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Thousands of American students study abroad every year and even more take part in short-term research studies and service trips in other countries. But it’s becoming more and more common for American students to go abroad for even longer than a few weeks or a semester; many students are earning full bachelor’s degrees or studying in international master’s programs, at some of the best international tuition free universities in Europe, South America, and Asia. The best international colleges for US students provide an invaluable experience, one that you truly can’t put a price on. But best of all, for many of the best international tuition free universities, you don’t have to put a price on it at all – they’re completely free for US students.
Ranking the Best Tuition Free Universities for International Students (US Students in this case)
Using ARWU’s database in conjunction with what we know about countries whose universities don’t charge tuition fees for anyone, Value Colleges has ranked the best international colleges for American students to get a degree for $0 in tuition. That’s right, free tuition! No tuition fee at all! That includes both international master’s programs, and international bachelor’s programs for undergraduate and graduate students. Do note, some non-tuition fees, such as a semester fee, may apply.
All international tuition free universities within the Top 100 on ARWU’s list rank higher than a large number of American state schools. In fact, our Top 25 (nineteen of which are German tuition free universities) rank higher than several of the most popular American universities. Of those international tuition free universities listed, 34 are German, 6 are Brazilian, 5 are Finnish, 3 are Norwegian, and 2 are Greek. And with over 75% of schools listed providing international master’s degrees in English for zero tuition dollars, U.S. students may very well consider packing their bags and heading overseas for a higher education.
Founded in 1386, the number-one spot German university and 46th-ranked international university is the oldest university in Germany. Located in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, Heidelberg supports eleven faculties: Theology, Law, Medicine, Philosophy, Modern Languages, Economics and Social Sciences, Behavioral and Cultural Studies, Mathematics and Computer Science, Chemistry and Earth Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, as well as the Biosciences. 1 in every 6 students is international, and the language of instruction for all undergraduate programs is in German, requiring students to score a minimum of 2 on the German language proficiency exam. However, it also offers fourteen English-language master’s programs that are taught either partially or entirely in English. Although all international students are required to have a residence permit for study purposes, students from the United States, Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, South Korea, and Switzerland do not require a visa prior to their arrival.
2. Technical University of Munich
Founded in May of 2009, the number two spot German university and 51st ranked international university is a member of TU9: the incorporated society for the largest and most notable German institutes of technology. Located in historic Munich within the German state of Bavaria, the technical university is one of only two to be chosen by Germany’s Excellence Initiative to be funded for two consecutive grant periods (i.e, 2007-2012 and 2013-2017). TUM offers more than 150 degree programs in the natural sciences, engineering sciences, medicine, life science and economics, teacher training, and education science. 31 undergraduate programs and degree programs. Many classes at the master’s level, are taught in English. Like all German tuition free universities, students must submit proof of German language proficiency to study at TUM. International students need a residence permit, but students from the United States do not need a visa.
3. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Founded in 1472 as the University of Ingolstadt and subsequently renamed the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) in 1802, the number three spot German University and 52nd ranked international university is known today as LMU. Located in historic Munich within the German state of Bavaria, LMU’s eighteen faculties favor a classical academic profile with liberal arts disciplines in the humanities, cultural sciences, law, economics, social sciences, medicine, and the natural sciences. Its prestigious Medical Center boasts 2,300 beds, second only to Berlin’s Charité medical center as the second largest of its kind in Germany. With over 7,000 international students as well as an active exchange program, the university is recognized by its international network as a top-tier research university precisely because of its inclusive global policies and initiatives.
4. University of Oslo
Established in 1811, the number one spot Norwegian university and 58th ranked international university is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious university in Norway. Located in the country capital of Oslo, the university offers 25 bachelor’s programs, all taught in Norwegian, but it also offers 52 master’s programs that are taught in English. For admitted students, the university has more than 150 bilateral agreements with exchange programs from universities around the world, as well as over 500 exchange agreements worldwide. Students applying for a master’s program must show and submit proof of English language proficiency. In terms of facilitating international research, the University of Oslo participates in EU affiliated research organizations, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, as well as prioritizes cooperation with research institutions in the USA, Japan, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Before arriving in Norway, accepted students who are not citizens of the EU must apply for and possess a residence permit, or in some cases, a visa.
5. The University of Helsinki
Established in 1640, the number one spot Finnish university and 67th ranked international university is the oldest and largest university in Finland with the widest range of disciplines available. Although the university is a bilingual university whose two primary languages of instruction are Finnish and Swedish, faculties in twelve disciplines offer courses in English. These are Theology, Law, Medicine, Arts, Science, Biological and Environmental Science, Pharmacy, Agriculture and Forestry, Veterinary Medicine, Social Sciences, Swedish School Social Sciences, and Behavioral Sciences. In addition, the International Master’s Programs are taught fully in English. International students planning to spend longer than three months studying in Finland require a residence permit, with renewal required for each year of study.
6. The University of Bonn
Established in 1818, the number four spot German university and 97th ranked international university is the alma mater of many famous international students, including Pope Benedict XVI, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the University of Bonn offers 200 subjects of study and undergraduate programs, almost all of which are taught in German. The university also offers several international degree programs in Agricultural Sciences, Humanities & Cultural Studies, Law, Economics and Social Sciences, Life Sciences, as well as Natural Sciences and Mathematics, all of which are partially or fully taught in English. The percentage of international students at the university is well above the national average with 4,095 students from 135 countries, so international students are better represented among the student population at Bonn than at other German universities.
7. Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Established in 1996, the number two spot Norwegian university ranks between 101 and 150 internationally as the second largest of Norway’s eight institutions of higher learning, shouldering the national responsibility for education in the fields of science and technology and located in Trondheim, the primary language of instruction is English, although language proficiency in Norwegian is required. The university supports seven faculties and 48 departments, as well as 60 international master’s programs, all taught entirely in English. On 1 January 2016, NTNU will merge with three other universities to offer even more opportunities for international study while also creating the largest university in the Norway. Before arriving in the country, accepted students who are not citizens of the EU must apply for and possess a valid visa or residence permit.
8. The Goethe University of Frankfurt
Founded in 1914, the number six spot German university ranks between 101 and 150 internationally. Named after the famous German polymath, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and located in the German state of Hessen, the primary language of instruction is German; however, many individual courses and degree programs are taught in English, including four master’s programs in economics, another of which is bilingual for those interested in being taught in both English and German. Around 1 in every 7 students is international, with international students representing some 130 different countries on campus. The university supports sixteen faculties and over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, many of the latter of which are offered in English
9. The University of Freiburg
Established in 1457, the number seven spot German university ranks between 101 and 150 internationally as the fifth oldest university campus in Germany. Located in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the primary language of instruction is German; however, the Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and several master’s programs are entirely taught in English. Around 1 in every 7 students is an international student, and Freiburg works actively to expand this portion with its Internationalization Strategy. All German free universities require the same things: documentation of German language skills and a residency permit for international students, but American students (obviously now considered international students) do not need a visa ahead of time.
10. The University of Goettingen
Founded in 1734, the number eight spot German university ranks between 101 and 150 internationally. Known informally as the Georg-August-Universität, or GAU, this largest university located in the German state of Lower Saxony. GAU’s primary language of instruction is German; however, half of their PhD programs are taught fully in English, along with 28 master’s programs. Thirteen faculties cover 130 subjects, while 1 in every 10 students is international. Students must prove their fluency in Germany before being accepted, and while other international students need a residence permit, US international students will not need a visa.
11. The University of Münster
Established in 1734, the number nine spot German university ranks between 101 and 150 internationally as a key member and recipient of funding from both the <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Research_Foundation”>German Research Foundation</a> (DFG) and the <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Universities_Excellence_Initiative”>German Excellence Initiative</a>. Located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Münster’s primary language of instruction is German; however, several master’s programs are offered completely in English, including the Master of Science in Geoinformatics, Master of Science in Information Systems, and the Master of Arts in National and Transnational Studies: Literature, Culture, Language. <a href=”http://www.uni-muenster.de/”>Fifteen faculties</a> cover over 120 subjects and teach over 280 courses, while having 8 percent of international students out of total population. Yes, you have to be able to speak German, and you need a permit to live as a resident, but if you’re an American international student, you don’t need a visa.
12. The University of São Paulo (USP)
Founded in 1934, the number one spot Brazilian university ranks between 101-150 internationally as the largest and most prestigious university in the country. With campuses in nine Brazilian cities and its headquarters in São Paulo, USP’s primary language of instruction is Portuguese; however, no certificate of proficiency in Portuguese is required. The university provides language support via the <a href=”http://www.usp.br/internationaloffice/en/”>International Cooperation Office</a> for those who struggle with Portuguese, including tutors and courses geared towards native English speakers. USP offers 286 undergraduate programs, 222 graduate programs, as well as partnerships with some of the largest international research organizations such as the European-based <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erasmus_Programme”>Erasmus Mundus</a>. A full list of degree programs and pre-arrival requirements for admission, residency, and visa status can be found in the university’s <a href=”http://www.usp.br/internationaloffice/en/wp-content/uploads/student_researcher_guide_USP.pdf”>International Student and Researcher’s Guide</a>.
13.The University of Hamburg
Established in 1919, the number ten spot German university ranks between 151 and 200 internationally as the largest research university in Northern Germany and the alma mater of six Nobel Prize winners. Located in the eponymous German state of Hamburg within the district of Rotherbaum, the university’s primary language of instruction is German; however, one bachelor’s program (i.e., the Bachelor of Science in Information Engineering) and several <a href=”http://www.haw-hamburg.de/english/international-degree-students/master-applicants/master-degrees/master-degrees-in-english.html”>master’s programs</a> are offered in English. Hamburg’s <a href=”http://www.haw-hamburg.de/english/about-us/faculties-departments.html”>four faculties</a> teach over 2,000 international students from over 100 countries in their 18 departments. As with all German free universities, documentation of German language skills is required for most degrees, although not for the Master’s programs in Public Health or International Business. For American international students, a residency permit is necessary, but not a visa.
14. The University of Kiel
Founded in 1665, the number eleven spot German university ranks between 151 and 200 internationally as the largest, oldest, and most prestigious university in its home state. This alma mater of <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Boas”>Franz Boas</a>, the “Father of American Anthropology” is located in the northernmost German state of Schleswig-Holstein, and the university’s primary language of instruction is German. However, 14 international master’s programs offer courses fully in English. Eight faculties teach 80 subjects for a total of 185 degree programs, all of which have access to the university’s <a href=”http://www.international.uni-kiel.de/en/internationalisation-fund”>fund for internationalization</a>. Students studying in Germany must have solid German skills, but American international students will need only a residence permit, not a visa.
15. The University of Kӧln
Established in 1388, the number twelve spot German university ranks between 151 and 200 internationally as the founding member of the Global Alliance in Management Education and has been awarded the German Excellence Initiative for the grant period of 2012-2017. Located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Kӧln’s primary language of instruction is German. However, an increasing number of courses in its <a href=”http://international.uni-koeln.de/sites/international/aaa/INT/INTpdf/INTpdf_UoC_Profile_Guide_online.pdf”>international master’s programs</a> are taught in English, including those in Management, Economics, and Social Sciences. Kӧln’s six faculties teach 50,000 students, 1 in 10 of which are international students.
16. The University of Tübingen
Founded in 1477, the number thirteen spot German university ranks between 151 and 200 internationally as an academic powerhouse for medicine, natural sciences, the humanities, and especially German Studies, for which it has been ranked first for many years. Located in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the university’s primary language of instruction is German. However, courses taught in the School of Business and Economics, Social Sciences, Faculty of Science, and the English Department are all in English. Eight faculties teach more than 280 courses to over <a href=”https://www.uni-tuebingen.de/en/international.html”>3000 international students</a> each year.
17. The University of Würzburg
Established in 1402, the number fourteen spot German university ranks between 151 and 200 internationally as one of Germany’s leading free universities, having memberships and receiving funding from the prestigious <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U15_(German_Universities)”>U15</a> group of research universities as well as the <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coimbra_Group”>Coimbra Group</a>. Located in the German state of Bavaria, Würzburg’s primary language of instruction is German. However, 10 master’s programs are taught entirely in English, with only one requiring proficiency in German. Ten faculties cover <a href=”https://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/fuer/studierende/angebot/faecher/”>hundreds of programs of study</a> with a focus on accessibility for international students. You will need documented German skills, but not a visa; American international students, like other international students, still need a permit to reside in Germany.
18. Charles University of Prague
Founded circa 1347, the number one spot Czech university ranks between 201-300 internationally as the oldest university in the Czech Republic. Located in the Czech capital of Prague, Charles University’s primary language of instruction is Czech. However, <a href=”https://www.cuni.cz/UK-2047.html#1″>every faculty</a> offers courses and seminars in English and other foreign languages such as French and German, while some <a href=”http://www.cuni.cz/UKEN-14-version1-bm.pdf”>degree programs</a> are taught entirely in English. As the largest university in Czechoslovakia, seventeen faculties teach the eighteen percent international student body at 3 institutes and 5 service facilities. Non-EU international students accepted to the university after submitting the <a href=”http://tarantula.ruk.cuni.cz/UKEN2-14.html#56″>required application materials</a> are expected to apply for a <a href=”https://www.cuni.cz/UK-2045.html”>residence permit and visa</a> prior to their arrival on campus.
19. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Established in 1825, the number fifteen spot German university ranks between 201 and 300 internationally as one of Germany’s leading universities in Engineering and the Natural Sciences, having memberships with the prestigious <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TU9″>TU9</a> group of research universities as well as receiving funds from the <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Universities_Excellence_Initiative”>German Excellence Initiative</a>. Located in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, Karlsruhe’s primary language of instruction is German. However, 16 bachelor’s degree programs are offered in English, with only one bilingual degree requiring proficiency in German. Eleven faculties and 9,000 employees work together in an international environment to help teach <a href=”https://campus.studium.kit.edu/events/catalog.php#!campus/all/fields.asp?group=Vorlesungsverzeichnis”>hundreds</a> of courses, 80 of which are “future-oriented,” to a student body that is made up of 20 percent international students.
20. RWTH Aachen University
Founded in 1870, the number sixteen spot German university ranks between 201 and 300 internationally as the largest technical university in Germany. With the most ties to industry of any in the nation, RTWH Aachen receives more third-party funding than any other German university in addition to having received two consecutive 5-year grants from the <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Universities_Excellence_Initiative”>German Excellence Initiative</a>. Located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, RWTH Aachen’s primary language of instruction is German. However, 18 international master’s programs are taught entirely in English. With its internationalization initiative, ten faculties teach 152 public courses of study and 12 private courses of study to over 6,500 international students and other graduate students from over 120 countries.
21. Dresden University of Technology
Established in 1828, the number seventeen spot German university ranks between 201 and 300 internationally as one of the most published research universities in Germany, turning out over 3,546 projects in 2004 and having been awarded one of eleven grants from the DFG’s <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Universities_Excellence_Initiative”>German Excellence Initiative</a> for the 5-year period between 2012 and 2017. Located in the German state of Saxony, TU Dresden’s primary language of instruction is German. However, the university only offers its masters programs in English, so international scholars with proficiency in English are made to feel quite welcome in pursuing their graduate degree at Dresden. Fourteen faculties teach 36,737 graduate students, <a href=”https://tu-dresden.de/internationales/welcome/welcome_eng”>10 percent</a> of which are international.
22. University of Bergen
Founded in 1946, the number three spot Norwegian university ranks between 201 and 300 internationally as one of eight public free universities in Norway. Located in the Norwegian county of Hordaland in the eponymous port city of Bergen, the university’s primary language of instruction is Norwegian. However, four of its six faculties offer a combined 26 international master’s programs in English, including a Master’s in Digital Culture, Master’s in International Health, Joint Master’s in Software Engineering, and a Master’s in Global Development. Bergen’s six faculties and 3,600 staff members (among which PhD graduate students are paid) teach approximately 1,500 international students at Bergen. Before arriving in Norway, accepted international students who are not citizens of the EU or from countries without an agreement with Norway must apply for and possess either a valid residence permit or visa.
23. University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Established in 1742, the number eighteen spot German university ranks between 201 and 300 internationally as a traditional liberal arts school that can boast a distinguished engineering faculty. Having the highest volume of <a>third-party funding</a> and being the second-largest public university located in the German state of Bavaria, Erlangan-Nuremberg’s primary language of instruction is German. However, <a href=”https://www.fau.eu/study/prospective-students/degree-programmes/international-degree-programmes/degree-programmes-taught-exclusively-in-english/”>15 international degree programs</a> are taught exclusively in English. Five faculties teach <a href=”https://www.fau.eu/university/facts-and-figures/”>39,628 students</a>, 3,746 of which are international students. German free universities require German language skills, but American graduate students will not need a visa, just a residency permit.
24. University of Leipzig
Established in 1409, the number nineteen spot German university ranks between 201 and 300 internationally as one of the oldest free universities in the world and the second-oldest in Germany, with distinguished alumni such as Leibniz, Goethe, Richard Wagner, and Angela Merkel. Located in the German state of Saxony, Leipzig’s primary language of instruction is German. However, 15 master’s programs are taught entirely in English, including the Bachelor’s of Science in International Physics, Master’s of Science in Sustainable Development, and two master’s s degrees in chemistry. Fourteen faculties cover <a>139 programs of study</a>, supporting affiliations with seven institutes, including the Translational Centre for Regenerative Medicine and the Carl Ludwig Institute of Physiology.
25. University of Mainz
Established in 1477, the number twenty spot German university ranks between 201 and 300 internationally as one of Germany’s leading free universities in the fields of natural science and economics. Located in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Mainz’s primary language of instruction is German. However, the university does offer a small number of degree courses completely or partially in English, including a dual <a href=”http://wiwi.uni-mainz.de/364_ENG_HTML.php”>Master’s in Economics and Management</a>, which is taught partially in English. Ten faculties teach <a href=”https://www.international-office.uni-mainz.de/applicants-and-students/”>36,000 graduate students from 130 countries</a>, 12 percent of which are international students. All of those international students are required to prove their German language ability, but American graduate students have no need for a visa.
What are the Benefits of International Master’s Programs?
Earning a master’s abroad is a smart choice for a lot of American international students, particularly those who want to work in areas like international business, global public health, or security. What makes international master’s programs so valuable? A few things:
- Global Perspective: Americans tend to think only about America; earning a master’s degree from the best international free universities helps American international students realize there’s life beyond our borders. That’s extremely valuable to those who want to work in an increasingly global economy.
- Cultural Literacy: Earning your degree abroad increases your ability to adapt to other cultures; even if you don’t work in the same country for the rest of your life, you are more equipped to handle cultural differences and local customs.
- Self-Sufficiency: There’s nothing to test your analytical and problem-solving skills like being immersed in a new country where, even if you speak the language solidly, you don’t know the customs and lifestyle. Studying internationally shows employers that you can make your way on your own.
A lot of the most in-demand, high-tech career paths today are international; professions like industrial design, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and robotics are global professions, that will almost certainly require professionals to travel internationally and work with international teams. An international master’s program helps prepare you for that aspect of your career.
Do These Tuition Free Universities Also Provide Free Laptops or iPads for Online Students?
Many tuition-free universities cater to online students, but it’s important to note that not all of them provide free laptops/ipads for college students. While some institutions may offer technology assistance or grants, it’s advisable to research individual university policies regarding student appliances.
Finding the Cheapest Universities in Europe for International Students
The cheapest universities in Europe for international students are often better than cheap – in a lot of countries, including Finland, Iceland, and Norway, they’re completely free! No one is required to pay tuition fees. By contrast, in the US even public universities aren’t free. Many of these countries even make sure the primary language of instruction is English, making them some of the best international colleges for US international students. Granted, your free education probably won’t cover living expenses, so budget accordingly. International applicants to a tuition free university may forget they have to eat.
There’s a reason most of the schools on the free international free universities ranking are in Germany; more than any other international universities in Europe, Germany has been wooing American international students. All German universities offer free tuition for undergraduate students, first of all, but secondly, Germany has faced a decline in population and skilled workers going to other European countries and the US. Offering the chance to study in Europe in English, for free, has American students flocking to Germany, and often staying there – the main purpose of the initiative to begin with.
Do You Want to Study in Europe in English?
So you’re excited about the prospect of studying abroad at one of the top international free universities in Europe, but you’re not confident in your second-language skills. Maybe you don’t even speak the language where you want to go. Is that going to be an impediment to enrolling in international master’s programs? Can you study in Europe in English? (Besides England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, obviously.)
There’s good news! Many of the best international colleges for US international students make sure that the primary language of instruction is English. If English isn’t the primary language of instruction, you can be confident that international colleges for American international students will not leave English-speakers in the dark. English is the international language of commerce and academia, after all, so most international free universities in Europe will be filled with people who have strong English skills.
So you can absolutely study in Europe in English, even if the primary language of instruction isn’t English, and many of your fellow students will probably enjoy the opportunity to practice their own English. Learn enough of the language to be polite while you’re there, though – “Please” and “Thank you” are appreciated everywhere, and nobody wants to be the “ugly American.”
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Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.
Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.
In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.
With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.