What could fees in Europe be like if the UK left the EU?

A comparison of some of the fees that are charged to international students

February 23, 2016
One Euro coin placed on map of Europe

Lower tuition fees in some other European countries have been a key reason why some English undergraduates travel to the Continent to study for their degree. But what fees might they face if the UK left the EU? Here, we compare a few examples of average annual international fees across Europe, including the UK.


Annual international tuition fees: €0 (minimum fee of €1,500 from 2017)

There are currently no tuition fees for students at universities in Finland. But in December the government announced that a minimum payment for non-EU students would be introduced from August 2017. The fee of €1,500 (£1,137) will be charged for those studying towards degrees in languages other than Finnish or Swedish, although the fees will not be levied on doctoral students or researchers. Universities will be required to establish a scholarship programme to support fee-paying students. Last month, the University of Helsinki announced that its international fees for non-EU students in English-taught bachelor's and master’s programmes would be much higher than the minimum, ranging from €10,000 to €25,000 (£7,578 to £18,945). A similar move to introduce tuition fees in Sweden in 2011 led to a sharp decline in the number of international students.


Annual international tuition fees: €192 - €1,195

Universities in Italy are free to set their own fees, but the overall amount of money they collect from fees at the end of each financial year should not be higher than 20 per cent of public funding. The payments tend to vary according to students’ socio-economic background, field of study, length of study and year of registration. However, international students generally pay the same rates as domestic students. In 2014-15, annual fees ranged from €192 (£145) to €1,195 (£906), according to the European Commission’s Eurydice database. Universities are obliged to exempt students benefiting from student support and they can also exclude some students on the basis of merit.


Annual international tuition fees: €0

Germany's states abolished tuition fees for all students in 2014, but there is a semester fee that helps to fund students' unions and student administration. This typically ranges from €100 (£76) to €250 (£189) and in many cases includes a semester ticket for local public transport, according to the German Academic Exchange programme (DAAD).

The Netherlands

Annual international tuition fees: €6,000 - €12,000

The government of the Netherlands fixes the level of statutory fees at state-funded universities for students within the European Economic Area, but institutions may set their own fees for international students. Therefore, fees for this group differ greatly between institutions and by field of study. According to Study in Holland, prices for non-EU students usually range from €6,000 (£4,547) to €12,000 (£9,093). However, there are exceptions: Wageningen University, which is the nation’s top university in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, charges €15,800 (£11,973) for students outside Europe, while medicine and veterinary medicine courses at Utrecht University cost €20,000 (£15,156).


Annual international tuition fees: €183

Tuition fees at France’s public universities were capped at €183 (£139) for both domestic and foreign undergraduates for the academic year 2013-14, according to the European Commission’s Eurydice database. The annual tuition fee for a master’s degree course is set at €254 (£192), while PhD courses cost €388 (£294). These fees apply only to higher education institutions that are governed by the Ministry of Higher Learning and Research. Tuition fees at the grandes ecoles vary according to the degree; for example, in 2013-14, average fees for state engineering schools were €550 (£417), while those for veterinary schools were around €2,000 (£1,516). In July 2015, the French government stated that international students would continue to pay the same tuition fees as domestic and European students.


Annual international tuition fees: €6,000 - €16,000

Tuition at Danish public universities, and at most private institutions, is free for domestic and European Union students, but since 2006, non-EU students have had to pay fees. These vary depending on the course and can range from €6,000 (£4,547) to €16,000 (£12,125), according to the European Commission’s Eurydice database.


Annual international tuition fees: €900 - €3,600

Tuition fees in Switzerland (not a member of the EU) vary between €900 (£682) and €3,600 (£2,728) depending on the type of institution, according to the European Commission’s Eurydice database. Generally there is no differentiation between the fees charged to domestic and international students, but in some instances foreign students have to pay more.


Annual international tuition fees: €16,706

The average annual tuition fee for undergraduate international students in the UK is €16,706 (£12,719) for classroom-based courses. This rises to €19,339 (£14,655) for laboratory-based degrees and €31,922 (£24,190) for clinical subjects, based on a 2015 survey of higher education institutions conducted by the Complete University Guide. However, some UK universities charge fees much higher than this: the University of Cambridge charges €28,714 (£21,750) for classroom-based degrees and €56,937 (£43,146) for clinical subjects, for example. Recent figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the number of non-EU first-year enrolments fell by 3 per cent in 2014-15.


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