Which European countries have free universities?
Sir Keir Starmer has gone back on his pledge to abolish tuition fees should he become UK prime minister.
The Labour Party leader had made the pledge in 2020, but shared that Britain’s fragile public finances would no longer allow the party to abolish fees.
Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about making tuition fees free again, he shared: “We are likely to move on from that commitment, because we do find ourselves in a different financial situation.
“We are looking at options for how we fund these fees. The current system is unfair, it doesn’t really work for students, doesn’t work for universities.”
While free tuition is a thing of the past here, there are a number of European countries that still offer students free or cheap higher education. Here is a look at those nations.
Countries with free university tuition in Europe
Scotland offers free university education to students who are already ordinary residents in the country and are undertaking their first degree. Potential students who have a “relevant connection” with Scotland will be eligible for up to five years of free education.
There is no set amount of years specified. Basically, your application needs to clearly show that Scotland is and has been your permanent home for a considerable amount of time.
If you don’t qualify for the free tuition offer, you may still qualify to pay the Home fees, which are capped at £1,820.
However, those from the rest of the UK who would like to study in Scotland are still charged up to £9,250.
Norway offers both local and international students free undergraduate and postgraduate education as long as they choose a university that is state-funded.
While the tuition is free, students are asked to pay a small students’ union fee each semester, to help support the universities’ facilities and services. But this fee is usually around £50.
Students from Sweden, the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland can access free education in the country. Countries in the EEA comprise the states of the European Union together with Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein.
Exchange students are also usually exempt from fees.
However, those who are not from an EU or EEA country have to pay between £6,600 and £22,450 per year based on the course and university they have selected.
Germany offers free university education to everyone. Whether you’re a German, from an EU nation, or a non-European, your tuition will be free of charge at almost all public universities.
The only condition for those who aren’t from an EU nation is that you will need to gain a residence permit before you arrive in the country. Additionally, you’ll have to commit to finishing your studies in Germany.
Higher education in Denmark is free to those from the EU, the EEA, and those who are in an exchange programme. Plus, students who meet the eligibility criteria can also attain free education. The criteria ask that students have a permanent residence, a temporary residence with the possibility of obtaining permanent residence, or have a residence permit.
Alternatively, refugees and protected persons and their relatives might also be given free education.
EU citizens, EEA residents, and Swiss students can study in Finland for free. Everyone else — including UK students — counts as international students and has to pay fees.
State-funded universities in Austria are free to all EU and EEA citizens. Other students have to pay a tuition fee.
While university education is completely free to those from the EU, the EEA, and Switzerland, the fee for those who don’t fit the criteria is relatively low as long as they choose a state-funded institution. Non-European students are expected to pay about £1,320 per year for an undergraduate programme at a public university in Greece.
The French government heavily subsidises tuition fees. Students from the EU, the EEA, Andorra, and Switzerland are asked to pay around £150 per year for a bachelor’s degree and £220 for a master’s degree.
Plus, those who are residents of Quebec, have a long-term residence card, or have lived in a taxable household in France for more than two years are also eligible for these subsidised fees, even if they are non-Europeans.
How much are tuition fees in the UK?
Tuition fees across England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are dependent on the student’s home region.
Those who are based in England and Wales pay up to £9,250 per year to study in England, Scotland, or Northern Ireland. The number is slightly less for Wales, with yearly fees costing up to £9,000 per annum.
Welsh students who claim benefits may be eligible for a Special Support Grant (SSG) of up to £5,161.
Scottish students receive university education for free in Scotland. But the same fees apply to them should they wish to pursue their higher education elsewhere in the country.
Students from Northern Ireland receive a tuition discount in their home region, with tuition fees capped at £4,395 per year.
There are exceptions for asylum seekers at more than 80 UK universities, who will have their tuition fees waived, with Sanctuary Scholarships.