Are you planning to study at university and nervously eyeing course fees you will pay off long into your future career? Then you might be interested in discovering where you can study in Europe for free.
For European Union (EU) citizens (and anyone from the EEA and Switzerland), most European countries charge the same fees as local students. And in 11 countries, that equals zero (or nearly zero) course fees. Remarkably, there are two countries — Germany and Norway — where non-EU students can also study for free.
That might sound almost too good to be true. But, if you’re ready for a life-changing adventure and have some money set aside for living expenses, it is achievable. If you’re wondering what s required, we’ve put together a guide to how you can study in Europe for free.
Table of Contents
General info about studying in Europe
Before we dive into where you can study in Europe for free, several factors are common to universities across Europe. Here’s a summary:
- Fees – EU and EEA students usually benefit from the same terms and fees as home students.
- Non-EU students are charged fees, except in Germany and Norway.
- Visas – Non-EU students require student or residency visas.
- Academic requirements – Qualifications must match local standards. However, most qualifications from other countries are recognised and easy to compare.
- Languages – You must show proficiency in the local language (and English is necessary). Various certifications are accepted. Some countries where you can study in Europe for free offer one-year language preparatory courses.
- Healthcare – EU citizens often benefit from established cross-border health schemes or local coverage.
- Non-EU students will need health insurance, but not in all countries (e.g. France).
- Living costs – Daily expenses are variable across the continent. Non-EU students will need to demonstrate self-sufficiency based on local living costs.
With that brief summary out of the way, let’s look at where you can study in Europe for free.
University fees in Europe – a comparison
University fees in Europe – a comparison
Here’s a table highlighting where you can study in Europe for free (or nearly free) and the fees for non-EU students.
|Country||EU/EEA/Swiss Annual Tuition Fees||Non-EU/EEA Annual Tuition Fees|
|Germany||None||None (€3,000 in Baden-Württemberg)|
|Denmark||None||DKK 45,000-120,000 (€6,000 – €16,000)|
|Finland||None||€4,000 – €18,000|
|Hungary||None (State-funded & subject to application)||€1,000 – €2,500+|
|Slovenia||None||€2,000 – €11,000|
|Sweden||None||SEK 80,000 – SEK 295,000 (€7,500 – €27,700)|
And here’s what you will pay in annual fees for a Master’s course in those countries. In many cases, the postgraduates can also study in Europe for free.
|Country||EU/EEA/Swiss Tuition Fees||Non-EU/EEA Tuition Fees|
|Germany||None (unless it’s in a different field to your undergraduate studies)||None (€3,000 in Baden-Württemberg)|
|Denmark||None||DKK 45,000-120,000 (€6,000 – €16,000)|
|Finland||None||€4,000 – €18,000|
|Greece||None (on select programs)||€1,500 – €2,000|
|Hungary||None||€1,250 – €8,000|
|Slovenia||None||€2,000 – €15,000|
|Sweden||None||SEK 80,000 – SEK 295,000 (€7,500 – €27,700)|
If we’ve not included your favourite country, it’s because they’re not an option if you want to study in Europe for free. However, you can find internationally competitive tuition fees across the EU and EEA.
For comparison, here’s what you can expect to pay at public universities outside the EU and EEA:
|Country||Bachelor Tuition fees||Master Tuition fees|
|USA||USD $10,338 (in-state) to $22,698 (out-of-state)||$8,000 to $120,000|
|Canada||CAD $20,000 to C$30,000||CAD $20,120 (average)|
|England and Wales||£9,000+ (home students); £10,000 (international students)||£10,000 – £13,000|
|India||USD $3,300 to $7,800||USD $5,500 (average)|
|Australia||AUD $20,000 to $45,000||AUD $22,000 to $50,000|
If you’re now considering a European educational odyssey, let’s inspect three of the most popular countries where you can study in Europe for free (or nearly free).
Germany – A guide for international students
Germany earns its place at the top of our list because, along with Norway (next on our list), there are no tuition fees for EU and non-EU citizens. This applies to undergraduate and master’s programs, including many courses taught in English.
Boasting world-class universities, a layered and cosmopolitan culture, and reasonable living costs, it is one of the most attractive places to study in Europe for free. According to Erudera, there were 416,000 international students in Germany in 2022. Only France and the United Kingdom attract more international students in Europe.
University tuition fees were only abolished in 2014. If you want to study in Europe for free, you’ll have to avoid the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. The state re-introduced annual tuition fees of €3,000 in 2017. It’s a decision being watched by other states, so don’t sit on that application.
You’ll also want to avoid private universities in Germany if you want to study in Europe for free. They charge high fees, reaching €26,000 for a Bachelor’s course (€40,000 for Master’s courses).
And fair warning, some states will apply tuition fees if you do not complete your course or cannot complete it on time.
While there are no fees at public institutions, international students usually need to pay a small administration fee each semester, ranging from €100-350.
Admission requirements for German universities
Admission requirements vary by course and institution, but if you’re qualified to attend university in your home country, you will typically meet the minimum in Germany.
For a Bachelor’s study, grades are measured against the German secondary certification, the Abitur. Students from the USA will likely need a GPA of 3.0 (from a 5.0 scale) or higher. Students from the UK will need at least 3 grade Cs at Advanced (A) level. Check your preferred course and institution for precise requirements.
If your qualifications are not recognised, you can take a one-year preparatory course, the Studienkolleg. Happily, most Studienkolleg are fee-free.
Besides exam certificates, a motivation letter is usually requested. And it will need to say a lot more than you simply want to study in Europe for free!
Language requirements to study in Germany
A B2 level is the minimum language proficiency for courses taught in German. This is based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), the same framework we use at Language Atlas.
For courses taught in English, if you’re from a non-English speaking country, you’ll need an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL certificate. ‘Study in Germany’ gives a detailed breakdown of language requirements.
Are visas required to study in Germany?
The answer will depend on what passport you hold.
If you hold a European Union passport, bureaucracy is light. EU citizens don’t need a visa to study in Europe for free in many countries, Germany included.
Students from outside the EU and EEA will need a temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) to stay in Germany for more than 90 days. Ordinary residence permits are typically valid for a year, although student permits usually cover the length of the course.
A small mountain of paperwork needs to be submitted and scrutinized. The good news is that the linear application process is easy to follow and generally successful if you dot all the i’s.
Applications can be made through a German consulate or embassy in your home country or within Germany when travelling on a valid visa.
Diplomatic missions recommend applying as soon as your university application has been accepted. Residency permits typically take between 15 and 30 days to be issued but can take up to 6 weeks.
Just in case you need more time, German authorities covered everything with three different permits:
- Visa for language learning – valid for 3 to 12 months on a studienkolleg (preparatory course).
- Visum Zur Studienbewerbung (Student Application Visa) – valid for 3 to 6 months. Used for visitors going through the university application process.
- Visum Zu Studienzwecken (Student Visa) – The essential visa for studying in Germany.
What do you need for a German Student Visa?
Firstly, you need €75.00 to pay for your application. But that’s a tiny fraction of the money you need. Even if you plan to study in Europe for free, you must prove that you can financially support yourself.
Without a scholarship, the funds must be available when you apply. The prescribed minimum is published every year. In 2022, international students need at least €11,208 in a ‘blocked’ bank account to apply for a visa. That is calculated at €934 per month, the minimum the government believes is necessary to meet everyday costs.
Wise to the questionable spending habits of students, visa applicants have to deposit funds in a ‘blocked account’. The account remains ‘blocked’ until you move to Germany. Once in Germany, you can open another bank account that will receive a monthly payment from their ‘blocked account’.
The monthly payment will be 1/12 of your funds. Restrictive, perhaps? But it’s a surefire way to ensure international students and anyone who arrives to study in Europe for free have sufficient living funds. At the start of each month, at least.
Student visas allow holders to work during their studies: 20 hours per week during the term; 40 hours per week between semesters. That’ll help unlock a richer cultural experience for many learners who want to study in Europe for free.
Once you’ve checked off your university application and support funds, it’s time to pull the disparate paperwork together. You’ll need:
- 2 completed application forms
- Copy of your university acceptance letter
- A valid passport that expires at least 3 months after you plan to return
- Proof of health insurance
- 2 biometric passport photos
- A detailed motivation letter and Curriculum Vitae (resume)
- Proof of language proficiency (English, German, or English and German).
There are probably no surprises on that list of documents, except perhaps the motivation letter. All sources suggest this seemingly innocuous document matters and can make or break a visa (and university) application.
The motivation letter should pinpoint genuine reasons for choosing Germany. Focus on your choice of university, your field of study, your career aspirations, and what you hope to specifically gain from living in Germany.
Other supporting documents are sometimes requested, which can delay the process. It pays to get an early start on university applications, especially if you’re not from the EU and want to study in Europe for free.
Health insurance to study in Germany
Everyone in Germany requires health insurance, which includes international students planning to study in Europe for free.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders automatically meet those requirements and do not need additional insurance. Private and public health insurance from a handful of other countries — including Israel, Turkey, Norway and some other European countries outside the EU — also fulfils the requirement.
International students aged under 30 can join the inexpensive public insurance scheme. However, students over 30 (unless studying for a PhD) must get private health insurance. Private insurance can cost as little as €33 per month.
In return, you gain access to excellent healthcare. According to the Legatum Prosperity Index, German healthcare ranks 8th globally.
Living costs for students in Germany
If you’re not from the EU, you must demonstrate financial self-sufficiency to study in Germany.
Living costs in Germany are moderate compared to some countries, especially Norway, the only other country where non-EU students can study in Europe for free.
According to the data crunchers at Numbeo, Germany sits 32nd in the global league table for the cost of living (2022).
What does that mean in real terms? Estimates suggest students in Germany need over €900 per month to cover bills and living expenses. But that won’t leave you much to enjoy Germany’s cultural highlights and the occasional night at a kneipe (bar).
Rent can be high in Germany. Unlike many countries, the capital is not the most expensive to live in. That title belongs to Stuttgart, which also happens to be in Baden-Württemberg, the only state to charge tuition fees. Chalk it up as another reason to avoid the region if you’re looking to study in Europe for free. The next most expensive city is Munich.
Supplementing your finances with a part-time job is possible for EU/EEA citizens and international students holding the appropriate visa.
Scholarships for German Universities
Although Germany doesn’t charge tuition fees, you will need to support yourself through your studies. Living costs are reasonable in Germany and a scholarship might be the ticket to ensuring you can study in Europe for free.
Numerous foundations and organisations offer scholarships to international students in Germany. They are typically granted to postgraduate students continuing studies in the same field.
Finding funding begins by checking the ‘Scholarship Database’ maintained by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). You can find every available scholarship there, with clear instructions on how to submit your application.
When we checked, there were 175 scholarships available to students aiming to study in Europe for free. Typical monthly payments are:
Master’s – €861
Doctorate/PhD – €1,200
With funding levels just exceeding the most conservative estimates of living in Germany, a scholarship might just about make it possible to study in Europe for free. In many cases, you will still need some additional funds to live comfortably.
DAAD reports that over a third of international applications are successful. Those figures are promising but also reveal that many applicants will be disappointed.
Nailing your application is crucial. Individual scholarships set their own requirements, but certain expectations are common to most :
- Funding is often targeted, with strict rules about who can apply. Always check if you qualify
- High academic attainment is beneficial but not essential
- Applications begin with a detailed (1-3 pages) motivation letter, supported by a CV and any other requested documents
- The application may be accepted in English or German
- A reference from your undergraduate university may be requested
- Applicants may then be invited for an interview that determines the outcome.
Notably, you can only work part-time with the approval of your scholarship provider. Make sure you factor that into your financial plans to study in Europe for free.
Where to study in Germany
Another reason Germany tops our list of places to study in Europe for free is the diversity of academic institutions.
German universities are well-respected. 11 universities make the international top 200, according to the QS World University Rankings 2023.
|49||Technical University of Munich||Munich|
|118||Freie University, Berlin||Berlin|
|131||Humboldt University of Berlin||Berlin|
|147||RWTH Aachen University||Aachen|
|158||(TU) Berlin Institute of Technology||Berlin|
|169||The University of Tübingen||Tübingen|
|189||The University of Freiburg||Freiburg|
|200||(TUD) Dresden University of Technology||Dresden|
There are plenty of world-class seats of learning in Germany, all of which offer the chance to study in Europe for free. Some welcome thousands of international students every academic year.
Technical University of Munich, for example, has around 48,000 students, of which approximately 1/3 are international. Many came to study in Europe for free. The university counts 17 Nobel Laureates among its alumni, and most international students are postgraduates.
TUM is known for its excellence in engineering, life sciences, and natural science courses. Many courses are taught in English, making it a highly desirable destination for anyone looking to study in Europe for free.
Sitting alongside TUM in the top 100 global universities is another Munich seat of learning, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (59th). Founded in 1472, Ludwig-Maximilians is one of the most prestigious universities in Germany.
Joining the two Munich universities is Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in historic Heidelberg, at number 65 in the rankings. Although smaller than TUM, both universities enrol thousands of international students who want to study in Europe for free.
Study in Germany – a summary for international students
Course costs for EU/EEA students: Zero course fees at public universities. €100-€350 enrolment, student union, and administration fees.
Private universities can cost up to €26,000 for a complete Bachelor’s course. Although rates are highly variable.
Courses in Baden-Württemberg cost €3,000 per year for non-EU/EEA students.
Course costs for non-EU/EEA students: Zero course fees (except Baden-Württemberg) at public universities. €100-350 enrolment, student union, and administration fees. The best place to study in Europe for free if you’re not from the EU.
Living costs (minimum): €850 per month
Visa Requirements: Not required for EU/EEA students.
A student visa is required for other non-EU students, obtained by applying through a German consulate or embassy in your home country.
Number of universities in the top 500 (QS ratings): 29
Study in Europe for free – the best resource to start your application process in Germany: The official ‘Study in Germany’ portal.
Norway – A guide for international students
Norway is an intriguing option for anyone looking to study in Europe for free, as they charge no tuition fees wherever you’re from.
Despite the lack of fees, international student numbers are low. Not surprising for a country of just over 5 million inhabitants. Yet those numbers are growing: from 5,000 at the start of the century to 23,000 in 2018.
Home to jaw-dropping landscapes and highly developed cities, you might expect to see more international students in Norway. But there are some notable drawbacks to choosing Norway if you want to study in Europe for free.
Norway’s cost of living is notoriously high, and you typically need to master a challenging language. And the long, cold winters will deter many students who want to study in Europe for free.
Another factor to consider is that, while Norwegian universities are respected, none are in the global top 100. The highest ranked university (Oslo) just misses the cut, ranked 101st in the 2023 QS ratings. There are only 49 higher education venues, including 8 public universities and 9 specialist universities with limited academic programs.
Despite these complications, if you want to study in Europe for free, Norway is worth serious consideration.
Admission requirements for Norwegian universities
The biggest stumbling block for applicants who want to study in Europe for free is language. In Norway, fluency in both Norwegian and English is essential.
Proof of English proficiency is not required if your previous education was in English. This can include receiving at least one year of university education, or 7 years of secondary education, in English. Otherwise, various qualifications are accepted, including a 500+ score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Norwegian fluency is similarly measured. If needed, you can complete a one-year programme: the Norwegian Language and Civilization for Foreign Students. The course is available at universities and open to all, regardless of your level.
Admission requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses match typical requirements in other countries. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need qualifications that could gain you entry to a university back home.
Entry criteria are overseen by NOKUT, the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education. You can check the requirements for your country via the NOKUT portal. Sometimes, universities may have their own additional requirements, so be sure to check with your chosen institution.
In common with other countries, a Bachelor’s degree in your chosen field is required for Master’s courses.
Visas to study in Norway
As a member of the European Economic Area, Norwegian visa rules are more complex for EU citizens.
Wherever you arrive from, you must have proof of health cover: either EHIC (European Heath Insurance Card) or private insurance.
For exchange students from the EU or EFTA (European Free Trade Area) you must register with the police within 90 days unless your studies are shorter. The police will issue a registration certificate. EU/EEA students may work in Norway throughout their studies.
Displaying Nordic solidarity, visa requirements are waived if you’re from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, or Sweden.
Prospective students from outside the EU/EEA must have a student visa, regardless of how long they stay in Norway. Visa applications are made online via the UDI (Norwegian Directorate of Immigration), costing NOK 5,900 (roughly €600).
And while Norway is somewhere you can study in Europe for free, you must have sufficient living funds and provide proof. In 2022, that means access to a minimum of NOK 128,887 (around €13,000) per annum.
If you spend over 6 months in Norway, you must register with the tax office. That’s because you may work up to 20 hours per week on a student permit.
Finally, all students must report to a local police station to inform them of their residency status, even if they already have a student visa.
Health insurance to study in Norway
In common with other places where you can study in Europe for free, you need to budget for healthcare costs. Health insurance in one form or another will be required to complete university applications.
The exception is for students from Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden), who are automatically enrolled in the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme.
EU, EEA, and Swiss students are entitled to use their EHIC (European Heath Insurance Card) for all essential healthcare costs.
Everyone else must have valid private health insurance for the first year. The good news is that, after one year, you can register with the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme.
Healthcare standards are high in Norway, with Numbeo ranking it 9th internationally.
Living costs for students in Norway
Living costs are notoriously high in Norway, with the country regularly topping international league tables for living costs.
Numbeo reports that a single person can expect to spend around 11,000 (€1,100) Norwegian kroner covering monthly expenses without rent. For perspective, the average cost for a loaf of bread in Norway is nearly €3.
A one-bedroom apartment in Oslo costs around 11,242.86 NOK (€1,100) per month. Student accommodation is significantly cheaper (from 3-5,000 NOK), so it pays to contact a local studentsamskipnad (student organisation).
Because there are no tuition fees, scholarships are rare. If you want to study in Europe for free, self-financing is essential.
Where to study in Norway
Norway’s capital, Oslo, and its second-largest city, Bergen, are typically top destinations for international students.
Norway’s highest-rated university is the University of Oslo (UiO), ranked 101st globally by QS. The university offers diverse study programs and welcomes around 3-4,000 international students annually. Its prime location in cultured Oslo and its strong roster of Master’s programs in English make it the leading destination for international students. However, all Bachelor’s degrees are taught in Norwegian.
At 207th in the international league tables, The University of Bergen (UiB) is Norway’s next highest-rated university. Surrounded by fjords and stunning natural landscapes, Bergen is a remarkable place to study.
There are two UiB campuses: one teaches medicine, while the other offers a broad program of arts and social sciences. The international student community is comparatively small, with less than 1,000 students. Most of them take postgraduate courses.
Study in Norway – a summary for international students
Course costs for EU/EEA students: Zero at publicly funded universities for undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
Private universities charge €7,000 – 9,000 annually (Bachelor’s) and €9,000 – 19,000 (Master’s).
Course costs for non-EU/EEA students: Same as EU students.
Living costs (minimum): €1,300 – 1,500 per month
Visa Requirements: Not required for EU/EEA/Swiss students. However, you must register with the police if staying longer than 90 days.
This does not apply to students from Nordic countries.
Student visas are required for all other countries and cost around €600.
Number of universities in the top 500 (QS ratings): 4
Study in Europe for free – the best resource to start your application process in Norway: The official portal, Study in Norway.
France – A guide for international students
Germany and Norway are unique in offering free university courses to EU/EEA students and non-EU students. But there are nine other countries where you can study in Europe for free if you’re an EU citizen. Even if you have to pay, many countries charge low fees by international standards. France checks both boxes: free to Europeans, cheap for other nationalities.
Aside from the comfortable lifestyle and a country brimming with exciting cultural opportunities and diverse landscapes, France is chock-full of top-tier universities. With a reputation for world-class teaching and a tremendous variety of learning programs and colleges, it is one of the most popular destinations to study in Europe for free.
University programs in France are not technically free for EU/EEA students but are almost entirely subsidised by the government.
Almost as an afterthought, the following annual costs are still charged to EU/EEA citizens:
- Bachelor’s – €170
- Master’s – €243
- Engineering courses – €601
- Doctorate and PhD courses – €380
Non-EU students pay a lot more, although still considerably less than many countries:
- Bachelor’s – €2,770
- Master’s – €3,770
If you want to study in Europe for free, you’ll have to focus on public universities in France. Grande écoles and private universities charge from €500 to €10,000 annually.
Admission requirements for French public universities
French university requirements are rigorous. Academic qualifications must correspond with the Baccalauréat that all French students undertake. A Baccalauréat Général (Bac) grade of 13/20 (bien/good) or 12/20 for the Baccalauréat Internationale is usually the minimum.
Applications open on 1st October and close on 15th December, giving a tight window get your paperwork together.
Besides solid grades from secondary education, you will need to show proficiency in speaking French and, potentially, English.
Hazy memories of French lessons at school will not cut the Dijon mustard. If courses are taught in French, consider taking the DELF (Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française). Administered by the International Centre for French Studies (for the French Ministry of Education), a level of B1 (50%+) is sufficient for most universities.
Administered by the International Centre for French Studies, universities typically request proficiency matching B1 (intermediate) on the CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
We’ve got in-depth info about the CEFR, plus some easy steps to start honing your French with Language Atlas on our B1 French Course Overview.
For courses taught in English when it is not your native language, certification from one of the following bodies is essential:
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- IELTS (The International English Language Testing System)
- TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication)
Are visas required to study in France?
In common with other Schengen countries, EU and EEA citizens won’t need a visa to attend university in France. Add in free health care, and it is easy to see why France attracts so many scholars who want to study in Europe for free. In 2021 alone, 370,000 international students were registered in France.
If you’re not from the EU, a visa is essential. Nationals of 66 countries can apply online with Études en France (EEF), which keeps the process simple. EEF applications cost €50. Applications from non-EEF countries cost €99.
Nationals from other countries should refer to the official French visas site.
For studies over one year, you will usually need to renew your right of residence with the local prefecture.
Many countries can visit France for 90 days with a simple “Uniform Schengen” short-stay visa. It’s valid for tourism, business, and study.
For university courses, a student visa is essential. Different permits are issued depending on university application status and length of studies.
Étudiant concours – “Student in competition” short-stay visa
An étudiant concours visa is valid for 3 to 6 months. It’s aimed at applicants who need to attend a university entrance exam.
Visa long séjour valant titre de séjour étudiant (VLS-TS étudiant) – Long-stay student visa
Valid for 4 to 12 months, a long-stay visa is essential for most courses. Visitors entering France with a short-term visa who are subsequently accepted to a university must apply for a long-term visa.
A long-stay visa must be validated online within 3 months of arrival in France, effectively converting it into a residence permit. €50 is charged for the service.
A long-stay visa grants additional rights, including:
- The right to work 20 hours per week (964 hours annually)
- Free travel across the Schengen Area
- Access to the government-supported rental security deposit scheme, Visale, making it easier to find privately let accommodation.
- Access to CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales), which may lead to receiving rental subsidies, which can be a boon for those who want to study in Europe for free.
Carte de séjour pluriannuelle – multi-annual residence permit
For studies lasting more than one year, students need a carte de séjour pluriannuelle. The permit is usually issued to cover the remaining duration of your studies.
Applications can be made up to three months before a long-stay visa expires. Thankfully, it’s all done online now for €50. No need to ship papers for the local prefecture to lose.
What do you need for a French Student Visa?
There are two fundamental conditions to obtain a Carte de séjour étudiant .
- A successful university application
- The means to support yourself financially
Living costs are unavoidable, whether you’re fee-paying or planning to study in Europe for free. And just like Germany and Norway, you’ll need proof it’s covered.
In 2022, French authorities demanded that international students have at least €615 per month. Statements showing €7,380 in savings or that you are receiving transfers of €615 every month are accepted. It may also be possible to obtain a sworn statement of support if you are receiving funding from a third party.
If you’re fortunate to gain a scholarship, evidence will be required. If the stipend does not meet the monthly requirement, additional proof of funds should be submitted.
In addition to proof of income, several documents are commonly requested, including:
- A copy of your acceptance letter or letter confirming your ongoing application
- A valid 10-year passport, with at least 3 months expiry date beyond your planned departure date
- Proof of health cover until you’re registered with the national health scheme administered by L’Assurance Maladie
- Other documents (like birth certificates and academic qualifications) upon request.
Health insurance to study in France
Aside from magnetic cultural and historic attractions and low costs, a big reason France shines as a destination to study in Europe for free is the national health system that now covers international students.
The scheme to cover all students was only introduced in 2019 and is a game-changer for international students. Now, wherever you’re from, you can get the coveted green Carte Vitale which covers most of your medical costs. L’Assurance Maladie, or Ameli, administers the scheme on behalf of the government.
However, social security does not cover all costs. Some costs are paid out of pocket, including 30-40% of the cost of doctor visits, dental treatment, scans, and prescriptions.
Most people in France take out inexpensive supplementary insurance with a mutuelle to cover additional costs.
Students can still use legacy student insurance groups that existed before 2019 to cover those costs. They were set up to keep costs low for students. Tiered levels of cover are available, although you can typically expect to pay €10-30 per month. Cheap mutual insurance can be taken out through a government scheme, although you can shop around just like any resident of France.
To give you a sense of how that works, a visit to a doctor’s surgery costs approximately €25 with no insurance. With a Carte Vitale, the cost reduces to €7, which can then be recovered via your mutuelle.
Health insurers cannot discriminate in France, so there are no premiums charged for pre-existing conditions and no deductibles.
Living costs for students in France
If you’re from the UK, USA, or Canada and want to study in Europe for free, you’ll welcome the reduced living costs in France. Livingcost.org ranks France 27th for living costs, one spot above Germany but below comparable economies.
According to French government figures, students will need between €600-800 to cover basic expenses, including basic accommodation. This figure spikes upwards in Paris and is optimistic, even outside the capital. If you want to visit chateaux and dine in bistros you’ll need to add a few more Euros to your outgoings.
In common with other countries where you can study in Europe for free, student accommodation is cheaper than sharing or renting a private apartment. Your university can often help with finding accommodation, which is often over-subscribed. Expect to pay around €600 in Paris and €400 in other parts of France.
International students from outside the EU/EEA need to prove they have sufficient funds to meet their costs when applying for a visa. In that regard, the optimistic assessment of living costs may prove helpful.
Scholarships for French Universities
France meets many criteria for people who want to study in Europe for free, not least a diverse selection of bursaries and scholarships for international students.
Scholarships are provided by the French Foreign Ministry, home governments, international and public foundations, companies, and regional authorities.
Scholarships are awarded based on individually determined criteria, including nationality, study level, and financial situation. Most bursaries are aimed at postgraduate students, including the ones financed by the French Foreign Ministry.
Universities may also offer scholarships, including some of the best known, like Sciences Po and Université Paris-Saclay.
Finding a scholarship is quickly done through two portals:
Campus Bourse – Filter by nationality and study criteria to find a bursary for you. When we looked, there were 454 scholarships. Of those, 157 were for undergraduate studies and ideal for international arrivals who want to study in Europe for free.
Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Program – Operated by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, scholarships are intended to attract postgraduate students to France. Applications are open from September to January every year.
For other government programs, check the France Diplomacy list of scholarships.
Eligibility for French scholarships encompasses a wide variety of conditions. They may be awarded to those who urgently need support or be aimed at specific student groups, like PhD scholars.
Stipend values also vary considerably. In many cases, they are only intended to help pay tuition fees. Ideal for non-EU students who want to study in Europe for free.
Bursaries are also paid to assist with living expenses. Support can reach €10,000 from some bursaries, while many only cover a portion of living costs.
One thing is clear, France offers many bursaries that help international students who want to study in Europe for free.
Where to study in France
Over 3,500 higher education institutes in France bolsters its appeal to anyone looking to study in Europe for free. The City of Light, Paris, may top many wish lists, yet sizeable universities are found in cities across the country.
Whether you’re aiming to study in Europe for free or signing up for an unforgettable academic experience, you’ll readily find out which universities are high-performing. Here’s a selection of the very best, ranked according to 2023 QS international ratings.
|48||Institut Polytechnique de Paris||Paris|
|111||École Normale Supérieure de Lyon||Lyon|
|174||Ecole des Ponts ParisTech||Paris|
|248||Université Paris Cité||Paris|
|259||Sciences Po||7 campuses in France: Dijon, Le Havre, Nancy, Paris, Poitiers, Reims, Menton|
|300||Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne||Paris|
|317||Université Grenoble Alpes||Grenoble|
Paris dominates the top-rated universities in France. The drawback for anyone hoping to study for free in Europe, it is also one of the continent’s most expensive cities.
That won’t deter many, with the French capital offering a cultural education that lectures can’t. France’s highest-rated university, PSL, exemplifies this: 25% of its students come from outside France, many making good use of their right to study in Europe for free.
Many of the top French universities are research institutes primarily suited to postgraduates. Prospective students will find universities with broader undergraduate programs outside Paris.
Find out about 6 Of The Best French Universities For International Students that we picked out, all of which are ideal for international students who want to study in Europe for free.
Study in France – a summary for international students
Course costs for EU/EEA students: Bachelor’s – €170; Masters – €243
Course costs for non-EU/EEA students: Bachelor’s – €2,770; Master’s – €3,770
Living costs (minimum): €800 per month
Visa Requirements: None for EU/EEA citizens.
Non-EU students can apply for a one-year student permit, followed by a residency permit for the rest of the course.
Number of universities in the top 100 (QS ratings): 13
Study in Europe for free – the best resource to start your application process in France: The official portal, Campus France.
What about other European countries where you can study for free?
There are 8 other countries where you can study in Europe for free if you’re from the EU or EEA.
International student numbers are low in Slovenia, Greece, and Hungary. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for alternative destinations to study in Europe for free, they offer some diverse learning opportunities. However, language barriers, limited course choices, and few world-class universities may be off-putting.
Several countries welcome more international students looking to study in Europe for free and also offer world-class learning programs. Here’s a selection, with a link to official portals where you can find out more:
Of course, many international students will want to experience student life in a country they long to visit. If you’re not concerned with finding somewhere you can study in Europe for free, head to the ‘Study In Europe’ for info about fee-charging universities.
Wherever your academic ambitions take you, good luck with your studies!