Public funding for college students in various countries

In the U.S. we have government-backed student loans, some public scholarships, and many private scholarships. I heard once that in Germany, college is free, that is, publicly supported and provided at no direct cost to student or family, just like K-12. Is this true? And what kind of public aid to students seeking higher education is available in other countries?

Until very recently it was true in all of Germany, now it depends on the state. Since then, several states introduced fees. In my case that’s EUR 500 per semester, a typical value - of course still far below market price. Although there are a few private universities/colleges in Germany, those play a very minor role and therefore you don’t have to pay extra even for the best universities in the country.

In addition to that, there is a system of public loans for students’ living expenses. The details are complicated but the general idea is that if a student’s parents can’t reasonably pay a living wage for the student, the rest is covered by a loan. This takes into account everyone’s income, the total number of children, other student children etc. Half of this loan is completely free, the other half has to be repaid but is interest free and payments can be postponed for a few years.

The UK (or rather England, can’t remember what shennanigans have gone on in the far reaches of the empire) has recently upped the cost of undergraduate tuition from a maximum of £1000 per year, to £3000. The £1000 means-tested fees set the trend for the Labour government in the late 90s for going against just about all of their principles. At the same time, there’s a student loan system in place which is repayable according to earnings (taken automatically out of a monthly salary along with income tax) and with an interest rate which is pegged to inflation to make it a real-terms zero rate loan.

The majority of funding still comes from government - fees for overseas students easily hit the five-figure mark, which is probably a realistic assessment of what they actually cost.

Postgraduate, there’s no such funding. If you’re fortunate/capable, you can get Research Council funding, which is the route for public funds into research. Other than that, it’s scholarships, bursaries, and so on. Many people study part-time as a result.

In Canada, tuition isn’t free but most universities are government subsidized to greater or lesser degrees, resulting in lower tuition.

In Quebec, many of the province’s cégeps (pre-university and professional colleges) offer free tuition.

The City University of New York had free tuition up until 1975. It’s not free anymore but it’s still pretty damn cheap though.

A recent ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the prohibition of college/university tuition in federal legislation was unconstitutional because this issue fell within the competence of the states. Many states will start charging tuition (typically in the dimension of €500 per semester) in the summer semester of 2007.
The federal student aid program called *Bafög (an ugly acronym standing for something like Federal Education Support Act) is still in force. Under Bafög, students which can provide proof that their personal wealth and that of their family is below some legally defined limits are entitled to receive monthly payments from the state, which have to be repaid partially later on (I have never received this support, as my parents are above the limits). Apart from that, there’s still a large variety of scholarships offered by farious foundations and institutions, all with their own regulations on eligibility.

So how do foreign students pay for their education in Europe - is it free or next to nothing for them too? I’m thinking of people like Mohammed Atta, who got a graduate degree in Germany, but was from a middle class family (i.e., not rich).

Also, how do foreigners get into colleges there; I thought for certain desirable degrees there’s a waiting list; is there some quota set aside for foreigners? Do they have to take a special standardized test?

What about housing? Is that subsidized or are students on their own with that?

Once you attend a university as a student, you are obliged to join the local Studentenwerk, a semi-governmental body which is responsible for operating the school’s cafeterias, providing legal and employment advice to students, and maintains dormitories which provide housing. There’s a small membership fee for these bodies (in my university something like €75), but that’s not even nearly adequate for the wide array of services they provide. The Studentenwerke are heavily subsidized, which is why housing in their dorms and food in the cafeteria is very cheap.

Admission to universities used to be a very bureaucratic thing. Until recently, the 16 states of Germany had set up a central admission office abbreviated ZVS. For almost all courses, you had to apply to the ZVS for admission, stating the schools of preference. This body employed some schemes for admitting students and distributing them among schools; partially, this system was based upon the criterion of school grades: The better your Abitur (the secondary school diploma required to be admitted to university) was, the higher your chances the chances you got admitted. If you were unluky, it was possible that you didn’t get admitted at all (in this case you were put on a waiting list, and there were quota set aside for these waiting lists so you’d get admitted after a year or so), or that you were admitted, but to a different school than the ones you had chosen. The exact way the ZVS system worked was AFAIK never published in detail, and there were a lot of rumors about alleged bonuses given to students from certain states (some states, most notably Bavaria, claim that their Abitur exams are more difficult than those in other states, so their students should get a bonus before being compared with others).

This scheme has (thankfully) been abolished for most courses; I guess some very popular studies, such as medicine, are still administrated by the ZVS, but for the others, admission is granted by the university directly. It is common to apply to different universities, then wait which ones admit you, then choose one of them and go there. The criteria upon which universities base their student selection vary wildly (partially because they lack experience on this field). Some will only take a look at your Abitur grade, others will require additional tests administrated by the schools itself. These are usually in the form of a conversation with a university official who’s trying to find out whether your wishes to study this are sincere, or whether you just don’t know what to do after school and want start studying something because you don’t have other ideas (this attitude is not too rare among German university students). As one should expect, these tests are more widely employed in courses with low capacities, compared to the number of people interested in it. When I started studying law three years ago, I got along without such a test, but then again law had been taken out of the central distribution only a year or so before, and I had a relatively good Abitur.

There are different ways how foreigners can attend a German university. Since EU nationals may not be discriminated against on the ground of nationality, EU foreigners don’t have any problem at all. Non-EU nationals who do not have German citizenship but live here permanently and hold a German Abitur here will also get admitted just like Germans. That’s for studying permanently; it is also popular to spend a year or so at another school abroad. Practically every school has a partnership program with one or several foreign universities, and these programs typically provide that the schools may mutually send a stated number of their students to the partner school for a year or so. There’s a large number of bilateral agreements between schools; another similar, but not bilateral, program is Eurasmus, which is administrated by the European Union and also sends European students to schools in other member states for a given number in order to increase cross-border contacts within the Union.

UK answers:

Nope, they pay the full whack. Typically £9k-£20k per year, the top end being clinical subjects.

They apply through the same central application system for undergraduate courses, UCAS. (Postgraduate applications are direct to the university.) No waiting lists - the applications are done annually. No standardised test, academic qualifications being the main measure, interviews being the next one. No quota, and universities are keen to get overseas students because it works out as it is financially beneficial to them overall (as well as generally being a good thing to have a broad international presence).

Typically, university accomodation for the first year, which is a rental cost not much below private accomodation but is easy to organise from afar and means people get to know each other very quickly. After that, sharing rented houses is common. (This is excepting strange arcane things which go on at Oxford and Cambridge.)

If I may add this:

I don’t know how it works for non-EU nationals who hold a non-German diploma but wish to move to Germany to study there permanently (was was the case with Mohammed Atta). From personal experience and the website of German embassies abroad (like the one in Washington), I gather that’s not much of a problem. Universities will liberally attend foreigners who wish to study there if they fulfil the academic requirements and possess the necessary residence permits. They’re not too much concerned about possible abuse of the free education system by foreigners but rather worried about the opposite:
There’s an ongoing debate in Germany about the quality of our university system, which many consider mediocre in comparison to toher Western countries, so having foreigners attend your school is considered a proof of international reputation. This is especially true for the engineering and science courses, which receive enormous government funding because that’s where politicians think our system needs to be improved. The risk of having a large number of foreigners who want to enjoy free education and then leave Germany without ever paying taxes here is miniscule in subjects like law, since a German law degree won’t be worth too much abroad.
Another aspect which limits abuse is language. There are more and more courses held in English, but if you want to complete studies in German, you’ll hardly get around learning our rather difficult language. If you speak it well enough to obtain a degree here, chances are you’re sufficiently interested in Germany that the country will benefit of your having studied here, even if you move abroad afterwards.

Just to add to this. I graduated this year, and while at university I found the halls of residence to be more expensive then private accommadation.

I’ll add that in Denmark, University is totally free for Danes. In fact they get something called SU which is a monthly grant of 788 dollars throughout their Uni time. This can last up to 6 years or so i believe. This is why most Danes can afford to leave home once they go to Uni. This doesn’t have to be repaid unless you consider the high taxes they pay repayment. However, some studies can be very competitive. Journalism is very difficult to get into. They have a certain number of study positions, but those that do complete their studies have much higher job prospects.

Recently, however, the Danish government has passed legislation that forces foreigners to pay a huge sum (around 10,000 dollars for either a semester or year) for studying at a Danish uni. Actually this only counts for non-EU residents. I managed to start before this happened so I was grandfathered in. But that cost is prohibitively expensive. I think that studies in Norway and Sweden are also free, although they don’t get that heft monthly grant. Also Danes have to pay taxes on those grants, plus aren’t allowed to make more than 10,000 kroner or so a month. That adds up to about 1700 USD. So you can’t just register and work fulltime.

Fair point. Weren’t you in some godforsaken place in the East Midlands? :stuck_out_tongue:


There are different ways how foreigners can attend a German university. Since EU nationals may not be discriminated against on the ground of nationality, EU foreigners don’t have any problem at all. Non-EU nationals who do not have German citizenship but live here permanently and hold a German Abitur here will also get admitted just like Germans. QUOTE]

Ok, but do they have to pay the $20K fee for school if they aren’t from Germany? Also, what about the Abitur? People from another country, even if in the EU won’t have that, and they also won’t have the same language skills.

Say I grew up in the U.S. and I’m an EU citizen, how would they know I was qualified to attend college there? Grades vary so much from school to school, what would be the point of comparison? I’m sure they don’t accept SAT scores…

Lincoln. And it kicks ass. :stuck_out_tongue:

Beats Manchester any day.

In Spain there are both public colleges and private colleges. You have to choose your major when you enter the school: you apply for a specific major, not for the university. If you then want to change majors, well… the process is about as painless as giving birth through your wisdom teeth. To triplets. Horned ones.

Public colleges have the same tuition for all the “letters” majors (philosophy, law, PolSci); a higher tuition but again the same for all the “sciences” majors (engineering, physics, med school). Art usually gets lumped with the letters, but they have to pay for their own supplies (science students normally don’t, it’s covered by the additional tuition).

Private colleges have much higher tuitions, which are supposed to cover the complete cost of education (minus books).

Books in general are cheaper than in the US. Often there isn’t a university bookstore; there’s bookstores in the area who cater to university students, but the main source is each major’s “students union”. Books, specially in private colleges, are often self-published (this was the case for 90% of mine). The books I got from the Union might consist of something like “the better classnotes ever taken for this particular course, with additional commentary by the teacher, as well as all the exams ever since the current teacher was the previous teacher’s assistant”. My own classnotes for one subject ended up in one of those books, I feel so proud! sniff We also got regular books, but this was less common, among other things because any regular books were available from the library in sufficient amounts.

I had a fellowship from my local government, with two parts. One part was for being more than 100km from home. It was supposed to cover cost of living but that’s a joke, haha. The second part was equivalent to the cost of tuition in a public college. This second part was grade-dependant, I only got it so long as I was “in good standing” as per my local government’s parameters.

In 1982 I was talking to a former foreign exchange student in his native Sweden. He said that students didn’t have to pay in advance for university, but that they either had to work in public service for a number of years or repay the cost over 30 years or so. It’s been so long now, that I don’t remember exactly what he said.

University courses are indeed free in Norway, except for a term fee of about 500 Norwegian kroner (NOK), about 80 USD, covering the student association fee and a 100-200 quota for copies and printing.

You can get a student loan to cover living expenses of 8140 NOK (~1300USD) a month. (But only for 10 months a year.) And if you a) take and pass the exams you’ve received support to study for, b) haven’t been earning lots of money while going to uni, or already have large savings, and c) aren’t living with your parents, 3256 NOK (525USD) of the 8140 is converted to a grant after graduation.

I can’t find any information on cost for foreign students, but most are here on grant and exchange programs from the EU, and there’s also government funded quotas for third world students.

I don’t know that non-residents of Quebec ever go to CEGEPs (they are of dreadful quality with mainly HS teachers teaching junior college level courses). Quebec residents pay around $2000 per year, other Canadians around $3000 and foreign students pay about $9 or $10 thousand. This last is capped by the larger of the Canadian fee and what it would cost a Quebec student to study in the student’s home country. That applies mainly to France where Quebec students pay no tuition. I once asked a student from upstate NY why he had come to McGill and he replied it was cheaper than SUNY.

Tuition isn’t $20K, ii will be in the range of €500 per semester, i.e. €1,000 per year. This applies regardless of nationality, though, so foreigners will pay the same fees as Germans.

The rule is that you have to have Abitur or a foreign diploma which proves you have comparable academic performance. Generally, there’s a list (don’t ask me who compiled that list - I suppose the ministries of education of the states) of foreign degrees which are considered comparable to a German Abitur, so if your diploma is on that list, you won’t have any problems with getting admitted. I don’t know if the American SAT is recognized as comparable, but I guess yes, due to its international importance and the fact that it’s standardized. If you don’t have a diploma for which comparability with Abitur is assumed by being listed, you have the chance of taking a test with the respective university.
I don’t know exactly how they deal with U.S. high school diploma, the grades of which seem to vay wildly. is a great source for everything related to studying in Germany.