The cost of studying in Europe

Tuition fees, grants, loans and subsidies in European universities (2013-2014)

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Download the full report in PDF format (in Catalan)

Download the full report in PDF format (in Spanish)

Executive Summary

We present a study on university public tuition fees for bachelor’s and master’s degrees for the year 2013-14, for 38 countries or regions of 33 European states. This report also provides data on the amount of grants and the number of students that receive them. Moreover, it includes information on other support programs, such as loans, tax benefits and family allowances. Despite their importance in some countries, the report does not include information on indirect subsidies, such as special public transport prices for students, subsidised restaurants or university halls of residence.

The main conclusions of the report are the following.

Bachelor’s degree tuition fees:

  • In 11 European countries, Bachelor’s degree studies are completely free.
  • In 12 European countries, the maximum tuition fee for a Bachelor’s degree year of study ranges from 7€ in Czech Republic, 41€ in Poland or 183€ in France to 1,066€ in Portugal. Moreover, this group of countries has rather low minimum tuition fees.
  • Only 10 countries or regions (from 8 different states), out of 38 covered by the report, have maximum tuition fees higher than the Spanish one (2,604€ per year) in current euros.
  • The minimum tuition fee for Bachelor’s degree studies in Catalonia, in current euros, is only lower than in 1 state (Ireland) and 2 out of 4 regions of another one (Northern Ireland and Wales).
  • In purchasing power parity, Spain (and, particularly, Catalonia), becomes the 6th country with the most expensive Bachelor’s degree studies out of 33 European states in terms of maximum tuition fees, behind the UK (with the exception of Scotland), Slovenia, Ireland, Hungary and Latvia.

Master’s degree tuition fees:

  • In most countries the tuition fees for a Master’s degree year of study are as costly as, or slightly more expensive than a Bachelor’s degree year of study. Spain (and, particularly, Catalonia) is one of the 7 states where Master’s degrees are substantially more expensive than Bachelor’s degrees. In Catalonia, the maximum fee for a Master’s degree year of study is 44% higher than the maximum fee for a Bachelor’s degree year. In the whole of Spain, it is 67% higher.
  • In a small group of countries, Master minimum fees are much higher than Master maximum fees in the rest of countries. This is so in Catalonia: while the maximum fee of a Master year is not higher than 1,300€ in the largest group of countries, in Catalonia the minimum fee is 2,500€, only lower than in Greece, Ireland and Cyprus. The situation is similar in Spain as a whole. In that case, the minimum fee is slightly lower than 1,500€, which is only lower than in the aforementioned countries plus Hungary.
  • In summary, Spain and, particularly, Catalonia, are in the 7th and 4th positions, respectively, among the countries with the highest minimum fees for Master’s degrees.

The cost of repeating a subject:

  • Linking fees and academic performance is not usual in Europe: out of the 38 countries and regions under study, only 5, apart from Spain (and Catalonia) have different fees depending on the students’ academic performance.
  • Among the countries that charge the repetition of subjects with higher fees, the system is less rigid than in Spain and the extra cost is much lower.

Grants, loans and support:

  • The higher the fees, the lower the percentage of students that pay them, with just two clear exceptions: Spain (and Catalonia) and the UK.
  • The countries that offer most numerous and largest grants are those where university studies are free. These grants are, therefore, aimed at compensating the opportunity cost of studies or, in other words, salary-based grants.
  • Regarding the academic merits that should be required for the student to receive a scholarship, which are currently under debate in Spain, the report shows that scholarships strictly granted on the basis of academic performance are not predominant in Europe, since they only exist in 12 countries or regions, and are given to very small percentages of students. The combination of academic and economic criteria for awarding scholarships, which applies in Spain, is still less frequent, since it can only be found in 6 countries.
  • In 71% of countries, the government offers or guarantees specific study loans. With the exception of two countries (Iceland and Montenegro), everywhere loans are a complement to grants. The percentage of students that resort to loans is very low (below 11%), with the only exception of Denmark.
  • Most countries where university studies are not free, even if fees are low, make up for the families’ financial effort through tax benefits (that are usually generalised), family allowances (usually depending on income levels) or both. Spain does not have either tax benefits or family allowances for families with children studying at the university.
  • We do not have information on indirect support programs, such as specific public transport prices for students, subsidised restaurants or university halls of residence.
Categories: Report


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