An enormous number of applicants from all over the world try to get accepted in European universities every year. One of the most sought-after degrees is a medical degree: free medical education in Europe is known for its high quality. Many liberal and technical programs are also incredibly popular. A scholarship is a nice bonus a foreign student can get provided they have excellent grades. Elvira Dulskaya, author of the GoStudy blog, explains which European universities have free education and what to do to be accepted to them.
There are several ways to study abroad without spending a fortune:
go to university in a country with fully free education;
study for free in the country's national language;
apply for a scholarship or a grant;
study in your home country under a double degree program;
study with sponsorship from a for-profit organization.
Let's look at the options in greater detail.
Free European education in English
Currently, Norway is the only European country that offers free education in English for all applicants, regardless of their nationality.
The Norwegian government fully funds state universities, so even programs in English are free for everyone here. That being said, not all universities here have Bachelor's programs in English - most often they only offer Master's and doctoral programs. In total, there are 9 state universities in Norway.
The universities that have Bachelor's programs in English are:
Nord University - 6 Bachelor's programs and 4 Master's programs;
Norwegian University of Life Sciences - 1 Bachelor's program, 18 Master's programs and 10 doctoral programs;
University of Agder - 4 Bachelor's programs, 16 Master's programs, 15 doctoral programs;
University of Stavanger - 2 Bachelor's programs, 24 Master's programs, 13 doctoral programs;
University of Tromsø - 2 Bachelor's programs, 30 Master's programs and 7 doctoral programs.
The following universities offer Master's and doctoral programs in English:
It's worth noting that while education doesn't require a traditional tuition fee, Norway universities still ask for a student fee - around 100 euros per semester depending on the university.
Free education in a European country's language
Many European countries let foreigners study for free in their national languages. If a foreign applicant has a language proficiency certificate of a specific level, they can be accepted for the first year on the same grounds as locals. Some of the countries that have such system for free education are: the Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Austria.
In the Czech Republic, applicants need a B1 language certificate in order to be admitted to free programs in Czech. This level is also acceptable for such arts and technical universities as:
Most large universities accept B2-level certificates:
Czech Technical University in Prague (most faculties);
Masaryk University in Brno;
Technical University in Liberec;
Tomas Bata University in Zlín;
Mendel University in Brno;
Charles University (most faculties);
University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague.
Some programs require a C1-level certificate. Some of these are:
Medicine: First and Third Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University in Prague, Medical Faculty of the Charles University in Plzeň ;
Education: Charles University Faculty of Education, "Czech language for education" program.
In the Czech Republic, education in Czech is free and students aren't charged with any fees. In order to better prepare for the Czech certificate exam and admission to any Czech university, it's better to take specialized language courses. With enough commitment from the applicant, it all but guarantees acceptance for the first year. In Germany, applicants have to pass a centralized exam in German called DSH in order to be admitted to any program in German. The exam is quite difficult - applicants must know the language at least at the B2 level. Those who study in German also have to pay education fees every semester. But the fees are relatively inexpensive, with the price generally ranging between 100-200 euros. For example, the semester fee for Bachelor's and Master's programs in the Heidelberg University is 172 euros, whereas in the Technical University of Munich it's 147 euros. In France, applicants need a B2 language certificate for admission to programs in French and a C1 certificate for admission to medical programs. The yearly student fee is 200-300 euros. In Finland, Education in state universities is also free in Finnish and Swedish. Applicants will need a YKI language certificate in order to be admitted here. Although Finnish is rather difficult, free education attracts a lot of applicants since programs in English offered by Finnish universities cost an arm and a leg. For example, a Bachelor's program costs 12,000 euros per year in Aalto University and up to 18,000 euros per year in the University of Helsinki.
Education via scholarship
Large scholarships that can cover the tuition fee - and in some cases even accommodation - are available in every European country. But they imply a lot of competition, though, in case of a niche and rare program, the scholarship can sometimes be easier to obtain. Most scholarships only cover Master's and doctoral programs.
Some of the international European scholarships that cover Master's programs include:
Besides, every European university provides its own small scholarship to students. It may be:
a social scholarship - financial help from the university to lower-income students (the amount is calculated based on the country's minimum wage);
a scholarship for excellent grades - this is the largest financial support a student can get from a university and it exists in every university in Europe. The amount may vary between universities;
an athlete scholarship - such scholarships are present only in some universities. They are given to students for outstanding sports achievements;
a motivational scholarship - financial help for gifted students.
Getting smaller scholarships from universities is much easier. For example, Czech universities give scholarships not only for excellent grades but also based on the accommodation: all students who are not registered in the city they study in are provided with small financial support. The details need to be clarified in the university's academic office.
Education under double diploma program
A double diploma program means an education program, during which a student acquires knowledge in a chosen field at two universities at the same time. Upon graduation, students get two higher education diplomas.
There are double diploma programs available in the Czech Republic, too. For, example students of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague or the Metropolitan University Prague can apply for such a program. They can choose a partnering university out of several options and get a second diploma in Switzerland, Germany or Italy. Such programs are financially supported with the Erasmus+ grant.
Specific education sponsored by a company
Another way to study for free in Europe is to be sent to Europe and sponsored by the company you work for. Many international companies provide such opportunity to their employees. Such companies are generally related to management and economics, so the sponsored program focuses on a specific field only. It's better to consider such education as advanced professional training. But if you're a valued employee and the only barrier for your promotion and increased salary is the lack of a required diploma, then the company may invest in you.
So is it worth studying in Europe?
Free education abroad for students from all over the world is not a dream, but a real possibility. You can even study in English for free, but it's better to invest some time and effort into learning the local language by taking a language course. This will allow you to choose from a wider range of programs and specializations at public universities and virtually guarantee admission. You can study for free in the Czech Republic, Norway, Austria, Finland, France, Greece or Germany. Applicants for niche programs can also apply for a grant or scholarship: if successful, the scholarship will at least cover education costs. A European university diploma is not just a document, but a real chance to make new friends, meet future employers and lay the foundation for building a good career.
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