Here are ten of the cheapest countries for university students

Tuition fees and cost of living in their chosen destination are key elements for those seeking higher education

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Students preparing for university this September have a world of factors to consider before they decide where to continue their learning journey.

The academic excellence of their chosen institute is paramount but tuition fees, cost-of-living expenses and future career opportunities also weigh heavily on young minds seeking to broaden their horizons.

Many are flocking to Norway, Germany and France, which provide work visas after graduation, apart from being home to many of the world's top universities.

Malaysia is also a popular port of call as it has low tuition fees and hosts the campuses of a number of internationally renowned universities.

Traditional markets include Canada, the US and the UK, but high fees and competition have led students to look further afield.

“I think price point has become a very important factor especially, with the parents and students fearing an incoming recession,” said Vandana Mahajan, founder of Futures Abroad, an education consultancy in the Emirates.

“They are quite price sensitive and look at options which give them a good, affordable tuition fees and settlement opportunities afterwards.

“One question we get a lot from students is where can I get the [highest] scholarship.”

Erudera, an AI-backed education search platform, has created a list of countries in Europe where higher education is free or comes at a minimal cost.

Countries such as Austria, the Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden offer free education for some nationalities.

Here is a list of some of the most affordable countries in terms of tuition and cost of living for international students:


Many public universities in Germany offer tuition-free education but students at these seats of learning would have to pay a fee ranging from Dh1,160 to Dh1,950 each semester.

The cost of living in the country is about Dh3,500 a month. Students are eligible for a post-graduation work visa of up to 18 months.

Ms Mahajan said Germany was on top of students' list in terms of affordability because there was no tuition fee at many universities.

“It is a very attractive option and we do get a lot of queries on a daily basis,” she said.


Students from the EU have to pay about Dh1,470 a year while those from non-EU countries pay about Dh10,900 for a bachelor's degree annually and Dh14,800 for a master's degree.

Living costs go up to Dh3,500 a month.

Ms Mahajan said there has been massive interest from students interested in studying in France due to the lower tuition fees and the opportunity to secure a work visa of up to a year after graduation.


English-speaking universities in Poland, the Netherlands and Georgia are increasingly attracting students from the UAE, education consultants told The National last year.

International non-EU students pay about Dh7,500 to Dh23,000 a year on average for their degrees at Polish universities while living costs are between Dh1,500 and Dh2,300 a month. Students can secure a work visa of up to nine months after graduation.

“We get a lot of interest for Poland as it is quite affordable. Lots of students look at Poland for medicine-related programmes because of the ease of admissions and affordability,” said Ms Mahajan.


Norway is very popular with students in the EU and globally as its public universities offer tuition-free education, with a few exceptions.

However, the country is considering asking international students from outside the EU or the European Economic Area to pay for tuition from the autumn of 2023.

Tuition fees for non-Europeans may go up to Dh47,747 ($13,000) for some programmes.

The cost of living in Norway ranges from Dh2,700 to Dh3,500 a month.

International students in Norway can work for up to 20 hours a week during their studies and secure a one-year work visa after graduating.


In Mexico, public universities can charge international students between Dh1,500 and Dh3,000 a year.

At the country's private universities, tuition fees for international students are between Dh5,800 and Dh58,800 per academic year.

The cost of living for an international student in Mexico is about Dh3,700 a month.


The number of overseas students coming to India for studies surged by about 42 per cent in less than a decade, Indian media reported last year.

Tuition fees depend on the course and university but average between Dh4,000 and Dh20,000 a year.

Living costs usually come up to Dh1,000 to Dh1,500 a month.


Argentina offers a range of grants and scholarships to international students while tuition at public universities is free of charge.

Fees at most private universities are between Dh18,000 and Dh55,000, while living costs are about Dh1,300 a month.


Universities in Taiwan are considered very competitive and average tuition fees for undergraduate and postgraduate courses range between Dh5,900 and Dh17,000 a year.

Accommodation costs about Dh920 a month.


Malaysia is considered an education centre and is home to more than 120,000 international students.

Ms Mahajan said Malaysia was extremely popular with international students because of very low tuition fees and the fact that it was home to several branch campuses of academic institutions such as Monash University or the University of Nottingham.

She said students took it as a pathway to study for two years in Malaysia and then transfer, for example, to two years to Canada or the UK.

Estimated tuition fees for a bachelor's programme are about Dh15,000 a year.

South Africa

More than 40,000 international students attend South African universities each year, with its multicultural environment proving a big draw.

Tuition fees come to an average of Dh22,000 for international undergraduates at the University of Cape Town.

Living costs go up to Dh2,785 a month.

What else must students consider?

While the price point is an essential factor, students also take into consideration the institution's reputation, the quality of the academic programmes, the availability of financial aid and scholarships, the institute's location, the potential for internships, job placements and opportunities after graduation.

“One of the biggest factors students look at, after affordability, is which country is giving them a settlement opportunity and [whether] there is a prospect of getting a postgraduate work permit and of getting a job,” said Ms Mahajan.

Donjeta Pllana, analyst at Erudera said students should not be guided only be affordability.

“In the decision-making process to pursue education in foreign countries, while price is a major consideration, it is not the determining factor,” she said.

“Students must carefully balance the financial costs with other important factors such as cultural integration, academic progress [and] professional growth when deciding to pursue higher education abroad.”

Updated: February 28, 2023, 3:34 AM