Germany and Sweden named the cheapest places to attend university

New analysis finds most affordable top 200 university is three times cheaper to study at than in the UK

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Wednesday 21 September 2016 21:31

Germany and Sweden have been named the cheapest places to attend university with a combined cost of £6,700 per year - a fraction of the £18,000 needed to study at an institution in the UK.

Combining tuition fees of £9,000 and an average annual living cost of £9,200, currency and service FairFX has found the UK to be one of the most expensive nations in the world to be a student in while those in continental Europe offer free tuition to UK students.

The analysis of the top 200 universities in the world has come on the day the new Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings have been published. According to the rankings, Oxford University has become the first UK university to take the crown as the top institution in the world.

FairFX has found a total of 33 universities in THE’s top 200 offer either free tuition or fees of under £500 a year for those who are accepted, meaning students from the UK only have to cover their living costs, with 47 offering a year of fees for under £1,000.


Having looked at the averages for 27 countries featured within the top 200, the findings have also ranked South Africa and Finland as third and fourth respectively for being the most affordable countries to study in, with combined tuition and average living costs of just £6,948 and £7,313 a year, also respectively.

Broken down by individual institutions, the cheapest of the world’s top universities to study are Italy’s Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa which, not only offer free tuition, but even provide an allowance to cover living costs to the exclusive few successful applicants.


Meanwhile, Germany takes half of the spots in the top ten cheapest universities, led by TU Dresden with no tuition fees but a “term contribution” which totals just £346 a year - a far cry from the UK average tuition fee of £9,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive country to study abroad is the US with average tuition fees of £31,296 and living costs of £14,403, bringing the average total annual university bill to £45,699, with the UK coming in as the sixth most expensive country to study in.


Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of FairFX, described how the costs for UK students to attend university are “steep” compared to many overseas destinations, putting a “significant burden” on them as they start out on their career path. He said: “Studying abroad is certainly a viable option and we could see it becoming an alternative to taking a gap year with its opportunity to expand horizons and gain new experiences alongside an education.”

To get the best value, Strafford-Taylor has recommended students to, not only consider tuition fees, but also the local living costs upon arrival, something which can vary considerably. He added: “It’s worth taking into account trends in long-term exchange rates which will give you even more value for money.”

Even though Oxford has taken the top spot for the first time in the THE ranking’s history, the university’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson, hit out at lack of funding, tighter government regulations, and Brexit as being potential threats to the future of the institution.

She said: “If our academics cannot secure funding for their research, they will move elsewhere. We, frankly, do not have the resources commensurate with our global position.”

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