The highest fees are charged in the UK (England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Until 2012 they were set at £3 375 per year. As of September 2012, this level increased in England to a new basic tuition fee of £6 000 and a maximum of £9 000. Students in England receive a loan to pay the fees and do not have to re-pay this until they are in relatively well-paid employment. In Wales, however, the additional cost of tuition fees for Welsh domiciled students will be met by the Welsh government, even if they study outside Wales. Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, fees will rise only in line with inflation at £3465 in 2012/13.
At the other end of the scale, there are 9 countries where students (not including international students from outside the EU/EEA) are not charged fees. They are Austria, Cyprus (bachelors' level), Denmark (though part-time students are charged), Finland, Greece and Malta (bachelors' level), Norway, Scotland (bachelors' level) and Sweden. In Germany, for the new academic year 2012/13, two Länder (Bavaria, and Lower Saxony) charge fees, while the other 14 do not.
Proportion of fee payers
The proportion of students who pay fees in each country ranges considerably. In a number of countries all students pay fees, and this is the case in Belgium (Flemish Community), Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Turkey. In seven countries (Belgium's French Community, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania) a majority pay fees. In four countries (Croatia, Germany, Lithuania, Slovenia), a minority pay fees, and finally there are the 9 countries mentioned above where no students pay at bachelor level (apart from part-time students in Denmark).
International student fees
For students coming from outside the European Union, fee levels tend to be higher. They are generally set by higher education institutions themselves, although in some countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, Romania) there are central-level regulations governing fee levels. In 6 countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein and Norway) students from outside the European Union are treated in the same way regarding fees as those from within the European Union.
Differences in fees between cycles
Fees levels tend to be higher for Masters' level (second cycle) than for bachelors' level (first cycle), and fees are also charged to more students in the second cycle. In Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Scotland, fees are charged in the second cycle but not in the first, while higher levels of fees are typically charged at Masters' level in Ireland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
- The amount of fees per year fixed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research is EUR 177 in the first cycle (L1, L2, L3) and EUR 245 in the second cycle (M1, M2). However, a number of universities have decided to add associated costs related to specific services (e.g. for diplomas related to continuing learning and training). In some public universities, the tuition fees can reach more than EUR 2 000/year.
- Fees in the grandes écoles and Engineering Schools vary, but the most common amount is EUR 584 per year. However, tuition fees in some of them reach up to EUR 13 500/year, depending on family income.
- Students who receive a grant (approximately 30 % of the student population) are exempted from fees.
- Grants are awarded on the basis of financial need to students that are less than 28 years of age.
- The amount awarded for the need-based grant depends on the assessment of social criteria, and varies between EUR 1 606 and 4 600 per year. The merit-based grant ranges from EUR 1 800 to 6 102.
- Loans are also available, with a maximum amount of EUR 15 000, but less than 0.1 % of university students take out such a loan.
- Parents are eligible for tax relief if students are financially dependent on them and are less than 25 years old. The amount of tax relief is proportional to the amount of taxable income of the household.
- Family allowances are paid for two or more dependent children that are under 20 years old. The minimum amount is EUR 127 per month and increases with the number of eligible children. An additional amount of EUR 63 per month is paid for every child that is aged 16-20 years.
S T U D E N T S U P P O R T
Student support takes different forms and aims to meet different needs from country to country. However, the most common forms of support are grants and loans, which sometimes operate in conjunction (where the student receives loans and grants) and sometimes separately (student receives either a loan or a grant).
All countries, with the exception of Iceland and Turkey, provide some types of grant to at least some students. In Turkey there are fee reductions for some students, but no grants. There is a wide range of situations in other countries regarding the likelihood of receiving a grant. In Denmark, Cyprus and Malta all students receive grants. In Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) the majority of students receive grants. In the vast majority of countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain) only a minority of students receive grants. The proportion varies from 1% of the student population in Greece to around 40% in Hungary.
While it may be theoretically possible for students to take out loans in all countries, they are considered as a main feature of student support systems if around 5% of the student population takes out such a loan. This is the case in 16 countries: Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, the UK (all parts), Iceland, Norway and Turkey.
Other support: family allowances and tax benefits for parents of students
Student support systems may consider the student either as an individual or as a member of a family
that may need support. In the Nordic countries, in particular, the student is considered as an individual, and it is the individual who receives support. However, in many other countries, support may depend on overall family circumstances, and some forms of support may be channelled to other members of the family rather than the student.
Family allowances and tax benefits play a significant role in student support in a number of countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia (tax benefits only), Greece, France, Ireland (tax benefits only), Italy (tax benefits only), Latvia (tax benefits only), Lithuania, Malta (tax benefits only), Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia (tax benefits only), Slovakia and Liechtenstein (tax benefits only).
Note: 4 countries – Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland did not submit information for this data collection. See National student fee and support systems 2011/2012.