Top 7 Cheapest Countries to Study a PhD Degree

As a degree holder or you just obtained your master’s degree with a burning desire to get a PhD immediately to further your career whether in academia or industry, you are faced with the high cost of postgraduate studies. There is a way out for you, look for the cheapest countries to study a PhD degree for free or at a very subsidized rate.

Well, with just a bachelor’s degree, you can do a PhD without a Master’s degree. But the bad news is, it comes at a very high cost, as you must make provisions for school fees, cost of living, and other miscellaneous expenses. In this case, PhD students look for the cheapest cities to live in to narrow down their expenses and save costs.

The good news is this, some countries are offering totally free PhD programs and you can get a PhD degree at no cost in these countries. Studying in nations that offer affordable PhD programs or countries with zero cost for doctorate education will take away the financial burden associated with a PhD overseas and give you room to study and concentrate on your research.

According to Oludayo Sokunbi, the following countries have FREE or very cheap PhD programs for all International students:

1. Czech Republic
2. Estonia
3. Germany
4. Iceland
5. Norway
6. Finland
7. France
8. Sweden
9. Saudi Arabia
10. New Zealand.

RT and Tag your friends.

— Oludayo Sokunbi (Deewon) (@Oludeewon) June 7, 2022

This guide has the top 7 most inexpensive countries you can study for a PhD.

Benefits of Studying a PhD Abroad

There are numerous benefits of undertaking a PhD, the most obvious being the opportunity to study something that you are passionate about. Pursuing a PhD program comes with numerous academic benefits and prestige that successful completion of a program can confer. The potential for increased earnings is another reason for pursuing a PhD. Although at times, this is seen as one of the common misconceptions about PhD studies, as in most cases, it is not true that a doctorate guarantees an increased earning.

On the other hand, pursuing a PhD in a foreign land as an international student offers much more benefits. You will have access to the latest research materials and facilities, you will be able to experience living in a different country and learning about different cultures and lifestyles. Students will also be able to experience different traditions and customs, and travel to new places, which will help you grow as a person. Many countries will also have different funding available to students, such as scholarships and bursaries which can help to lower the costs of your study.

See: How To Win Fully Funded PhD Scholarships Abroad

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Country For Cheap PhD Degree

Depending on what you choose to follow in life, either as an academic or professional, making the right choice for your career is a necessary requirement. If you are considering studying a PhD degree in another country, choosing a country for a cheap PhD degree is essential. Here is a list of very important factors that you should consider before you start the journey. Although most decisions are usually subject-specific, the most important ones are explained in brief below:

  1. Financial Implications

Tuition fees for PhD degrees or any degree, for that matter at prestigious universities, are usually very high. For example, a PhD degree in the UK could cost you anywhere between £12,000 to £35,000 per year. Teaching/Research Assistantships and other scholarships are hard to get because of the legislation. According to an October 2023 report by UKCISA, the new immigration regulations have made it harder for international students to be employed after their studies.

In countries like the USA, students usually have to bear the tuition for the first 3 years and a few universities might ask international students to bear the tuition amount for all the study years. The costs mentioned at their sites are usually exclusive of misc. expenses like transportation, and insurance (mandatory in most countries for international students) amongst the others.

  1. Quality of Education

Quality education is a top priority in any student’s life and is one of the most important aspects to consider when looking for countries for cheap PhD degrees and before enrolling in academic programs. The standard of the university or college should be benchmarked to see if the institution has a good reputation in the international arena. The school’s history in quality education matters as it can be a point of reference. The quality of education can be directly linked to the trainers or learning institutions.

  1. Research Opportunities

There are still substantial differences between institutions when it comes to accessing research and finding the guidance and resources needed to produce a high-quality PhD thesis. While this may not be at the forefront of your concerns at this early stage, you should consider what’s on offer beyond your individual project needs – today’s researchers need to leave university with a full armoury of skills. Look into the research training and development offered by potential schools. This might include research seminars, workshops and opportunities for wider engagement with the academic community.

What is the policy on attending and presenting at academic conferences? How often do students in your department get the chance to present and publish their work, and who pays? One final consideration is the school’s research support and resources, including computer equipment, books, online resources and library services. These things sound boring but believe me, lack of access to these things can have a big impact on work efficiency and the ability to be productive.

  1. Language Requirements

Many countries offer PhD programmes in English, although in some cases the thesis needs to be submitted in the local language. If English is not your native language, you will need to be able to prove your proficiency. In some cases, for example in the Nordic countries, in Germany, in the Netherlands, it is enough to prove your proficiency in English, thus obviating the need to learn the local language. English requirements where English is not your native language, applicants are typically required to take an English language test, for example, the IELTS or TOEFL.

However, if you have been working or studying in an English-speaking country or in an institution where the language of instruction is English, you will be exempted from taking an English test in many universities – particularly if you can prove that your academic programme or your job lasted at least a certain time (usually two years). Always check the exact admission requirements; they are typically listed on the graduate school page of your chosen university.

Related: Easiest Countries to Get PhD Admission

  1. Cultural and Lifestyle Factors

An open-minded, multicultural and inclusive society is an excellent soil for personal and professional development and personal self-esteem, thus a clear advantage for students. Please note that relocating to a location with a completely different cultural background to one’s own might be challenging or exciting, though. It is important to note that social, security and healthcare systems might vary greatly from one country to another. Although some students might consider the location of the health or education systems of their interest, many might not, and would just assume they’re in a safe country and that everything will be correct and straightforward.

Cheapest Countries to Study a PhD DegreeTop 7 Cheapest Countries to Study a PhD Degree

Instead of the popular idea that studying for a PhD Degree in the United States is expensive, looking at the broader picture, there are a multitude of countries in which students can study for a PhD Degree at a lower cost. For those who wish to experience new countries and cultures while furthering their studies, here is a list of some of the top 7 countries where one can study for a PhD Degree on a budget.

These countries are great for both education as well as a variety of life experiences. Here is a summary of the seven cheapest countries to study for a PhD degree.

  1. Sweden

What Makes Sweden a Top Destination for Doctoral ResearchLooking for the cheapest country to study for a PhD degree, Sweden offers one of the most affordable PhD programs. Sweden is home to 39 standard universities and has over 30,000 international students on its shores. With just 4 years to complete a PhD in Sweden, most PhD courses are offered and completed in English. With total free education for PhD studies, Sweden has continuously ranked as one of the best countries to get a PhD at no cost.

Two Swedish Universities are currently ranked in the top 100 universities in the world – the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Lund University, at 89th and 95th. There are over 7 Swedish Universities ranked among the best 350 in the world currently.

Cost of living in Sweden

The overall living costs for a student in Sweden are typically higher than in other countries. However, considering that education is free for everyone, then it could be more affordable to live here. Within Sweden, the cost of living can vary considerably as the average amount for a student’s monthly living costs is around SEK 8,000.

This will cover expenses for accommodation, food, travel, telephone, and other daily costs. One trend that is favorable for students in Sweden is the fact that rents for student accommodation are gradually decreasing and students can find very affordable housing options.

Tuition Fees in Sweden

PhD studies in Sweden are totally free as PhD studies are seen as full-time employment allowing students to earn stipends while studying. The application cost is equally free of charge for PhD studies in Sweden. All these contribute to making Sweden come first in the Cheapest nations for PhD studies. However, you may consider the cost of living as a burden if you intend to live in highly expensive cities.

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for studying PhD in Sweden vary between schools, however, there are common prerequisites for PhD Admissions globally and these apply in Sweden. These include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a related discipline from an accredited university.
  • A Master’s degree
  • Language Proficiency
  • Previous research experience

See Also: How to Apply for a PhD in Sweden: A Step-by-Step Guide

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities in Sweden

Sweden also offers scholarships to graduate students through the Swedish Institute. This is a government agency that offers a surfeit of opportunities, among them full scholarships for international students. This scholarship is open to all academic disciplines but is not intended for those who wish to study a PhD. The funding opportunities in Sweden make Sweden one of the most sought-after destinations for doctoral research.

Related:

  1. Norway

Cheapest Countries to Study A PhD Degree - NorwayNorway is another Nordic country that ranks among the cheapest countries to pursue a PhD. Public universities in Norway offer tuition-free education to students from all nationalities. One point to factor in when considering studying for a PhD in Norway is the country’s high, and rising, cost of living. However, if you are intentional, you can maximize your PhD Stipend in Norway and make the most of it.

On the other hand, students who have lived in Norway are positive about the work-life balance, political engagement, transparency, and general qualities of life available in Norway, ranking among the highest possibilities in the whole world.

Cost of living in Norway

Although it’s widely known that living in Norway isn’t a particularly cheap experience, the actual cost of living in Norway as a PhD student is relatively lower. The Norwegian government requires an international student to have NOK 116,369 per year to be granted a visa. However, NOK 116,369 is a safe amount to have but the actual living costs for a single person in Norway are approximately NOK 1,222 ($120) so roughly NOK 200 ($20) for a week.

The costs do of course vary based on the location of the university and the type of accommodation, but as a rough guide, the monthly expenses of a PhD student in Norway are:

  • Rent in a shared house or a single-room student dorm: NOK 3000
  • Food: approximately NOK 3000
  • Mobile expenses: NOK 100.
  • Utilities: NOK 700 per month

Do note that this does not include any leisure or project-related travel expenses. On the other hand, the expenses for a student in a small Norwegian city on a single person’s budget will come to the same amount as any other place in the world, but for a student in Oslo, these monthly expenses will be at least NOK 10,000.

Tuition Fees in Norway

Norwegian PhD student loan institutions receive funding from the government, through the provision of low-interest loans to cover living costs. It is required to be registered in the national population register and you must have legal residency in Norway to be eligible to receive financial support. There are two types of funding available to international students: semester fee waivers, and scholarships and grants.

Students studying in state institutions in Norway do not have to pay tuition fees, as it is heavily subsidized. This is valid for non-EU/EEA students studying in Norway. Nigerian students can optimise this opportunity.

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities in Norway

Although Norway is part of the European Economic Area (EEA). That comes with several perks, including international students being allowed to work part-time. Those from European countries are recommended to bring the European Health Insurance Card to apply for the same benefits as Norwegian citizens.

  1. Germany

When comparing the cheapest countries to study for a PhD degree, Germany is considered the cheapest among Europe’s largest economies. The reason for this is that in most of the German Universities, there are no tuition fees for the PhD Programmes. There is a tendency for minimum wage all over the country. So, a student can also afford to be a part of this programme. In Germany, some universities charge a nominal fee due to the large number of international students, the public university does not even charge extra tuition fees.

In the case of PhD, most of the German universities are known for international research projects. The deadline to apply in German universities for most of the PhD programmes is in the month of April and October and most of the universities offer coursework as a part of the PhD programmes and the duration of the PhD is approximately 3-4 years which can be extended to a maximum of 6-7 years in special cases.

Cost of Living in Germany

The average living expenses of international students in Germany is about 670-850 EUR/month to live in Germany. This amount could fluctuate depending on the city in which you choose to study. However, it is important to note that living expenses in Germany depend on the individual lifestyle and the city you live in. For instance, if your accommodation is taken care of, then depending on your lifestyle you could live on an amount as low as 345 EUR/month.

Tuition Fees in Germany

Normally, education is subsidized by the state, meaning that for most courses the tuition fees for students at public universities are small. Students are only required to pay a semester fee, broadcasting costs and administrational costs each semester which at most public universities amount to less than 250 Euro. Private colleges on the other hand might charge higher tuition fees. Keep in mind that courses of continuing education are usually not subsidized by the state, and fees for such courses can be higher than regular study fees.

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities in Germany

The availability of scholarships and financial awards will vary between the universities in Germany. Scholarships are available from DAAD, Deutschland Stipendium for nationals and international students. The German society particularly contributes to education with the incredible number of funding opportunities available for students. There are no tuition fees within the majority of universities in Germany; therefore most scholarships are based on charges such as living costs, travel, accommodation and research funding.

There are also scholarships provided through the EU, individual university scholarships and student loans. Grants and loans are normally available for German students however this is also dependent on the type of student and their personal needs. It is essential to look into the individual scholarships offered by the individual universities that will provide a number of the scholarships they supply.

  1. Finland

Looking for the authentic European experience? Head to Finland, with over two thousand lakes, the Northern Lights, and Santa Claus. The Finnish education system is one of the best in the world ranking among the cheapest countries to study for a PhD degree. Finland has many prestigious study options available for those seeking an advanced education, including PhD programs. Just so you know, universities in Finland do not charge any tuition fees, and the living costs are covered by the Finnish government.

There are ongoing tuition fees for PhD programs, where students must pay a small amount to both their department and the university each year, but it rarely exceeds 400 euros a year. The University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä, and Lappeenranta University of Technology, among others, are some of the best Finnish universities in which to obtain a PhD. Being home to not a lot of population, Finland is perfect for those wanting a peaceful lifestyle that’s quite different to their own.

Cost of Living in Finland

Finland is an expensive country. Students who plan to study there should be careful about drawing up a budget. The estimated monthly living expenses for a single student are approximately 700-900 euros. These prices are average in Finland’s most populated student cities: Helsinki, Tampere, and Turku. However, it is important to note that living costs may be higher in Helsinki than in Tampere or Turku. Additionally, living costs may be higher in the capital city than in the rest of the country.

Tuition Fees in Finland

Tuition fees in Finland for most international students are quite affordable; however, tuition fees for international students who are non-EU/EEA students are charged and they vary depending on the program. There are up to 3,000 – 25,000 EUR/year; However, tuition fees may vary according to the program and university as Finland has 13 universities and 25 polytechnics, the programs are, however, taught fully in English.

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities in Finland

One of the ways one can get funding in Finland is through student loans. Some of the main requirements when applying for student loans are that the student must have permanent residence within the country, must have a loan guarantee and must be able to understand Finnish or Swedish. Many students prefer to get part-time jobs and as an international student in Finland, there are possibilities of getting employed under strict Finland labor laws.

  1. France

France is known for providing its PhD students with quality education however the process to apply for a PhD is quite different from other degrees. Once a candidate for a PhD has been found within a university, funding is almost guaranteed in comparison to other degrees. One problem which arises is that because of the diverse state funding, a university must sponsor a candidate and provide them with a fellowship which covers their yearly tuition fees (Fees range from €500-€1000).

After acceptance, the university may be responsible for providing, at their discretion, free accommodation or cover the cost of it.

Cost of Living in France

Before we begin discussing the amount of money you need if you wish to study for your PhD Degree in France, we first must mention that it is possible, for many international students, to find a job or an internship to cover the living costs. This will also allow you to practice your French and make the most of your experience. However, the minimum wage in France is higher than in many other European countries, so even a part-time position can give you a better income than in many other countries.

Based on rank, we have France, where the average tuition will cost you ¥318,000 per year. The country, as one of the most developed in the world, is set right in the center of all the action in Europe. This also makes it a bit costlier to reside in when compared to other countries in our list at an estimated minimum monthly expense of ¥8000.

Tuition fees in France

In France, public universities are the only education institutions that receive government funding to implement education and therefore have considerably lower tuition fees than private institutions which can be three to four times higher. The universities are free to set their tuition fee depending on the course, the number of years, and the level of study. Generally, PhD courses cost between 380 and 430 euros per year. Public Institutions of Scientific and Technical Higher Education are free for PhD students.

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities in France

If you are a European student looking to fund your PhD in France, the European Union offers several funding options, including full or partial scholarships. Each educational institute has its requirements and you can get more information on their site.  The Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorates is a unique European program that offers doctorates as joint doctoral degrees by providing students with a chance to participate in and contribute to several international research projects that the European Commission funds.

Eiffel Scholarships: The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs offers Eiffel scholarships for international students, which are provided to pursue a PhD in three fields Science, Economy and Management, Law and Political Science. These scholarships are funded for a maximum duration of 12 months.

Government funding: The French government offers international students from developing countries to pursue a PhD degree at French public institutions. There are 10 doctoral contracts available, the contract is offered for 3 years and it is renewable and covers the research work, teaching and supervision.

  1. Poland

All universities in Poland can offer three degrees: a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree and a Doctoral degree. Most of the universities in Poland are public institutions, making it among the cheapest countries to study for a PhD degree. However, there are some private ones too. Doctoral students in Poland start their education after completing a Master’s degree. The whole program lasts for four years but in accelerated programs, you may finish it sooner.

Some conditions have to be met. First of all, your doctoral dissertation has to be completed and you need to take all the required exams. Some universities make their students practice at school for at least 90 hours. This applies to those students who would like to work as a teacher after they finish their education.

Cost of living in Poland

The cost of living in Poland while studying for a PhD Degree is relatively low. It is estimated that students will need 1,500 to 2,300 zlotys per month to cover the costs of rent, food, transport and other expenses. This is equivalent to a range of US $400 to US $600. In comparison to cities like London or New York where this amount is spent only on rent. Basic food products such as bread, rice, eggs or milk are at a lower price whereas pricey products such as electronics, alcohol and vehicles are slightly more expensive.

The Polish Government has prepared a list of the minimum costs of living that a foreign student will need to be able to afford life in Poland. Please note that the costs of living might differ depending on the city and its location and popularity on a national and global scale.

Tuition Fees in Poland

Though there are no tuition fees at public institutions in Poland, students at both public and private institutions may need to pay fees of around €2000 a year for courses instructed in a language other than Polish (foreign language fees). Also, doing a PhD within a national network normally includes costs relating to insurance and conference fees. Note that costs are usually low and the availability of department funding varies depending on the university you are attending.

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities in Poland

There are a multitude of funding sources provided by the Polish government that are dedicated to providing financial aid to international doctoral candidates. Doctoral scholarships for students are available at all 18 of the universities in Poland. The scholarships support doctoral programs designed to train future researchers in a variety of fields. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland supports students who come to Poland based on intergovernmental agreements, including agreements with the United States, France, Germany, Ukraine, and others.

  1. Austria

International students who are not citizens of the European Union must pay at least 726.72 Euros per semester and a student union fee of about 18 Euros. The level of tuition can be different depending on the university and the chosen academic program. Doctoral students are not required to pay the tuition fees if they can finish their coursework and thesis in the designated time, usually four years if the applicant is studying full-time or six years if they are studying part-time.

PhD students can receive stipends from many organizations. For example, The Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research(AIChE) offers several scholarships, stipends and awards at almost every university in the country. Keep in mind that some universities may require language proficiency tests. It is important to always verify if the academic program chosen requires the student to demonstrate proficiency in German.

Cost of living in Austria

Living costs in Austria aren’t too bad at all – around €800 (~US$895) a month on average seems to be a realistic and manageable figure to work with. Food and drink will probably be your biggest expense after rent, although this obviously depends on your lifestyle and personal tastes. You can prepare for about €200 (~US$225) a month for groceries and meals.

Most higher education institutions can help arrange housing for international students, with options including on-campus halls of residence, private accommodation or private housing. Academic fees for non-EU students in Austria are generally higher, usually ranging between €1,500-€2,500 (~US$1,685-$2,800) per year. Some universities also offer master’s and PhD fee exemptions and scholarships based on academic merit.

Tuition Fees in Austria

In most institutions in Austria, studying a PhD at a public university will essentially be free of charge if you are a citizen of an EU/EEA country. Only a nominal fee, known as the ÖH-Beitrag, of about €20 per semester will be required for you. This small amount of money will cover services, like your student union membership, and it will also enable you to purchase tickets to parties and events at a discounted student price.

Suppose you are not from an EU/EEA country. In that case, however, the tuition fees will be around €726.72 per semester, a reasonable amount compared to what you might pay at other institutions and private universities around the world. Therefore, if you are from an EU/EEA country, Austria would be an economic and wise place to consider for your PhD. Nonetheless, if you are considering studying in the country, it is still very important that you contact universities for specific fees and costs.

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities in Austria

There are several scholarships for international students who wish to study in Austria. Many of these are run through the Austrian government, although students are advised to check with their university in Austria to see what specific scholarships they offer. For all scholarships and funding that is received, recipients need to ensure that they remain eligible for each form of funding throughout the duration of their studies.

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