5 cool European cities where you can do a Master’s for free

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By in Student Finance. Updated April 2016.

Thinking about Postgraduate study, but worried about the costs? We’ll let you in on a little secret – you can do a Master’s in Europe for free (and in English)!europe map pinsCredit: Cali4beach – Flickr.comAs you’ve probably heard, from August 2016 the UK government are offering Postgrad loans of up to £10,000 to prospective UK Master’s Degree students.

You can find out everything you need to know about this loan in our complete guide to the Postgraduate Master’s Loan.

However, if the idea of another student loan – and even more student debt – doesn’t appeal to you, why not think about taking your studies abroad?

Not only could this be a great opportunity to spend a bit of time exploring the world, but you could actually save some money in the process.

But how can Europe offer free Master’s Degrees?

Statue doing a face palmSound too good to be true? Believe us, it’s not! Many of Europe’s university systems are publicly funded, which means that higher education is often partially or fully subsidised by each country’s government.

As a result, they can provide top class education for a fraction of the price we currently pay in the UK, and in some cases even offer free courses.

In other words: Us Brits have the option of escaping the high tuition fees currently imposed in our home country and instead opt for an education at a top university on mainland Europe for the same price as the locals – as long as we remain in the EU, that is!

For everything you need to know about how to deal with rising fees in the UK, check out our Big Fat Guide to Student Finance, or download our free Essential Guide to Student Finance ebook.

Our top 5 cities to do a free Master’s Degree

europe language mapHere’s our pick of some of the best cities in Europe where you could do a masters for free and make your home for a year or two.

We’ve chosen these cities not just because they offer free postgrad courses in English (and at some of the best unis in the world) but because we think these cities are student friendly and would make for a particularly interesting experience abroad.

  1. Berlin, Germany

    graffiti berlinCredit: Sascha Kohlmann – Flickr.comEasily one of the trendiest cities in Europe, Berlin is super laid back and a serious hotspot for creativity. Also the home of German techno, you certainly won’t struggle to come across some great bars and clubs for a good night out. Berlin not only oozes with coolness, but you’ll be happy to hear that it’s also really cheap to live there!

    Masters tuition fees for UK students: None

    Non-EU member tuition fees: None! German universities don’t distinguish between EU and non-EU students

    Best Universities (for overseas students): Freie University of Berlin, Humbolt University of Berlin

    Financial support available to UK students?: None

    % of population able to chat about the weather in English: 56% (in Germany overall, but this figure will be much higher in their multicultural capital)

    Cost of a pint: £2.20

    Why choose Germany?: Germany has been cited as one of the most supportive countries for international students worldwide, and Berlin’s prestigious universities combined with low living costs make it an ideal location for studying abroad.

    What’s the catch?: Although tuition is free in Germany, every student is required to pay an administration fee or ‘Semesterbeitrag’ of €266,70 per semester. However, this also covers a public transport ticket, so it’s not money for nothing!

  2. Copenhagen, Denmark

    copenhagen denmarkCredit: 2benny – Flickr.comDubbed “the coolest kid on the Nordic block” by Lonely Planet, Copenhagen is stylish to the core. Thanks to its high standards of living, stylish shops and bars and low crime rate, it’s no wonder Copenhagen is also considered one of Europe’s ‘most livable’ cities. It’s not the cheapest choice, but there is financial support available to make your dream of spending your postgraduate year in Denmark a reality.

    Masters tuition fees for UK students:
    None

    Non-EU member tuition fees: Fees start at €6,000 per year for non-EU/EEA members, but yearly costs can amount to anything between €12-15,000 per year

    Best Universities (for overseas students): University of Copenhagen, Technical University of Denmark

    Financial support available to UK students?: State loans of €400 per month (although 4% annual interest applies and you must start repaying the loan a year after you graduate, and pay the whole thing back within 15 years!) and grants of up to €750 per month (can be more for those students with children or disabilities)

    % of population able to chat about the weather in English: 86%

    Cost of a pint: £5.50

    Why choose Denmark?: There are loads of things we love about Denmark, but perhaps the best thing is that it’s ranked the least corrupt country in the world. Denmark is also known for providing some of the highest quality masters programs in English outside of English-speaking countries.

    What’s the catch?: As you can see from the price of a pint, it ain’t cheap! However, salaries are relative to the living costs in Denmark, so a part-time job should provide more than enough beer money if you have the time to spare. The grants and loans available to international students would also be a big help, but watch out for the T&Cs mentioned above!

  3. Stockholm, Sweden

    stockholm swedenCredit: Thomas Fabian – Flickr.comSweden’s gorgeous capital city is made up of 14 different islands – each said to have it’s own distinct identity. Stockholm is painfully stylish, effortlessly cool, and with English on every school curriculum, you can easily get by without worrying about speaking the local language. There’s certainly more to Sweden than IKEA and meatballs, that’s for sure!

    Masters tuition fees for UK students: None

    Non-EU member tuition fees: €100 application fee plus university tuition rate (can be anything from €9,000-15,750)

    Best universities (for overseas students): Stockholm University, plus six more universities in the city to choose from (all offering courses in English)

    Financial support available to UK students?: Grants of SEK 2,947/month (around £250 per month) for nine months per year and loans of SEK 6,452/month (around £500 per month) for nine months per year

    % of population able to chat about the weather in English: 86%

    Cost of a pint: £5.00

    Why choose Sweden?: Home to the largest number of multinational companies per capita in the world, Sweden has been a leader in innovation for…well, forever really. Universities encourage a form of learning where students are taught to question everything and to think critically – it seems to have worked well for them, anyway!

    What’s the catch?: Like its neighbouring Denmark, Sweden also isn’t the cheapest place to study. However, standards of living are high, and the government make it more enticing by offering grants and loans to students, as well as giving foreign students the option to work while they study.

  4. Vienna, Austria

    vienna europe austriaCredit: Osamu Kaneko – Flickr.comVienna is a city well known for being both culturally and musically rich, and with an increasing number of masters courses being offered in English, the city is quickly building its rep as a hub for international students. For a bargain total of €0.50 per year, you can also insure yourself as a student in Vienna, which sounds pretty reasonable to us!

    Masters tuition fees for UK students: None (but you are obliged to pay €18.00 per semester to cover student insurance and become a member of the Austrian Student Union)

    Non-EU member tuition fees: €726.72 per semester (however, this fee doesn’t apply to students from certain developing countries)

    Best Universities (for overseas students): University of Vienna, Universität Innsbruck

    Financial support available to UK students?: None

    % of population able to chat about the weather in English: 73%

    Cost of a pint: £2.61

    Why choose Austria?: All students receive a student identity card that gets them discounted public transport, free entry to museums and events (although sometimes an age restriction of 24-27 years is applied).

    What’s the catch?: The Viennese do have a bit of a reputation for being grumpy, although some may even find that endearing! A lot of the perks of being a student (such as the discounts mentioned above) only apply to students under the age of 27, so not ideal for anyone taking a bit of time out between undergrad and postgrad courses.

  5. Amsterdam, the Netherlands

    amsterdam europe Credit: Moyan Brenn – Flickr.comFor a city of only 200km² (about the size of Reading), Amsterdam manages to cram just about everything that’s great about urban life into one easy-to-cycle space. The beer is cheap and you can strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone in a bar thanks to their perfect English, so it’s a great place to spend a year or two studying abroad. Just don’t waste too much time in the ‘coffeeshops’ (aka cannabis cafes) and you’ll make it to graduation!

    Masters tuition fees for UK students: €1906 per year (we know, this isn’t technically free tuition, but we’re including Amsterdam because it’s a great city for students, the fees are still way cheaper than you’d find in the UK, and there’s lots of financial support available to students)

    Non-EU member tuition fees: Up to €20,000

    Best Universities (for overseas students): University of Amsterdam, Leiden University (neighbouring city, around 20 mins train ride away)

    Financial support available to UK students?: The government offer a housing subsidy to full time students and also student subsidy grants of between €266-500 per month to those who work 56 hours per month/ 14 hours per week or more whilst studying (and are therefore paying tax in the Netherlands – this page on the Dutch Ministry of Education website should have all the details you need).

    % of population able to chat about the weather in English: 90% (and this figure will be even higher in Amsterdam)

    Cost of a pint: £1.69

    Why choose the Netherlands?: The Dutch way of life is very laid back, and cities like Amsterdam are perfectly suited to student life – it’s compact, creative, liberal and full of history. If that’s not enough, the cheap beer should be enough to sway you!

    What’s the catch?: The bureaucracy. There’s a lot of financial support available to students in various forms, but dealing with the paperwork to get access to the benefits can be extremely difficult. It’s definitely worth looking into and perhaps getting a Dutch person to help you sort everything out – if you play the game right, you could leave the country with a postgraduate degree under your arm and literally not a penny of debt to follow you.

So that’s our top 5! Have we missed any cities that you think belong in the list? Let us know in the comments below.

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