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Student Finance

4 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.

map of europe

Credit: ShutterOK - Shutterstock

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 will 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. This 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.

Remember that some of these places have higher living costs than the UK, meaning the money you save on your degree could go towards rent and food instead. Make sure you do some thorough research before picking your destination.

Interested in studying in Europe as an undergrad? Our complete guide to studying in Europe has everything you need to know.

4 best places to do a free master's degree

Here are the best European countries that let you study a master's for free:

  1. Germany

    two people in front of berlin wall

    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 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 – The 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 – Around 56% (but most people who live in the cities speak English).
    • Cost of a pint – £2.60 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 have to pay an administration fee, or 'Semesterbeitrag', of €100 – €350 per semester, depending on the university. However, this often also covers a public transport ticket and entitles you to discounts.
  2. Iceland

    houses in iceland

    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 £430).
    • Best universities for overseas students – The University of Akureyri 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 – Around 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 very expensive to live in. Luckily, there are some grants for specific fields and universities.
  3. Czech Republic

    boat in front of the charles bridge in prague

    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 vibrant nightlife, and it's rare 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 – Around 27%.
    • Cost of a pint – Around £1 on average, and £1.60 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 allows you 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.
  4. Finland

    tram in helsinki finland

    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 a weekend trip 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 university for overseas students – The University of Helsinki.
    • Financial support available to UK students – Generally, you can't get any financial support unless you're a Finnish citizen. However, you may be eligible if you've been granted permanent residency.
    • Proportion of the population that can speak English – Around 70% (in general, but this figure is higher in the cities).
    • Cost of a pint – About £4.50 on average, but closer to £5.70 in Helsinki.
    • Why choose Finland? – Finland consistently ranks as one of the (if not the) happiest places to live in the world. And that's 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 travelling to and from your chosen destination each semester. Use our guide to finding the cheapest flights for the best deals.

Katie Paterson

WRITTEN BY Katie Paterson

Katie Paterson is an accomplished writer from Glasgow. She studied English Literature at the University of Strathclyde, then went on to do a Research Masters in Literature at the University of Amsterdam. As Lead Editor for Save the Student, Katie has covered topics from career tips to ways to make money go further as a student.
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