Goodbye student debt! How to study for free in Europe

Studying in Europe means world class university degrees for little or no cost.

Twenty five years ago, getting a degree was free in Australia. No HECS. No fees. These days, it costs tens of thousands of dollars. This is why you should consider studying in Europe. You can get top notch university degrees at much lower cost. In fact, many degrees are completely free.

Yes, university is free (or very cheap) in some European countries, even for foreigners. You can avoid huge HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP debts by choosing to study in countries like Germany, Norway and France.

What’s not to like? You’ll be living in Europe! 50 different countries crammed into a space not much bigger than Australia.

The world will seem full of opportunities after studying overseas. Get a job in Australia… or Europe… or somewhere else.

Both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are available. However postgraduate students will save more than undergraduate students. This is because Australian undergraduate degrees are subsidised by the government, meaning they’re significantly cheaper. Australian postgraduate degrees are not subsidised.

(Here is a post that explains the difference between undergrad and postgrad degrees.)


What you need to know about studying in Europe


Do you need a foreign language?

No. There are many university courses taught entirely in english, but there are more at postgraduate level than undergraduate level. If you speak a european language, you will have more options.


What sort of degrees are on offer?

Subject fields range from visual arts and opera performance, to economics and marine biology.


Is the transition difficult?

It’s a big ask. Particularly if you’ve never been to uni before. Making the transition to university while also adjusting to a foreign culture AND living out of home is a lot to take on. That’s not to say it’s impossible, particularly if you know the local language.

You could ease the transition by going on exchange for a semester as a school student or as part of your undergraduate studies. That way, you can learn the ropes and ask locals for advice before making any big decisions.


How much will you save?

Saving money shouldn’t be the only reason you study in Europe. You should want to have the experience of being in a foreign country, learning the language and positioning oneself to take advantage of the global job market.

Australian postgrad students could save as much as $50,000, taking into account travel costs, set up costs, living costs and university fees (or a lack thereof). The below graph compares the cost of studying in Europe with the costs of studying in Melbourne, Australia (based on fees for a masters of economics and cost of living data sourced from

study in europe - postgrad costs compared


How hard is it to support yourself financially?

If you receive a scholarship it’s quite easy. Many scholarships provide enough money to cover living costs. Conditions and availability of scholarships differs depending on the country. See the links at the end of this article for more info.

Student visas also allow you to work part time while studying. While it will be possible to get a job without knowing the local language, obviously your options will increase if you do know the language.

Some countries have cheaper standards of living. For example, Germany is significantly cheaper than Australia (depending on the city) whereas Norway is quite expensive.

There are many ways to cut costs. European universities often provide very cheap student accomodation which means you won’t have to pay exorbitant rental prices. Students are also provided very generous concessions on public transport and other services.


Can you still get youth allowance or Austudy?

The bad news is that Australian government support is only available to resident students enrolled at Australian Universities. But even without youth allowance or Austudy, studying in Europe can still be significantly cheaper compared to Australia.


When do studies start?

Most courses start in August/September. Check with unis for exact dates.


When do applications open?

Applications usually open several months before the start of semester. Check university websites for more info.


How do you get a scholarship?

The first step is finding out what is available. Contact the organisations listed at the end of this article – they can provide guidance on the criteria and application processes for scholarships.

There are quite a few scholarships on offer to foreign students, particularly in Germany, where the German Academic Exchange Service has a budget of over 400 million euros ($A600 million).


Humble U

Main building of the Humboldt university in Berlin. Photo:


Think ahead

Just because you don’t want to study overseas now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. It’s becoming very common to study a postgraduate degree to get an edge in the job market. Getting a postgraduate degree in Europe will save you tens of thousands of dollars compared to Australia.

Are their perequisites you need to meet in order to study overseas? Keep it at the back of your mind when making decisions about your undergraduate studies or school subjects. What sort of options would be open to you if you became fluent in German, Norwegian or French? Also be sure to look at the scholarship criteria and figure out what you need to do to be eligible.

Think about taking language classes in advance. These could even count toward your school or undergraduate studies.


Want more info on studying in Europe?

Check out this newspaper article in The Age. It contains useful insights from Australian students already studying in Europe.

Ask a question by posting it in the comments. A friendly response guaranteed.

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