5 cool European countries where you can do a master’s for free
Thinking about postgraduate study, but worried about your budget? We'll let you in on a little secret – you can do a master's in Europe for free or a fraction of the cost!
If you're stuck between travelling or further study after graduating, why not combine both and do a master's in Europe? The best part is that it could be completely free!
You can now get Postgraduate Loans to cover the cost of studying a master's in the UK, but it'll still add to your pile of student debt and you'll likely have to stump up for living costs.
While many European universities allow EU students to study for free, only a few let non-EU students join the party. We've listed them below.
Is university free in Europe?
There's no definitive answer to whether or not university is free in Europe – in some countries it is, and in others, it isn't. 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 pay in the UK, and in some cases even offer free courses.
But there is a catch. These courses are usually only available for EU students. And since we're no longer part of the EU, this doesn't apply to UK students. Luckily, some countries let non-EU students enrol in their postgraduate degrees for free, or for a small registration fee.
Keep in mind that some of these places have higher living costs than the UK, meaning the money you save on your degree could end up going towards rent and food instead – so make sure you do some thorough research before picking your destination.
5 best places to do a free master's degree
Here are the best European countries that let you study a master's for free:
Crystal clear fjords, picturesque towns, and a chance to see the Northern Lights – Norway's got it all. And, even better, it's the only European country where everybody can get a master's for free, no matter where you're from.
- Master's tuition fees for UK and other non-EU students – Free.
- Best universities for overseas students – The University of Oslo and the University of Bergen.
- Financial support available to UK students – None, but you may be eligible for financial support (Lånekassen) if you have studied in Norway for three years prior to starting your master's degree, or have a family member who is an EEA national living in Norway.
- Proportion of the population that can speak English – 90%.
- Cost of a pint – £6.00 on average, £7.50 in Oslo.
- Why choose Norway? – Apart from offering completely free courses, Norway also has high living standards and very low crime rates. And since most people in Norway are fluent in English, you won't have to level up your Norwegian language skills before moving.
- What's the catch? – Even though there are no tuition fees, students are required to pay a small semester students' union fee, which usually costs between £25 – £55. On top of that, Norway is one of the most expensive countries in Europe. It's a good idea to look into the many grants and scholarships available for international students to help with the costs.
Home to some of the top universities in Europe, Germany is a great place to study abroad. Its capital, Berlin, is one of the trendiest cities in Europe, so you certainly won't struggle to come across some great bars and clubs for a fun night out. On top of that, you'll be happy to hear that most German cities also have really cheap living costs.
- Master's tuition fees for UK and other non-EU students – Free (apart from universities in the state of Baden-Württemberg).
- Best universities for overseas students – Technical University of Munich and Humboldt University of Berlin.
- Financial support available to UK students – None, unless one of your parents has German citizenship, you have a German spouse or you've lived in Germany for five years. Check DAAD UK for postgraduate scholarships for study in Germany.
- Proportion of the population that can speak English – 56% (but most people who live in the cities speak English).
- Cost of a pint – £2.10 on average, £3.30 in Berlin.
- Why choose Germany? – Germany has been cited as one of the most supportive countries for international students worldwide, and the prestigious universities combined with low living costs make it an ideal location for studying abroad.
- What's the catch? – Most students are required to pay an administration fee, or 'Semesterbeitrag', of €50 – €100 per semester, depending on the university. However, this often also covers a public transport ticket and entitles you to discounts.
The land of fire and ice is one of the most unique places in the world. But apart from the glaciers and volcanos, Iceland is also one of the best places to live and study. Additionally, Iceland has some of the best English-taught master's in Europe, making it a perfect place for UK students.
- Master's tuition fees for UK and other non-EU students – Free (but you have to pay a registration fee every year, which costs around £425).
- Best universities for overseas students – Reykjavík University and the University of Iceland.
- Financial support available to UK students – Typically none, but you may be able to get some financial support if you're married to an Icelandic citizen and have lived in Iceland for at least two years, if you're a family member of an EEA national, or if you have a residence permit.
- Proportion of the population that can speak English – 98%.
- Cost of a pint – Around £6.80 across the country, £7.80 in Reykjavik.
- Why choose Iceland? – Iceland ranks as one of the 10 best countries in the world to live in. On top of its high living standard, most Icelanders speak fluent English. And, due to Iceland's geographical location, there are some unique research opportunities in the scientific field.
- What's the catch? – Iceland is even more expensive than Norway. Luckily, there are some grants for specific fields and universities.
The Czech Republic is home to some of the best-ranked universities in Central Europe and welcomes international students in more than 20 towns. Cities like Prague and Brno have a vibrant nightlife, and it's impossible to find overpriced alcohol.
- Master's tuition fees for UK and other non-EU students – Free, but only for master's degrees taught in Czech.
- Best universities for overseas students – Charles University and Czech Technical University in Prague.
- Financial support available to UK students – There are some scholarships available for international students.
- Proportion of the population that can speak English – 27%.
- Cost of a pint – Around £1 on average, and £1.40 in Prague.
- Why choose the Czech Republic? – Apart from the combination of low living costs and high quality of life, studying in the Czech Republic also gives you the opportunity to easily explore neighbouring European countries during your time off.
- What's the catch? – Only master's degrees taught in Czech are free for non-EU students. If you want to study in English, you'll have to pay for tuition. There may also be some extra registration fees.
With a high standard of living, low crime rates and a fantastic education system, Finland is one of the best places to study in Europe for free. And even if you live in the city, it's easy to take some weekend trips to soak up Finland's stunning scenery. Those beautiful lakes and forests make for the perfect study break, don't you think?
- Master's tuition fees for UK and other non-EU students – Free, but only for master's degrees taught in Finnish or Swedish.
- Best universities for overseas students – University of Helsinki.
- Financial support available to UK students – Generally, you can't get any financial support unless you're a Finnish citizen. However, if you've been granted permanent residency, you may be eligible.
- Proportion of the population that can speak English – 70% (in general, but this figure is higher in the cities).
- Cost of a pint – Around £4.10 on average, but closer to £5.50 in Helsinki.
- Why choose Finland? – Finland consistently ranks as one of the (if not the) happiest places to live in the world. And that comes as no surprise, looking at the top-notch healthcare, education and gorgeous scenery.
- What's the catch? – Unfortunately, degrees taught in English aren't free for UK students. On top of that, Finland, like the rest of Scandinavia, isn't cheap. However, salaries are relative to the living costs, so a part-time job should provide more than enough beer money if you can balance work with studying.
Don't forget to budget for the cost of travelling to and from your chosen destination each semester. Use our guide to finding the cheapest flights for the best deals.