10 of the Most Affordable Places to Study Abroad
This article is adapted from the QS Top Grad School Guide 2016-2017. You can read the most recent version of the magazine online here.
Believe it or not, it is indeed possible to study abroad on a budget! Some of the best places to study abroad are also ones where tuition fees are low, or even non-existent. Read on to find out more about 10 of the cheapest countries to study abroad, in no particular order…
Although all of the Nordic countries are relatively affordable study destinations, Norway is our pick as it remains free for everyone, from both within and outside the EU, at public universities, with the exception of a few specialized programs. Europe’s Nordic countries are known for their high quality of life and stunning natural beauty, and Norway is no exception. Another reason to study in Norway is the availability of English-taught programs at all study levels, plus a high number of locals proficient in English. However, as with the other Nordic countries, Norway comes with a high price tag in terms of living costs; you’ll need around NOK 139,680 (~US$17,200) per year.
Heading to Asia, Taiwan is another of the cheapest countries to study abroad. For example, at National Taiwan University – the nation’s leading university at 72nd in the QS World University Rankings® 2019 – tuition fees for undergraduates start at TW$100,920 (~US$3,300) per year for liberal arts programs, up to TW$124,200 (~US$4,050). The country offers more than 120 courses taught in English, at over 40 universities, and Taiwan is also a popular destination in which to learn Mandarin. Taiwan also offers a good quality of life with relatively low living costs; accommodation costs as little as TW$88,000 (~US$2,900) per year.
Known as ‘the land of ideas’, Germany is continuing to grow in popularity with international students, and it’s not hard to see why – it offers reputable universities, relatively low costs, and a high quality of life. There are no tuition fees charged at undergraduate and PhD level at all public universities, excluding those in Baden-Württemberg. Master’s students who have not studied their undergraduate degree in Germany will typically pay upwards of €20,000 (~US$23,450) per year, but you may be able to find a scholarship to help. To cover living costs, you’ll need at least €10,200 (~US$11,950) per year, but possibly more, depending on your lifestyle, location and spending habits. And there are a range of English-taught courses, particularly at graduate level.
Tuition fees in France are the same for domestic and international students, and for 2019/19 are set at €170 (~US$200) per year for bachelor’s (licence) programs, €243 (~US$285) for most master’s programs, and €380 (~US$445) for doctoral programs. Fees are considerably higher at the highly selective grandes écoles and grands établissements, which set their own fees. Living expenses will be highest in the capital, Paris, but you may find it worth the extra cost – after all, Paris was named the world’s number one student city four times in a row (and currently stands at fifth). If you’re not yet a fluent French speaker, you can study in France in English, with the majority of English-taught programs found at postgraduate level.
Full of interesting and unique culture to explore, Mexico is one of Latin America’s most-visited nations, and has lots to offer international students. Tuition fees vary, with private universities charging more, and average around US$6,300 per year for international undergraduate students in the capital, Mexico City, which was named one of the world’s top 100 cities for students. Living expenses are also reasonably low in Mexico, with all living costs adding up to around US$9,250 on a standard budget in the capital, or US$6,450 elsewhere. Although the main language of instruction is Spanish, Mexican universities are offering more English-taught courses to attract international students.
Heading back to Asia for the next of our list of the cheapest countries to study abroad, India is a fantastic option for students who want to combine affordability with cultural diversity. While Hindi is the most prominent of the 100+ languages spoken, English is often used as the language of instruction at Indian universities, especially at postgraduate level. Living costs are incredibly affordable; a one-way trip using public transport can cost as little as the equivalent of 29 US cents. Tuition fees vary depending on your study level and university, but are typically no higher than US$7,880 a year, and you should be able to live comfortably on as little as US$4,600 a year.
The second-largest country in South America, Argentina boasts stunning natural beauty, with a diverse geography that makes it ideal for students keen on outdoor adventure and exploration. Argentina is also considered one of the safest countries in the region and is known for its fun-loving culture and passionate national identity. You can typically study for free at any state-funded (public) university, with tuition fees of around US$5,100 per year or more at private institutions. You’ll need around US$5,000 for living expenses, with rent costing as little as US$350 per month.
Another of the best places to study abroad on a budget is Poland, which also offers a high quality of education, along with plenty of fantastic culture and history to explore. You can study for free if you can speak Polish, and if you take the same entrance exams as Polish students and study your course in Polish. However, there are also many English-taught programs available, costing around €2,000-3000 (~US$2,340-3,500) per year. Living costs are also on the low side, as you shouldn’t need more than €6,600 (~US$7,700) per year. The capital city, Warsaw, was ranked within the top 20 cities for affordability in the latest QS Best Student Cities index, and 53rd overall.
Malaysia is undoubtedly one of the cheapest countries to study abroad, particularly in terms of living costs. Its capital, Kuala Lumpur, came first for affordability in the QS Best Student Cities 2016, and most students will only need about MYR 14,400 (~US$3,550) per year to live comfortably in Malaysia. In terms of tuition fees, you’ll pay an average of US$4,000 per academic year, but some courses are even cheaper. Malaysia is also home to a number of branch campuses of international universities, such as the UK’s University of Nottingham or Australia’s Monash University, offering the opportunity to gain a degree accredited by these institutions at a lower cost.
10. South Africa
Concluding our look at some of the best places to study abroad on a budget, South Africa is renowned for its natural beauty, cultural diversity, and turbulent history. Another great choice for students with a love of the outdoors, it’s also reasonably inexpensive, with low costs of living and tuition fees. Fees vary, but come to an average of US$6,000 for international undergraduates studying at the University of Cape Town (South Africa’s highest-ranked university in the QS World University Rankings) and the University of the Western Cape. You’ll need around R 120,000 (~US$9,150) per year to cover your living costs.
To find out more about the best places to study abroad on a budget, check our article ‘Where Can You Study Abroad for Free?’ and our list of the 10 Most Affordable Cities for Students, based on the QS Best Student Cities. If you need help with finding a scholarship, check out our complete guide on How to Find Scholarships to Study Abroad.
This article was originally published in November 2016. It was updated in July 2018.
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This article was originally published in July 2018 . It was last updated in January 2020