20 Countries Offering Affordable Doctoral Degrees or No-Cost PhDs

Is it possible to obtain a PhD without any cost? Indeed, you may be aware that certain institutions offer tuition-free opportunities for doctoral students. Well, in a way. In this post, let us discuss the top countries that offer free tuition to PhD students or affordable doctoral degrees. Whether you take a minor issue or a major issue, education has always been a common denominator, which binds the candidates, across the globe with a thin thread.

It is the best investment, that a country and parent can make. However, it is a fact that, in today’s world, education has become the most expensive thing, it no longer remains within the reach of the common man. Hence, countries offering affordable or no-cost doctoral degrees are mostly sought after.

In the present decade, more or less every individual is aspiring to fly high in the sky but due to lack of money, their aspirations are nipped in the bud. That is why, all of a sudden, the notion of ‘’Affordable or Free Doctoral Programs” is picking up extensively and students who missed out on the chance earlier are now able to realize their dreams.

A PhD program overseas offers a lot of benefits, such as the opportunity to study at world-class institutions, broaden your horizons, gain valuable work experience, and, of course, save a ton of money.

Overview of the Rising Cost of Education

The cost of tertiary education, particularly master’s and doctoral programs, is often on the rise. According to the World Economic Forum, the general cost of higher education has increased by 65%, and the cost of an undergraduate degree has surged by a massive 67%, when adjusted for inflation, from 2006 to 2016. In a 1985 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, it costs an estimated $5,504 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the USA. Compared to 2017, the cost of pursuing the same bachelor’s degree rose to about $27,357.

In the US, the cost of college tuition is roughly 2.5 times higher in 2017 than it was in 1978 and by 2030, you can guess what it would be, adjusted for inflation. Yet in many countries, the cost is reduced for international students in doctoral programs, while some countries across Scandinavia offer open funded PhD programs.

Doctoral Education

Doctoral students are typically more mature than other students pursuing higher education, meaning that many have taken time out of their initial studies to work or raise a family. As a result, they often have substantial financial responsibilities, particularly if they have dependents of their own. Such students can’t typically look to their families as a source of financial aid, and as a result students pursuing doctoral degrees often require financial aid and scholarships to help them pay for school.

Unfortunately, money is often tight in the current economy, and this has forced many institutions to scale back their financial aid packages, or not offer any at all. With this situation at hand, those who are determined go on to look for free doctoral degree programs to pursue. But is there anything like a free PhD?

One can easily say, “low-cost PhD degrees, tuition-free doctoral studies, PhD programs without tuition fees and so on but then, the cost of living expenditures for three or more years of postgraduate research are only one of many additional costs involved with a doctorate.

Importance of Doctoral Degrees

In addition to the educational and personal fulfillment of obtaining a doctoral degree, it also carries a prestige factor with it. Doctoral degree holders are often seen as an elite group of professionals, deemed experts with the ability to work at the highest levels within a specific field or on the cutting edge of the discipline.

When you obtain a doctoral degree from an international faculty or university, this prestigious level is raised even higher and can open doors to opportunities to work and study all over the world. These doctorate programs also provide students with the opportunity to study abroad and make international connections, collaborate with colleagues from around the world and become part of the technologically dynamic international research community of universities and other institutions.

Countries With Affordable Doctoral DegreesList of  Countries Offering Affordable Doctoral Degrees or No-cost PhDs

There are a few free PhD programs in Europe; however, many count countries like Germany, Norway and Sweden are among the best for affordable and practically free Doctorate degrees. Let us take a look at a list of countries offering affordable or no-cost PhD degrees

  1. Germany

Doctoral programs in Germany differ a lot from those in the UK and USA. Generally, they are completely state-funded, with no costs for tuition. Also, a lot of doctoral programs don’t carry any tuition fees just like undergraduate programs, some charge negligible tuition fees which are in 3 digits (about €100-350) per semester. Again it is not compulsory that you pay this fee, and you can also apply for a scholarship from German-based organizations or some from overseas organizations.

Some of the notable low-cost PhD degrees are offered in law, biosciences, economics & business. The deadlines for the application to doctoral programs vary a lot between universities, between different programs in a university and between different universities offering the same program. Known as the country that invented the doctoral program, Germany offers affordable doctoral programs.

  1. Norway

In Norway, all students can study at public universities at no cost, regardless of nationality. Students who wish to complete a doctorate in Norway should be aware that institutions in the country do not provide any support for international students who wish to gain a doctorate unless they have very high grades.

Therefore, it is important for students who wish to study in Norway to learn about and plan for all costs involved, which mostly include travel, living expenses, and tuition. Many institutions do not provide aid or information to students who come from outside of Norway.

  1. Finland

Finland has a statutory tuition fee system for students who are not citizens of an EU/EEA member state. However, PhD students can study for free in Finland if the institution they are studying at does not charge tuition fees. Since many public universities in Finland do not charge tuition fees for PhD students, one is likely to find the availability of a doctoral program within their area of expertise where they can study for free.

Some universities in Finland that offer Doctoral programs in English are the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, University of Eastern Finland, University of Oulu, and Tampere University.

  1. Sweden

Students with permanent high-speed internet access and a valid passport or national ID can study for a doctorate free of charge at a Swedish university. This might seem too good to be true, yet Sweden has a reputation of academic excellence reaching as far back as the invention of the Nobel Prize which annually recognizes outstanding contributions in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and economic sciences.

The no-tuition PhD opportunities offered in Sweden are one of the top reasons that makes Sweden a top destination for PhD research.

  1. Denmark

Denmark, like its neighbouring countries in Scandinavia, offers high quality PhD programs at a low price. Here, Phil/PhD students are charged around in tuition fees per year. Denmark also offers a range of student scholarships and grants to help cover living costs and tuition fees. One of the largest scholarship schemes is offered by the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Higher Education and provides support for many academics.

  1. Austria

And speaking of Austria, students of the medical sciences can expect to enjoy a tuition-free education at the doctoral level. The same applies to the life sciences, natural sciences, and technical sciences. And to the 99% of tuition-free programs, you can add the remaining 1% of paid programs. This is the price for a very small number of special programs. There is a small fee to be paid each semester to the Austrian Student Union for membership, insurance, and a postage stamp.

  1. Chile

In Chile, tradition and modernity sit side by side. The country has invested heavily in the practice of innovative learning and is a popular choice for postgraduate students. Chile is also a country offering free or low tuition for Ph.Ds. It is in Latin America, and you may want to consider the cost of living. However, the payoff in terms of having access to some of the best natural laboratories for research in the world makes it a desirable place to pursue a doctorate.

  1. France

As it turns out, France is home to the largest number of the world’s most prestigious and respected institutions. Doctorate students here not only have the privilege of earning a degree for free but can also get financial aid to help cover their living expenses. French doctorate students are also allowed to work part time to help sustain themselves during their studies. Public Universities in France offer Doctoral Programs at extremely reduced costs, and International students are eligible for the same tuition fees and scholarships that the locals are.

  1. Czech Republic

There are plenty of reasons to consider obtaining a degree in the Czech Republic, from its rich history and hearty cuisine to its relatively cheap cities and bustling nightlife. Tuition at public universities is free for students undertaking the first degree. However, fees are subject to students who have already obtained a degree and for students who remain enrolled beyond a 12-semester limit.

The Czech Republic has a number of high-ranked universities, falls at 43rd place in the U21 ranking, and performs well in the items that focus on Connectivity and Output. In addition, the country does not lack a good number of English-taught programs.

  1. Hungary

The tuition fees at Hungarian universities are quite affordable and cost-effective when compared to universities in other European countries. For example, you can expect to pay around €1000 to €2000 per year for the regular courses in social sciences and humanities. The tuition fees for technical and science courses are around €4500 to €6000 per year. Another advantage of doing a PhD in Hungary is its favorable geographic location within Europe.

The low living costs and affordable tuition fees make it a popular student destination. As a result, the cost of living in Hungary is very low when compared to other European countries, without compromising the quality of education. Additionally, the Hungarian government offers scholarships for foreign students, providing global students with extra support to study both the Hungarian language and tuition-free Hungarian degrees.

  1. Holland

In Holland, doctorate programs are offered mainly by organizations outside of the universities. These organizations have contracts with the universities that have the prerogative to grant doctorate degrees. Candidates complete their studies at the organization, where they are also taught and supervised. The exact procedure and requirements of the doctorate program, like the language in which the thesis must be written or the duration of the program, depend on the rules and regulations of the organization in question.

  1. Iceland

The University of Iceland offers PhD programs in a number of disciplines from the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences, the School of Social Sciences, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Humanities, and the School of Education. The university emphasizes research and students who enroll in a PhD program are required to write and defend a doctoral dissertation. Most PhD programs require a master’s degree. If a candidate has a total of 90 credits of both graduate and undergraduate work in the specific discipline, a special admission ruling can be assigned.

  1. Greece

Greece is a beautiful and historically rich country which has a long standing tradition of offering excellent and affordable education. However, if you wish to immerse yourself in a culturally stimulating environment while pursuing your doctoral degree, Greece is considered the perfect choice. The University of Athens which was founded in 1837 and is the oldest modern university in the Eastern Mediterranean, is also one of the highest-ranking universities in Greece. Many other universities offer doctoral programs in Greece, and given the low tuition fees and cost of living, it is an attractive option for students from all around the world.

  1. New Zealand

New Zealand is liked by students from all over the world for its beautiful and impressive landscapes. In addition, the quality of education in the country is of the highest standards. New Zealand is also well-known for its research work. There are affordable and even free doctoral programs available in New Zealand for international students. In some cases, the student must pay for extra fees or supplies. This is because the fees do not include living expenses and health insurance. In some programs, the estimated living expenses are approximately $15,000 per year. On the other hand, in some programs, they are $25,000 per year.

  1. Portugal

Public universities may charge tuition fees to non-E.U. students enrolled in the university’s regular programs. The majority of programs are available in Portuguese, but some are offered in English. Doctoral programs are usually available at universities and polytechnics with research centers, as well as in the polytechnics with the College of Technology and Management. Candidates must have a master’s degree in an appropriate field, or a first degree and an outstanding academic curriculum or a particularly relevant academic or scientific curriculum.

  1. Estonia

Students pursuing a PhD in Estonia can enroll in a 4-year program, which can be extended to 6 years if necessary. Estonia is a small country located in the Baltic region, in North-Eastern Europe, with a rich history and cultural mix. While getting your degree, enjoy the lush green countryside, unique cuisine and music. Estonia is a good option for anyone wanting a cost-effective and challenging life as a PhD student.

  1. Latvia

There are several reasons that the University of Latvia can be appealing to foreign doctoral students: the array of English-taught doctoral programs in the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences; the university’s multi-lingual community; the prevalent use of English in the state; and, of course, free tuition.

  1. Lithuania

Lithuania is another European country that offers affordable education, including Doctoral degrees. One notable program is the tuition-free scholarship for places at universities run by the Republic of Lithuania Law on Higher Education and Research for persons of Lithuanian origin. This is funded by the Lithuanian government or the European Social Fund, with competition for eligible places being held each year.

  1. Japan

In Japan, tuition for doctoral students and similar degree programs at public institutions is typically much lower than at private institutions. The majority of Japanese institutions have fees to cover matriculation, tuition, and library use and may include health insurance. However, fees vary widely and can range from 10,000 to 20,000 USD per year. Moreover, other fees related to facilities, programs, or the like might apply. Unlike in other countries, in Japan, the funding and enrollment process is entirely separate. Eligibility for funding to study is decided after the admittance into the university.

  1. Argentina

The Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, known as the National University of Córdoba, offers a prestigious, fully-funded doctorate program in Political Science. Collaborating with UADE, a private institute, the university provides financial assistance and fosters academic excellence for aspiring scholars. Through public-private partnerships, the university empowers students to contribute to political knowledge and sets an example for global educational institutions. The Universidad Nacional de Córdoba prioritizes no-cost education and equal opportunities for talented individuals in Argentina and South America.


If you are open to the idea of earning a doctoral degree in another country, you should be able to find programs with either very low tuition or no tuition at all. The trick is often in finding these programs and wading through the unique conditions of each country’s offerings. With this guide, you will have somewhere to start your search, and you can begin to ask the right questions to target communities in foreign countries and gain access to invaluable experiences, opportunities, and doctoral study options.


Leave a Reply

You May Also Like