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Do Tuition Free Universities still exist in Europe? Find Out Here

Are there still Tuition free Universities in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Norway?

Tuition free universities in Europe have been looked up to by intelligent but financially needy students from developing countries to get a chance at studying in a country with higher quality of education. In the past few years, there’s been awareness of these tuition free universities, but it seems much of it has changed in recent years. Though countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark etc offered tuition free universities while the trend lasted, the questions now are, “What is the current status of tuition free universities for international students?” “Are there still higher institutions out there offering free education for international students from developing countries?” We will answer these questions here.

Below is a piece of work gathered for Afterschoolafrica readers on the status of tuition free education across these countries. This will keep you informed, save you time and help narrow down you research needs.

Please Note that the information provided here are based on my research across the internet. I’ll advise to contact relevant authorities and individual institutions for more specific information.


Sweden used to be one of the few countries in Europe that do not charge fees for both domestic and international students. All students-regardless of nationality-have been funded by Swedish taxpayers. However in 2011, the Swedish parliament passed a law to introduce tuition and application fees for students not from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland starting from 2011/2012 academic year, which has already taken effect. This fee however is supplemented by scholarship programs in Sweden.

The scholarships, which are awarded based on academic merit, will give qualified students who lack the appropriate funding, the continued opportunity to study in Sweden. The tuition fees are set by the institutions themselves, covering the full cost of studies. Therefore the fee levels may vary depending on the type of course and institution, and in what part of Sweden the course is given.


In Finland, while some universities charge tuition fees for international students, others are tuition free. For instance, at the moment there is no tuition fees for foreign and domestic students at the University of Eastern Finland, but the students must be able to cover all his/her own living costs in Finland (minimum of 500 Euros per month for a single student). At Aalto University , for the 2011/2012 intake, most programmes will charge a tuition fee of 8000 EUR/academic year from non-EU/EEA-citizens (international students). However, the University offers the Aalto University scholarships for non-EU/EEA-citizens to study in the University.

In most cases, universities that charge tuition fees for international students are complemented with full or partial Scholarship programmes for qualified students.


Currently, tuition is free for undergraduate, MSc and MA studies for EU/EEA students as well as for students participating in an exchange program in Universities in Denmark. However, this is not the case for international students or students from developing countries. As far back as 2006, a tuition fee system was introduced for international full degree students outside the EU-European Union- and EEA-European Economic Area- countries.

Scholarships and tuition fee waivers for international students, however, are available from Institutions and government (the Danish Ministry of Education scholarship fund) for master’s degrees. The scholarships in Denmark are given as full or partial tuition fee waivers and/or grants towards covering your living costs.


Were universities in Germany ever tuition free?

In the past, Germany didn’t generally use to charge tuition fees. But this has meanwhile changed. Some federal states are charging fees, others are about to abolish them. You’ll have to contact the University of your Choice to find out whether it charges tuition fees. Initially, fees were introduced for long-term students, visiting students (i.e. from other universities) and for participants of postgraduate and Master’s programmes. Now, however, some federal states also charge tuition fees of around 500 Euros per semester for first degree (undergraduate) courses, such as Bachelor’s, Diploma, or Magister programmes. Most Master’s programmes charge tuition fees. Tuition can amount to between 650 and several thousand Euros per semester. Students also have to pay the semester fee for each semester. Organizations and institutions also offer Scholarships in Germany for international students


Foreign students are admitted to universities and other institutions of higher education in Norway mainly through international programs and bilateral agreements with comparable institutions abroad.

As at the time of writing this, No tuition fees are charged at any of the Norwegian universities, except special programs and private and specialized schools. At all public institutions in Norway, higher education is free for international students as well as for Norwegian nationals.

This means that, at present, Norway will be the only country in Scandinavia where higher education is still free for all (well in Finland, there is a mix of free universities and paid ones).
However, tuition was suggested in 2011 draft budget by the non-socialist coalition government in Sweden. The suggestion is that all students from countries outside the EU/EEA have to pay a tuition fee, to cover the whole study program, and the specific amount of money is to be decided individually by each of the education institutions.

If Norway will ignore the persuasion to join other Scandinavian countries to introduce tuition fees for foreign students, there is still hope for tuition free universities. However, students can still take advantage of the full and partial scholarships offered in these and other countries to get at least a near free education.

What People are saying about Norway changing its Tuition Free Policy

Here are some reactions across the web on the debate for Norwegian Institutions introducing tuition fees.

  • We hope that Norway acts against this attempt at shutting people out of Europe rather than following the example, says Robin Moberg, vice-chairman in the Swedish Student Union, Sveriges förenade studentkårer (SFS).
  • The initiative is not good. The planning of tuition does not assure internationalizing or the same rights to education, says Anne Karine Nymoen, president of The National Union of Students in Norway (NSU). She fears that the liquidation of the principle of free education is spreading.
  • We consider it a frightening development when this has happened in several European countries, and we are worried it will happen in Norway. If that happens, we will fight it. Anonymous
  • The Swedish higher education’s resources will be emptied if we pay for all the international students’ education, says spokesperson Eva-Marie Byberg in the Swedish Ministry of Education.
  • Norwegian education isn’t poor in quality, but it needs a distinctive feature to attract international students. Today that feature is that the education is free. If this wasn’t the case, the good students would probably go to England to study instead, points out president in International Students Union in Norway, Farshad Tami.
  • The students who consider coming to the Nordic countries will probably put Norway as their first choice if the education is several hundred thousand kroner cheaper. Consequently the number of students won’t necessarily increase, but the level of skill on the students who do come, will undoubtedly be higher.

While some parties believe that education will continue to remain free in Norway, there is still uncertainty as to what could happen in the near future.

Toril Johansson in the Ministry of Education and Research thinks that tuition fees still are kept at a safe distance in Norway.

“The principle of free education is fixed in Norwegian law”, Johansson said, “and it is Norwegian politics’ responsibility to make sure that education remains free of charge. We think that internationalization is important, and with a complete budget of 20 billion kroner we count on the sector to be able to handle the students in a good way, also without the extra income a tuition fee might provide”.