14 Countries That Charge Very Little or Nothing for Doctoral Degrees (PhD)

14 Countries That Charge Very Little or Nothing for Doctoral Degrees (PhD)

You may have heard that some places let doctoral degree or PhD students study for free. Is this true? Well, sort of. There are several countries that don’t charge any ‘tuition fees’ to doctoral degrees students.

It’s important to understand that ‘fee-free’ isn’t quite the same as ‘free’. There are lots of other expenses associated with a doctoral degree besides university fees; not least the cost of supporting yourself during three (or more) years of postgraduate research.

You may also find you need to pay for research trips or materials during your doctorate and some universities will also charge small amounts for registration or student union membership. The bottom line is that you may still need some funding, even if your doctoral degree itself is ‘free’.

But paying nothing (or very little) will certainly make a doctorate easier to fund. Let’s take a look at some of the places where you can do that.


Austria charges no fees at public research universities. However, this condition only applies to EU and EEA students who finish their doctorates on time (extra semesters cost €363.36 each). International students pay fees throughout their degrees, but the maximum cost is capped by the Austrian Government at a fairly low €726,72 per semester.

EU and EEA students do pay fees to study at Austria’s universities of applied sciences and all students pay a small students’ union contribution.

Read our guide to PhD study in Austria for more information, or take a look at some current Austrian PhD opportunities.


The country that invented the doctoral degrees is also one of the most affordable places to study a doctorate in Europe. Germany’s public universities charge doctoral degree fees to any students; this is different from Masters degrees, which do charge fees to international students in some cases.

Be aware that doctoral students do have to pay a small administration fee of €150-200 per semester. You may also incur fees if your doctorate lasts longer than three years.

Take a look at some current German PhD opportunities.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is home to some of Europe’s most historic universities; its public institutions charge no fees to doctorate students. There is a catch though: you’ll need to complete your doctorate in Czech. English-language programmes are available, but will generally charge additional fees.

Take a look at some current Czech PhD opportunities.


Denmark is another European country that charges no doctorate fees to EU, EEA and Swiss students at public universities. International students do pay relatively high fees, however.

Read our guide to PhD study in Denmark for more information, or take a look at some current Danish PhD opportunities.


Public universities in Finland charge no doctorate fees to any students, regardless of nationality. This is different to Finnish Masters programmes which do charge fees to international students.

Read our guide to PhD study in Finland for more information, or take a look at some current Finnish PhD opportunities.


Norway is another Nordic country that doesn’t charge fees to any students at its public universities (including those from outside the EU and EEA). However, you will have to pay a small semester fee whilst studying.

Read our guide to PhD study in Norway for more information, or take a look at some current Norwegian PhD opportunities.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia takes a fairly unique approach to doctorate funding. All students’ fees are automatically covered by scholarships (which also help cover living costs). Basically, if you’re accepted by a university, you’ll also be funded.

Read our guide to PhD study in Saudi Arabia for more information, or take a look at some current Saudia Arabian PhD opportunities.


A Nordic country that – you guessed it – doesn’t charge doctorate fees at public universities. Sweden also goes a little further and pays some PhD students a study grant to help cover living costs.

Read our guide to PhD study in Sweden for more information, or take a look at some current Swedish PhD opportunities.


PhD study in Brazil is free for domestic students at public universities, but many institutions also extend this offer to international postgraduates.


Doctorate study isn’t free in France, but it is remarkably cheap. All students pay €380 per year at public universities. This is different to Masters degrees which charge a higher rate to international students.


Hungarian universities offer a limited number of state-funded doctorate places to EU, EEA and Swiss students. If you’re accepted on to one of these you’ll pay no fees and also receive a maintenance grant.

Related: GMA Hosts PR Students (PReMSA) from UPSA


The cost of a PhD in Israel varies, but it’s actually quite common for universities to waive doctoral fees for the students they accept.

The Netherlands

Students who are accepted for a PhD in the Netherlands are often classified as university employees during their doctorate. If this is this the case for you, you won’t pay traditional PhD fees and may also receive a salary and / or other benefits.

New Zealand

Students do pay fees for PhD study in New Zealand. However, there isn’t a higher rate for international students, which makes the country a relatively affordable option for study abroad (as well as a very attractive and exciting one!).

Remember. . .

As I said at the beginning of this post, there’s more to a free doctorate than low fees. With a few exceptions, most of the countries above will still expect students to support themselves and this often means finding additional PhD funding for accommodation and living costs.

Source: findaphd

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