A recent Eurydice report 'National student fee and support systems' looks into university fee systems across Europe and provides the main features of each national system in the EU and EEA countries (except for the Netherlands and Luxembourg, who did not provide information).
The study included only public or government-dependent private higher education institutions and examined both full and part-time students at the bachelor and master levels. Support systems taken into account provide details about student grants and loans, tax benefits for students’ parents and family allowances. The aim of the study was to provide at-a-glance overview of national higher education systems and facilitate comparison among countries although the report demonstrates high diversity and wide variations among systems, which requires cautious interpretation of data.
An example of such variations are fees, which range from non-existent, mainly in the Nordic countries, to more than EUR 5 000 per year in Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia, the UK and Turkey. In some of these countries states cover student fees on the basis of academic performance. In Turkey, on the other hand, fees range from EUR 540 for the Bachelor and EUR 151 for the Masters level to respectively EUR 22 866 and EUR 17 290 at those universities which receive limited financial support from the state. Germany is an interesting example of going against the trend of introducing or increasing fees - even if fees were introduced at universities in the past, they have mostly been abolished again.
The most common forms of student support are grants and loans. In most countries, grants are either awarded on the basis of academic performance (merit-based) or financial need (need-based). The latter do not exist, or are at least not mentioned, only in Iceland and Montenegro. The countries that provide students with the highest amounts of need-based grants – with a maximum of EUR 5 000 per academic year, are Belgium (Flemish Community), Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Wales and Switzerland. In Germany, Liechtenstein and Norway, there is a combined system of grants and loans where part of the amount is given as a grant and part of it has to be paid back as a loan.
In around half of the countries, students’ families are entitled to some kind of support in the form of tax benefits or family allowances. This kind of help depends on the number of dependent children in the family, the age of the students or the number of hours a student spends working in addition to studying.
Overall, although the report reflects the well-known difficulty of comparing national higher education systems and of having a European-wide perspective, it still points to some recent changes in national policies and provides a useful snapshot of higher education structures across Europe.