cheapest universities for international students

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Where Can You Study Abroad for Free?

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While university fees continue to rise in many parts of the world, some of you might be thinking that getting a recognized degree qualification, either in your home country or abroad, is simply impossible without having a four- or five-figure budget at your disposal, or without obtaining a scholarship.

You’ll be pleased to hear that this isn’t necessarily the case. There are many countries worldwide where students are able to study abroad for free or for a very affordable amount. You just need to know where to look.

Below you’ll find a selection of countries that offer low-cost or free tuition, with details on eligibility and what current (low) university fees you can expect. To find internationally renowned universities in these countries, visit the QS World University Rankings® 2020.

Study in Germany for free


Interest in studying abroad in Germany just seems to keep on growing. This is largely due to the fact there are no undergraduate tuition fees at most public universities in Germany, and this applies to both German students and internationals, regardless of nationality. Just a small nominal university fee is charged, of around €150-250 (~US$170-280), to cover administration costs.

The exception is the state of Baden-Württemberg in south-west Germany, which reintroduced tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students in autumn 2017. These students must pay €1,500 (~US$1,660) a semester (€3,000 or ~US$3,320 per year). PhD students and refugees aren’t affected, and the fees are reduced for those pursuing a second degree (to €650 (~US$720) a semester, which is €1,300 (~US$1,440) a year. It’s possible that other German states will follow and reintroduce fees in the future, as they seek to invest in and improve university education, so watch out for this.

Germany’s low study costs, combined with its strong economy and excellent higher education system, makes the prospect of undertaking study in Germany extremely appealing for both students and their parents worldwide. More than 40 German universities are featured among the world’s leaders in the QS World University Rankings – again, beaten only by the US and UK – with the highest place taken by the Technical University of Munich.

If you’re successful in finding a university where you can study in Germany for free, you will of course still need to budget for living costs. If you need a German student visa, you’ll need to prove you have around €10,236 (~US$11,330) per year for living expenses (with the average student spending €850 (~US$940) a month).

Two of the top destinations for study in Germany, Munich and Berlin, were also ranked within the top 30 most affordable cities to study in the QS Best Student Cities 2019.

For more information, download our free guide on How to Study Abroad in Germany, or see the following articles:

Study in France for free (or at low cost)

France may not be quite as widely known as Germany for affordable higher education, but international students may be surprised to hear they can also study in France for free (or, at a very low cost), regardless of their nationality.

Although technically university fees do exist at public universities in France, they’re just a fraction of those charged in most countries, amounting to just €170 (~US$190) per year at undergraduate level for EU/EEA/Swiss students.

However, from the 2019/20 academic year non-EU/EEA students will begin paying higher rates, with fees going up to €2,770 (~US$3,065) per year for a bachelor’s degree. However, the French government will be tripling the amount of scholarships available to international students, from 7,000 to 21,000.

Additional charges can bring the price of your studies up, particularly for more specialized programs such as medicine and engineering, but not dramatically. If you’re looking to study at a leading grande écolehowever, expect fees to vary widely.

As is the case in Germany, the majority of programs offering the chance to study in France for free are taught in the native language. However, there are a growing number of opportunities to study in English, particularly at graduate level. Alternatively, you can also attend a preparatory school to perfect your French skills before beginning your degree, but you’ll have to pay for this.

Living costs in France are also relatively affordable, amounting to around €9,600 (~US$10,620) per year, though you should expect to pay more if you choose to live in capital city Paris.

Find out more:

Study in the Nordic countries for free


Known for their high quality of life, stunning nature and liberal politics, northern European nations (known as the Nordic countries) also boast some of the strongest higher education systems in the world. Nordic nations DenmarkFinlandIcelandNorway and Sweden all offer opportunities to study free or at low cost:

In Norway, university study is available free of charge to all students, regardless of study level or nationality. Like Germany, you will only need to pay a semester fee, in this case around NOK 300-600 (~US$33-66). The majority of undergraduate programs are taught only in Norwegian, and international students need to demonstrate proof of proficiency in Norwegian in order to study at this level. At master’s and PhD level, English language programs are far more common and free tuition still applies.

In Iceland, there are no tuition fees charged at the country’s four public universities, with only a registration fee of around ISK 75,000 (~US$600) a year.

Denmark, Sweden and most recently Finland only extend their free higher education perks to students from within the EU/EEA and Switzerland, meaning that students from outside these regions must pay tuition fees for bachelor’s and master’s programs. However, PhD programs in these countries are fully funded, offering exceptional PhD candidates the chance to gain their degree without paying fees, and earn a salary. Non-EU/EEA students can also still study in Finland for free if they study in either Swedish or Finnish.

International fees at bachelor and master levels in Denmark, Sweden and Finland vary. In Denmark, university fees range from between DKK 45,000 and DKK 120,000 (~US$6,670-17,800) annually, while in Sweden they fall between SEK 80,000 and SEK 145,000 (~US$8,200-14,870) for most courses. In Finland, the recently introduced tuition fees currently amount to at least €1,500 (~US$1,700) per year, although most students will pay between €6,000 – 18,000 (~US$6,640-19,900) per year.

But what about living costs? Well, this is the catch, as the costs of living in northern Europe are among some of the highest on the continent. This is largely due to the healthy economy of the region and the strength of the Nordic currencies, so paying more for living when the streets are clean and the people are happy perhaps isn’t so bad. Four Nordic capitals have been ranked among the world’s top student cities: CopenhagenHelsinkiOslo and Stockholm.

Find out more:

Other places to study in Europe for free (or at low cost)


What about other places to study in Europe for free or at a low cost? There are a number of European countries which offer affordable or free universities, without any need to sacrifice on quality. See below for more examples.


Another country where students can study in Europe for free (or at a very low cost) is Austria. EU/EEA students enjoy the same rights as Austrians when it comes to the cost of higher education, and can study for free at any degree level. After this time, students pay a fee of just €363 per semester. International students from outside of the EU/EEA should expect slightly higher fees of around €726 (~US$803) per semester. Living costs will set all students back approximately €11,400 (~US$12,600) a year. Vienna, Austria’s capital city, was ranked 13th in the QS Best Student Cities 2019.


There are two main language communities in Belgium, each with their own stance on university fees. However, EU students will pay a maximum of only €906 a year. And while it’s just EU students who get the major benefits of being able to study in Europe for free, fees are still fairly affordable for non-EU international students, at around €4,175 (~US$4,620) per year. You can live in Belgium with a budget of around €11,400 (~US$12,600) a year. Brussels, the capital city, was ranked joint 43rd in this year’s QS Best Student Cities.

Czech Republic

Students who speak Czech are able to study abroad for free in the Czech Republic at any public university. Students who wish to study in English can also study fairly cheaply, at around €4,000-12,000 (~US$4,425-13,275) per year. Living costs are more affordable than in many countries in western Europe, at around US$9,000 per year. The Czech capital city, Prague, is ranked joint 35th in the QS Best Student Cities.


All students from within the EU/EEA are able to study abroad for free in Greece at public universities and colleges, with the exception of some master’s programs. International students from outside of the EU are also eligible for low-cost higher education, at approximately €1,500 (~US$1,660) per year. Greece offers one of the lowest costs of living in the European Union.


Although private universities in Italy can be known to charge fairly high tuition fees, public universities in Italy are markedly cheaper, charging between €900 and €4,000 (~US$995-4,420) per year for undergraduate programs. EU students are eligible for the same funding opportunities as Italian students, including loans, grants, scholarships and fee waivers. Milan is ranked 40th in the most recent QS Best Student Cities, while capital city Rome is 70th.


EU students aren’t required to pay high education fees in Spain, while international students are able to study for between €750 and €2,500 (~US$830-2,760) per year at public institutions. Fees are charged on a per-credit basis and can be higher at graduate level. To live in Spain, you should expect to spend between €10,800 and €13,200 (~US$11,940 – 14,600) a year in living costs. MadridBarcelona and Valencia are all featured in the QS Best Student Cities, with Barcelona the highest ranked at 21st.

Other places to study abroad for free (or at low cost)



While Argentinian students all enjoy access to free universities, international students should expect to pay a small, nominal fee to enroll at public universities in the country. Private institutions in Argentina, on the other hand, can charge upwards US$5,000 a year. In the QS Best Student Cities 2019, Argentinian capital Buenos Aires is 31st.


In India, international students will typically pay tuition fees of no higher than US$7,300 a year, though private university and graduate fees tend to be more expensive. Living costs in India are, for most students, likely to be very appealing – according to Numbeo, consumer prices are 163 percent cheaper than in the UK, while rental prices are as much as 391 percent cheaper. Overall, you should be able to live comfortably on as little as US$4,300 a year. However, it’s worth noting that international students aren’t allowed to work in India during their studies.


Tuition fees in Taiwan offer great value, with its top universities offering affordable programs. For example, National Taiwan University (NTU), the location’s leading university at 69th in the QS World University Rankings, charged undergraduate students just TW$100,920-124,200 (~US$3,200-3,965) per year in 2017/18. In the QS Best Student Cities 2019, Taipei was ranked 17th in the world and 14th for affordability.

Study Abroad, for Free? 11 European Countries Where Masters Tuition is FREE (or Almost Free) in 2020-21

If you’ve read our previous blogs, you’ll know that we’re big fans of the idea of studying a Masters abroad. After all, learning a new language has all sorts of benefits, there are plenty of less well-known postgraduate destinations and the study abroad experience can often defy your expectations – in a good way!

Tuition fees are another big factor for many prospective international students, which is why we’ve dedicated this post to showcasing some of the European countries where you can study for free (or almost free) in 2020-21.

Before we start, a word or two on Brexit. Even though the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, a proposed transition agreement means that current conditions should remain in place until at least the end of 2020.

As such, fee and funding arrangements will likely remain the same for UK students beginning courses in Europe before the end of 2020. Similarly, there are guarantees that fees and funding for EU students won’t change for UK courses beginning in 2020-21.

It’s worth bearing in mind that most (but not all) of the countries in this blog are free / cheap for EU nationals only. The exceptions to this rule are Norway, Iceland, Germany and the Czech Republic, who offer free tuition to all (with certain caveats). If you’re from the rest of the world, you’ll usually have to pay higher fees.

Please note: the information provided below only covers public universities. If you wish to study abroad at private institutions, it’s likely that fees will be charged.

Completely free

This section covers the European countries that charge absolutely no fees – tuition or administrative – to European nationals. Out of these, Norway and the Czech Republic are the only place that offer free tuition to people from the rest of the world.

Of course, these fees aren’t the only costs you’ll encounter if you study a Masters abroad. You’ll also have to think about accommodation, health insurance and other living costs. But it’s certainly a big positive not to worry about paying some hefty tuition fees.


Free for who: Everyone (EU, EEA and the rest of the world)

Admin fees: None

Terms: We’ve listed Norway first because it’s one of the only countries in Europe that doesn’t charge any fees to students, regardless of nationality. With some world-class universities and an enviable quality of life, Norway is an excellent postgraduate destination.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Norway or search for Norwegian Masters.


Free for who: EU, EEA and Switzerland

Admin fees: None

Terms: Denmark offers free Masters to EU students, although people from the rest of the world will have to pay full tuition fees.

Whatever your nationality, you’ll be eligible for free Danish lessons – a pretty good way to settle into your new country!

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Denmark or search for Danish Masters.


Free for who: EU, EEA and Switzerland

Admin fees: None

Terms: Unfortunately, Finnish universities no longer offer free Masters to all international students. As of 2017-18, only EU, EEA and Swiss nationals qualify for free study.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Finland or search for Finnish Masters.


Free for who: EU, EEA and Switzerland

Admin fees: None

Terms: Like Denmark and Finland, Sweden operates a free tuition fee policy for domestic and EU students, but other international students will have to pay to study a Masters.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Sweden or search for Swedish Masters.


Free for who: EU, EEA and Switzerland

Admin fees: None

Terms: Polish universities offer free tuition to European nationals, making its historic universities a great choice for adventurous postgraduates.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Poland or search for Polish Masters.

Czech Republic

Free for who: Everyone (if you study in Czech!)

Admin fees: None

Terms: If you fancy learning Czech, you could take advantage of the Czech Republic’s generous approach to tuition fees: Czech-taught Masters are free to all. Masters in other languages – English, French, German and Russian are fairly common – usually (but not always) incur some fees.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in the Czech Republic or search for Czech Masters.


There are several other European countries that don’t charge tuition fees, but do charge relatively small administrative fees to students.


Free for who: EU, EEA and Switzerland

Admin fees: €19.20 per semester

Terms: Austrian universities extend free study to European nationals. The only catch is that you’ll have to pay if don’t complete your programme within two semesters of the usual duration – in these cases you’ll be charged €363.63 per term.

Although students from the rest of the world do have to pay tuition fees, they’re still pretty low at €726.72 per semester.

Whatever your nationality, you’ll have to pay €19.20 per semester for student union membership (student health insurance is included in this administrative fee).

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Austria or search for Austrian Masters.


Free for who: Everyone (except for universities in the state of Baden-Wuerttemburg)

Admin fees: Between €50 and €250 per semester

Terms: Public universities in 15 out of 16 German states charge no tuition fees, regardless of nationality. The exception to this rule is Baden-Wuerttemburg, which charges students from outside the EU €1,500 per semester.

You’ll also have to pay an administrative fee per semester. This varies from university to university, but will usually be between €50 and €250. The fee covers your registration and includes student union membership as well as a regional transport pass – pretty handy!

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Germany or search for German Masters.


Free for who: Everyone

Admin fees: €550 annual registration fee

Terms: Icelandic public universities don’t charge any tuition fees, no matter where you’re from. However, you will have to pay an annual registration fee of around €550.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Iceland or search for Icelandic Masters.

Pretty cheap

These countries do charge tuition fees, but they’re well worth considering if you’re looking for a cheap place to study abroad. That’s why we’ve given France and Belgium honourable mentions.


Typical tuition fees: €243 per year

Admin fees: None

Terms: Tuition fees at public universities in France are capped at €243 per year by the French Government, making them some of the most affordable in Europe. These low fees are only applicable to EU/EEA nationals. Non-EU/EEA nationals are charged €3,770 per year.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in France or search for French Masters.


Typical tuition fees: €900 per year

Terms: Universities in Belgium’s Dutch and French-speaking communities charge relatively low fees, at around €900 per year. If you’re looking for a multilingual, multicultural place to study, Belgium could be just the ticket.

Find out more in our guide to Masters study in Belgium or search for Belgian Masters.

11 Most Affordable U.S. Colleges for International Students

Posted by Emma Flickon February 14, 2018in Study Abroad

11 Most Affordable U.S. Colleges for International Students

Education at American universities is often very expensive. This is especially true for international students studying in the United States, since they aren’t usually eligible to receive federal student aid from the U.S. government.

However, there are a number of affordable universities in the USA which offer a quality education in addition to affordable tuition and fees for international students. Use the list below to help guide your search!

To learn more about applying for financial aid, download our free Passport to American Education: A Simple Guide to International Student Financial Aid.

11 U.S. Colleges Offering the Most Affordable Tuition to International Students

This list highlights the cheapest universities in the USA for international students based on tuition data from 2016-2017. The estimated tuition and fees for international students at each of the affordable universities below totaled less than $35,000 for this school year.

These schools all ranked in the top 100 colleges on U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best College Rankings for their respective categories (national universities, liberal arts colleges, etc.) as well. This means that in addition to being some of the cheapest colleges in the U.S. for international students, these schools also provide international students with a quality education.

1.  Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University is a private, non-profit research university in Provo, Utah. It is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and tuition costs are subsidized with church members’ tithing funds.Estimated tuition for non-LDS studentsAbout $10,920.

(This is significantly cheaper than the average cost of tuition at private colleges in the United States: $34,740 in 2017-18.)

To prepare for your study abroad experience, be sure to check out these challenges for international students in the U.S.!

2.  Truman State University

Located in rural Kirksville, Missouri, some of Truman State University’s most popular majors include business administration and management, kinesiology, biology, psychology, and English.Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $14,842.

3.  Florida State University

Students attending Florida State University in Tallahassee are just a short drive away from some of the sunshine state’s beautiful beaches. A few of the school’s popular majors include criminal justice, psychology, and English.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $21,683.

4.  California Polytechnic State University

Cal Poly is a cheap university in California for international students. It’s located in Luis Obispo, a city halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco that has been ranked one of the happiest cities in the U.S. Some popular majors at the school include engineering, agriculture, business, and biological and biomedical sciences.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: $23,349.

5.  Binghamton University

Binghamton is a public research university located in Vestal, New York. This university is the perfect place for students with a love for the outdoors. The campus includes a 182-acre nature preserve as well as an Adventure Resource Center and Outdoor Pursuits program.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $26,328.

6.  Asbury University

Asbury University is a private Christian liberal arts university located in Wilmore, Kentucky. Although the school is non-denominational, its foundation is centered on the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $28,631.

7.  University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota is a public research university with campuses in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul (known as the Twin Cities). These campuses are only about 3 miles apart. Some of the school’s most popular majors are social sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, engineering, business, and psychology.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $28,910.

8.  University of Iowa

Located in Iowa City, the University of Iowa is one of fourteen universities in the Big Ten Conference—the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the U.S.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: Around $29,770.

9.  University of Georgia

Founded in 1785, the University of Georgia was the first public, state-chartered college in the U.S. The school is located in Athens, Georgia—60 miles away from the state capital of Atlanta. Its beautiful campus is a blend of classic and modern—the oldest building dates back to 1806.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $30,392. 


10.  James Madison University

Named after America’s fourth president, James Madison University is located in Harrisonburg, Virginia—just over two hours away from the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.  Those majoring in political science can take advantage of this close proximity by participating in the Washington Semester, during which they can experience working in D.C. with a semester-long internship.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $30,800.

11.  Purdue University

Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue is best known for its engineering program. The school is nicknamed the “cradle of astronauts” because a whopping 24 of its graduates have gone on to become astronauts. This includes Neil Armstrong—the first man on the moon—and Eugene Cernan—the last man on the moon.   

Tuition at Purdue has not increased since 2012. This tuition freeze will remain in place at least through the 2018-19 academic year.

Estimated tuition and fees for international undergraduate students: About $30,954.


*BONUS: 10 U.S. Colleges Awarding the Most Financial Aid to International Students

During the 2016-2017 academic year, the 10 U.S. colleges and universities listed below gave out the most financial aid to their international students. Keep in mind, however, that these schools are also very expensive, prestigious, and selective.

If you plan to apply to one of the schools on this list, you’ll probably want to apply to other schools as well— ones with higher acceptance rates. Out of everyone who applies to universities such as Harvard or Yale, only about 5-6% actually get in.

1.  University of Chicago

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 126

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $62,763

The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Although it is not an Ivy League school, it ranks just below Princeton and Harvard on U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings. It is tied with Yale as the third best university in the U.S.

Located in the third largest U.S. city, the university offers students the best of both worlds—a picturesque campus in an urban setting.  

2.  Columbia University

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 213

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $62,004

Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, Columbia University is a member of the prestigious Ivy League. The university boasts distinguished alumni such as former U.S. president Barack Obama. 


3.  Skidmore College

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 82

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $60,975

Skidmore College is a private liberal arts college in Saratoga Springs, New York. Although still quite selective, its acceptance rate of 29% is higher than most of the other schools on this second list. The college offers a more intimate education experience than larger universities with an undergraduate enrollment of only about 2,680 students.

4.  Williams College

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 98

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $60,944

Ranked #1 on the U.S. News and World report’s list of National Liberal Arts Colleges, Williams College is located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. With a rural setting and an undergraduate enrollment of just over 2,000 students, this college is perfect for students who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Do you need an F1 visa to study abroad in the U.S.? Here’s everything you need to know.

5.  Trinity College

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 171

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $60,869

Trinity College is a private liberal arts college located in Hartford, Connecticut. While still selective, its acceptance rate of 34% is the highest on this second list. Its small size—approximately 2,200 undergraduate students on a 100-acre campus—offers an intimate setting amidst Connecticut’s state capital.  

6.  Harvard University

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 600

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $60,687

Likely the most famous university in the U.S., Harvard is also the oldest. It was founded in 1636, 140 years before the U.S. became an independent nation.

Located outside of Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this Ivy League school is ranked #2 on U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings and #1 on the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Known for its excellence, rigor, and exclusivity, Harvard’s alumni include eight U.S. presidents and 62 living billionaires. It also boasts more Nobel Prize-winning affiliates than any other university in the world.  


7.  Stanford University

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 188

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $60,570

One of the world’s leading research universities, Stanford is located in California’s Bay Area in the heart of Silicon Valley. Many giants in the tech world were once students here, including the co-founders of Google, HP, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, PayPal, YouTube, Yahoo, and Netflix.

Explore our top 10 destinations for study abroad in the USA.

8.  Amherst College

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 156

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $59,164

Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, Amherst College is ranked #2 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of National Liberal Arts Colleges. It is part of the Five College consortium, along with Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, and the University of Massachusetts—meaning students may take courses at any of these schools.

If you like music, Amherst may be the place for you. Known as “the singing college,” it has many acapella groups.

9.  Wesleyan University

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 80

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $58,920       

Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college located in Middletown, Connecticut. Some of its popular majors include economics, psychology, political science, and English.

10.  Yale University

Number of international students who received financial aid in 2016-17: 336

Average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates in 2016-17: $58,864

Yale, an Ivy League school founded in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticut, is one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. Its law school is ranked #1 by U.S News and World Report, and its School of Management, School of Medicine, School of Art, and School of Nursing are all very highly ranked as well.


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