Countries where you can pursue a PhD for free — or near enough

No one can’t predict the future with precision, but higher level qualifications are necessary to secure jobs in the future.

By U2B Staff 

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Are you planning to pursue a PhD? Whether you have plans to carve yourself a career in research or academia, a PhD can come with eye-watering fees, but that’s not to say a higher level qualification isn’t without its benefits. 

Among the key findings of the UK’s Department for Education’s (DfE) report, Working Futures 2017-2027, including that “the number of jobs in occupations typically requiring a high-level qualification is expected to continue to grow, albeit more slowly than over the previous decade”.


While projections show that the supply of highly qualified people will grow more quickly than the demand for such qualifications, this doesn’t necessarily mean a glut of higher qualifications. 

The report notes that the nature of jobs is changing, making higher qualifications a necessary requirement in many occupations.

Financial planning is important if you choose to pursue your PhD 

The cost of a PhD varies; according to estimates, it can cost between US$28,000 to US$40,000 per year and take some four to six years to complete. 

Eye-watering fees? Indeed. But if a fear of accumulating more debt is holding you back from getting a PhD, it’s time to take a step back and explore your options to make your doctorate dream a reality. 

Here are some of the best places to pursue a PhD without breaking the bank:


Finland is globally renowned for its quality education, making it an obvious choice for aspiring PhD candidates. 

The icing on the cake? PhD programmes in the country — also known as the happiest country in the world — are free for international students. 

Despite free tuition fees for PhD programmes, the cost of living in the country can be high, with the average living costs estimated to be around €700 €1,100 per month

Some universities also offer doctoral students salaried positions for the duration of their studies, but this depends on the university.


Poland is famous for many things, including their vodkas and two-time Nobel prize winner Marie Curie who has Polish roots. 

Not unlike Finland, Poland also offers tuition-free doctoral programmes, but the country’s appeal includes its relatively affordable cost of living. International students can expect to pay between €350 and €550 per month for international students, according to estimates.


Study in Norway notes that Norwegian public institutions do not charge tuition fees, which also applies to international students who pursue their PhD at Norwegian public universities.

While Norway’s cost of living tends to be on the higher side (approximately €1,200 to €2,000 per month), you’re less likely to feel the sting with the money you saved on tuition.


PhD programmes are free for all PhD students in Sweden, regardless of your nationality.

Study in Sweden notes that you will need around €850 per month to cover their living costs.


Have you ever thought about pursuing your PhD in Germany? The majority of PhD courses in Germany are taught in English, while the country is home to a smorgasbord of culture and beautiful landscapes that adds to its character. 

Tuition is basically free if you study at a public university but the cost of living, however, could set you back at about €900 to €1,700 a month.

Research in Germany notes that there are also semester fees that need to be paid when students re-register every six months. 

“How high this fee is depends on the services that are included – for example, the use of public transport. As a rule, it is between €80 and €450. The student card you then receive allows you to pay lower fares on local public transport, eat cheaply at the refectory, and often pay reduced admission fees,” it said.



Doctoral tuition fees in France are inexpensive if you’re a citizen or permanent resident of France. Citizens or permanent residents of a country within the EEA will only pay €380 per year for Doctorate (PhD) programmes.

Non-EU and EEA students will have to pay higher fees, but you can find some scholarships and grants by various governments and organisations that you can apply to. Click here for details. 


If you’re an EU or EEA student, you’ll be exempted from paying tuition fees if you pursue your PhD at a public Austrian university and complete your programme on time. You may, however, have other fees such as student union membership to pay.

Study in Austria notes: “For Austrian students and students who have the same status as Austrians (i.e. nationals of all EU and EEA member countries) and who have not exceeded the minimum duration of their study programme plus two semesters, no fee is payable. After the two semesters of tolerance, you have to pay €363.36 each semester.

“For all other students from third countries (who are in possession of a Residence Permit-Student) €726.72 per semester is generally required.”

Tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students at private Austrian universities are much higher and can cost between €727 to €7,500 per semester.

International students can search for funding opportunities here.