Many government-sponsored universities in Europe and other continents are made available to students form all over the world free of charge. Even if you have to pay something, the amount is so minimal it won’t make a dent on your finances.
For students in countries such as US and Canada, the concept of tuition-free tertiary education sounds strange. They are used to the astronomical costs to be paid if one is to get a meaningful degree.
And to cap it all, these free or cheap universities are some of the best in those countries. They are not run on shoe-string budgets to cut cost. For instance, some of the best universities in Germany are tution-free for all students.
But there is a little caveat though. The fact you are going to a tuition-free school does not mean everything would be easy and rosy up till the time you complete your education.
If you are an international student thinking of going to a tuition-free university in Europe, these are some of the things you must bear in mind.
1. You must have proof of adequate finance to get a visa
This mostly applies to students who need a student visa to study in these countries. Some students are exempted from student visas or any kind of visas because of bilateral or multilateral agreements between the respective governments.
However, in most cases, international students need to apply for a student visa. One of the most important requirements to get one is to show evidence that you have enough money to cover your cost of living for a period of time.
The amount required as proof and the length of time depends on the country of choice.
That means, though you are going to a tuition-free school, you still need evidence that you have money. The normal or easy means of proving this is for the parents, guardians or sponsors to show a bank statement with at least the required sum indicated.
Another option is to show evidence of a scholarship that covers living expenses.
To know the minimum amount of money needed, either the University’s website would have that information or the embassy would furnish you with the details when you apply for a visa.
2. You have to be proficient in the local language
In countries like Norway where education is practically free at the university level, it is difficult to get a bachelor’s level program taught in English. The Norwegian language is the mode of instruction.
What this means is that, for undergraduate courses, you either have to pass a proficiency test in the local language or spend a year learning the local language before you can start your program.
That extra year learning the language would mean an extra year of living expenses for the student. Even if the cost of living is not an issue, it still means one would complete a 4-year course in at least 5 years.
So you had better take that into consideration. Though in the final analysis, learning a foreign language can come in handy in your job search after graduation.
3. Shorter, more focused programs
If you are from a country used to taking elective courses in other departments, studying in tuition-free European can throw up surprises in the number of elective courses you have to take to fulfill the requirements to graduate.
European universities don’t encourage taking courses from other faculties. That is why bachelor’s degree courses tend to be shorter than the normal four years in other places.
In the course of your undergraduate program, if you want to learn a thing or two from other fields, that would require doing it in your own private time.
4. Cost of living can be shocking
Most countries in Europe like Norway, Sweden, Germany, etc, offering tuition-free education are developed countries with high standards of living.
One of the disadvantages of this is the co-relation between the high standards of living and high cost of living. Students from third-world countries can find this shocking and difficult to adjust to.
Even if you are on a full scholarship, expenses you never planned for which are unavoidable would pop up to strain your finances. Your cost-saving measures might even end up doing more harm than good to your well-being as a student.
For instance, you might decide to start eating cheap junk food; you scrimp on buying essential drugs; you cut off some utility services; and you might skip some academic activities like excursions. This is all in a desperate bid to cope with the high cost of living.
Having said all that, it is not all doom and gloom when you have the opportunity to go study in a tuition-free University in Europe, With good planning and enough research, you can get the best out of your time in the country.
You can even have the best of all worlds: high quality of education, free education, and high standard of living.