’s the home to trolls, Vikings, gorgeous scenery and…free education?

You didn’t hear us wrongly! Norway is one of the countries in the EU to provide subsidized higher education to all without the need to pay tuition fees—provided you choose a public institution and are proficient in Norwegian, as the majority of Bachelor’s Degrees there aren’t taught in English. Maybe it’s time to plan ahead and pick up a new language? *wink*

That being said, Norway is known for having a high cost of living: the University of Oslo estimates that a student would have to set aside roughly NOK 17,500 (approx SGD 2934) per semester for housing alone. That being said, there are ways to cut down on expenses, and non-EU/EEA students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week (permit required).

(Public) Universities you could consider:

  1. University of Oslo (which produced 4 Nobel Prize Winners), which ranks 121st on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 135st on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
  2. University of Bergen, which ranks 197th on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 171st on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
The University of Oslo

2) Finland

Helsinki City (night), Finland

Ahhh, Finland. Finland is well-known worldwide for their education system, and while Finland does charge tuition fees for their programmes, international students do get to study for free if they choose to take their bachelor’s/masters degrees in Finnish or Swedish! You’ll also not need to pay tuition fees if you’re taking a PhD (doctoral studies). Again, if you’re deciding to study Finnish/Swedish or already know the languages, Finland awaits.

Again, like Norway and most Nordic countries, the cost of living can be relatively high. You will be required to pay a small student union fee (approximately 80-100 € per year) and also have the option to work part-time. So make sure you can manage before you apply.

Universities you could consider:

  1. University of Helsinki (oldest and largest university in Finland), which ranks 99th on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 110st on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
  2. Aalto University, which ranks 181st on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 140st on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).

3) Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Beautiful Iceland, with its terrific views and lovely views of the Northern Lights, is the third Nordic country on our list! Again, public universities (there are 4) do not charge tuition fees but the lion’s share of bachelor’s degrees are taught in Icelandic, so do make sure whatever’s offered in English is something you’d honestly want to study!

Some programmes taught in English include the University of Iceland’s Japanese Language and Culture degree and International Studies in Education degree.

Universities you could consider:

  1. University of Iceland (Iceland’s oldest and largest university), which ranks within 251–300th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019.

4) France

While you do have to pay tuition fees in France, you’d be pleased to know that it’s relatively low for France’s public universities! The public universities charge approximately 190€ as a standard, which fluctuates depending on the programme, (approx SGD 303) per academic year for both EU and non-EU students, which is quite affordable, we’d say. The best part is that there’s quite a fair bit of degrees taught in English, so you can choose what strikes your fancy.

Universities you could consider (public):

  1. Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris (collegiate university system known for their humanities and social sciences, engineering, and sciences programmes), which ranks 41st place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 50th place on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
  2. Sorbonne University, which ranks 73rd on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 75th place on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
Sorbonne University in France, Paris

5) Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Did you know that the Swiss flag is one of only 2 national flags that are square in shape? Now you do! The country does not provide free education, but low costs make it fairly accessible to desiring students (Swiss universities are largely funded by taxpayers). On average, students pay around SGD 1,500 (or more, depending on the school) per academic year. Do take note, however, that degrees might not necessarily be taught in English: at ETH Zurich, for example, German is the main medium of instruction for all undergraduate degrees. Costs of living are another thing to watch out for.

University of Zurich

Universities you could consider:

  1.  ETH Zurich (under the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), which ranks 11th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 7th place on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
  2. Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, which ranks 35th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 22nd place on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).

6) Czech Republic

Like Norway and Finland, public and state universities in the Czech Republic do not charge tuition fees to students of all nationalities! Again, that’s only if you study in the Czech language…that is. Many universities in the country offer preparatory classes (usually a year long) for those who intend to pick up the language, so you’ll be covered. Additionally, the cost of living here is lower compared to many other countries in Europe.

The caveat? If you take over a year of additional time to complete your course, you’ll have to pay tuition fees. So don’t slack off!

Universities you could consider (public):

  1. Charles University (Prague), which ranks 401-500th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 317th on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
  2. Masaryk University, which ranks 601-800th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 571-580th on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).

7) Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan

The only Asian entrant on this list, we’re listing Taiwan because of its affordable tuition fees: the National Taiwan University, for example, charges its students USD 1,682 – 2,412 per semester. That’s approximately SGD 2318- 3323 per semester. Additionally, Taiwan provides a few governmental scholarships in order to attract international students to study there. These, along with universities’ own scholarships, are listed in English here. Additionally, its relative proximity to Singapore makes it easier to visit home if you’re feeling a little too homesick. Or at least, you’ll know and feel closer to your loved ones!

Universities you could consider:

  1. National Taiwan University, which ranks 170th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 72nd on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
  2. National Tsing Hua University, which ranks 401-500th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 163rd on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
National Taiwan Normal University (国立台湾师范大学 or 师大 for short)

8) Spain

Seville, Spain

¿Habla español? Well we don’t, but if you do, put your Spanish skills to good use! If you choose to attend a public university, tuition fees will set you back by around 680 – 1,280€ (approx SGD 1082-2038) per academic year. Costs can be higher depending on the university. Spain’s cost of living is lower compared to other European countries (by 20%), so why not consider this country if you find UK or Sweden a little too expensive?

Universities you could consider:

  1. Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) (strong in Social Sciences and Humanities, Health and Life Sciences, Communications and ICT), which ranks 135h place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 292nd on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).
  2. University of Barcelona, which ranks 201-250th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 166th on QS World University Rankings (both 2019).

9) Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

If Spain isn’t really calling your name, maybe Argentina is? If you’re great with Spanish and have the minimum certification (this applies for relevant languages for the various countries listed here), Argentina welcomes you! Education at public institutions is free to anyone regardless of nationality and the University of Buenos Aires is popular with international students. Do note that this particular university has a common first year that you must enrol in and pass (known as the CBC), however, before you can undertake the degree of your choice.

Universities you could consider:

  1. University of Buenos Aires, which places 73rd on QS World University Rankings (2019).

10) Luxembourg

Luxembourg City

If you haven’t thought of Luxembourg as an option, put it on your list right away! A small country like Singapore (except 4 times bigger and with a much smaller population), the picturesque Grand Duchy’s citizens are effectively trilingual (in Luxembourgish, French and German—and English too for some).

The country currently has only one public university (the University of Luxembourg), which asks for 400€ in tuition fees per semester for Semesters 1 and 2 of your Bachelor’s and 200 € per semester for Semesters 3-6. That adds up to only 1,600 € (approx SGD 2547) in total, which is pretty affordable! According to the University, a student would incur additional personal expenses of around 900€ (approx SGD 1433) monthly, however, so make sure you can manage this or have a way to lower the cost! Again, do note that most Bachelor’s degrees are not taught in English.

Universities you could consider:

  1. University of Luxembourg (young but rising!), which ranks 201-250th place on Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2019).

We hope this list has been of use, and welcome any insights into any of the countries listed above! We wish you all the best in your uni applications.

If you’re a uni student and have been to any of the countries listed on exchange (or studying there!), please feel free to share your experience and helpful tips with all our juniors! We await your insights!

 

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