10 Most Affordable Countries in Europe to Do Your Economics PhD
Are you interested in doing a PhD in economics but worried about the cost? It's a real concern for many, and can dramatically affect your decision-making process. If you live in the United Kingdom you could end up in around fifty thousand pounds worth of debt at the end of your three years, and in the United States even more than this, the numbers unfathomable for any eighteen-year-old. The psychological effects of having this weigh over you, not only while you're studying but also afterwards while you search for a job and begin to work, can be massive; this, of course, doesn't even take into account the fact that most people will be paying this money off for the rest of their lives, unless they are one of the lucky few to earn enough that it stops being a problem. Indeed, with the current the student mental health crisis in full swing, it seems hard to argue that the debt many Western students are facing isn't a contributing factor.
Fortunately, the UK and the US aren't the only two places in the world with universities great for studying economics, and particularly in Europe, higher education hasn't yet been turned into corporate business, meaning not only are degrees cheap, some are completely free. And paying less (or even nothing) doesn't translate into a lesser experience. To the contrary, many of countries on this list can make legitimate claims to housing some of the most prestigious higher learning institutions in the world.
Studying abroad has other advantages, too: learning a new language, for one, but also getting to know a new culture, meeting people you may not normally come into contact with, and more generally forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. Something that while scary, is often incredibly rewarding. So without trying to convince you to move to another country any further, read on for our list of the top ten places in Europe to study your economics degree cheaply.
Germany's positive academic reputation is known worldwide, and the country has a rich, impressive higher education system. Most universities in Germany have very low or no tuition fees, and there are large numbers of government grants available for PhD students, such as those provided by the DAAD or the Excellence Initiative. Living costs vary between areas, but rent control means that housing is relatively affordable in Germany, although this has been increasing in recent years. There are often plenty of courses available in various fields in English; aside from that, learning German, while a tough language, can be an extremely rewarding experience. This author can testify.
The cost of tuition fees for PhD students in Denmark is also low: usually around DKK 3,600 (US$500) per year, making it an extremely affordable option for studying. The quality of life is very high there, with a strong culture of environmental awareness and beautiful countryside. Rent and food can be expensive in large cities like Copenhagen, however, something that definitely needs to be taken into consideration; in contrast – and rather helpfully – jobs pay equivalently well.
France is known for its world-leading technical colleges like l’Ecole Polytechnique, where tuition fees are typically very low for PhD students at just €400 (US$440) per year. Paris can be an eye-wateringly expensive city to live in, but other cities like Lyon or Toulouse are more affordable and also have exceptionally good universities. It may be a little harder to find courses in English at French universities, but they definitely exist, even for economics.
If you can handle the cold, you might consider studying in Helsinki, Finland, which has two world-leading universities. It is far more affordable to live there than in other Scandinavian capital cities, so if you want a taste of Scandinavian life without the hefty price tag then this might be for you. Moreover, Finnish universities generally offer a lot of courses in English, meaning you won't have to learn the language, renowned for being extremely difficult. Even so it might be worth giving it a try!
Free tuition for all doctoral students – this is something incredible which is offered by Sweden. There are also scholarships available from the Swedish government to cover living expenses of PhD students who come from other countries to study in Sweden. With a high quality of life and well-regarded universities for economics, Sweden is both highly affordable and highly attractive for studying. Bear in mind, though, that the cost of living, especially in cities, can be high.
Brussels is a bustling and highly cosmopolitan city best known as a centre of political activity, but it also has a number of reputable educational institutions. PhD students in economics, politics or international relations in particular will find this a highly stimulating environment. The cost of living is generally lower than other European cities and tuition fees are in the mid-range.
Affordable in terms of both tuition fees and living costs, Hungary is a rising power in the European academic world. Academic scholarships for international students are common, making it a popular choice with students from around the world. The city of Budapest is known for being one of the most interesting and culturally intriguing cities in Europe, and it has universities like the Corvinus University of Budapest which offers programs in English. Bear in mind that Hungarian is a notoriously difficult language to learn, and the political situation in the country has become less and less inviting over recent years, something important to consider when moving abroad.
Who could resist the chance to spend a few years in Italy, eating what surely everyone agrees is the best cuisine in the world? (According to the Italians, at least.) As well as delicious food and a relaxed, casual way of life, Italy offers good technical universities as well as institutions which specialise in economics, the arts, history, and architecture. Accommodation costs vary considerably even within a city, meaning that there are usually options available for students on a budget. Tuition fees are low and it's increasingly common to find international students at Italian universities.
Another Scandinavian country which offers very low tuition fees is Norway. Tuition is generally free for all students, including international students, at all educational levels. Students only have to pay a small administrative fee of $50-$100 per semester, and the universities are of high quality. However, the costs of living in Norway can be very high, with the cost of basic staples among the most expensive in Europe. On the plus side, Norwegian is arguably one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn once you've got past the difficult pronunciation; unfortunately, Norwegians often speak such good English, you may never have a chance to practise.
Finally, one country which you might not have considered as a location for your studies is Ukraine. The capital city, Kiev, is both beautiful and lively, and there are many well-regarded institutions there, particularly in the area of medicine, but also for economics. Universities in Ukraine generally have cheap tuition fees and the cost of living is potentially the lowest on this list. Again, the political situation, particularly in the east, is unstable, but generally the north and west of the country remain safe.
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Tips for a Successful PhD Application
Whether you are applying to a structured program like those typically found in the United States, an independent research PhD like those in much of Europe and elsewhere, or a hybrid of the two, the first step is to gather your thoughts (and paperwork) in an effort to convince the admissions board that you are the most qualified and motivated candidate for the position. Regardless of location or discipline, your application will almost certainly include a personal statement, transcripts, copies of your previous degrees and letters of recommendation.
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Why do a PhD?
If you're an economics student currently doing your undergraduate or Master's degree, you might be considering doing a PhD at some point. The idea of dedicating another three years or more of your life to original research is both exciting and terrifying, and the experience of actually doing it can be both exhilarating and harrowing. Taking the step towards doing a PhD is a big decision, and one that shouldn't be made without the proper research and consideration. Once taken, however, it can be an extremely valuable experience and one that can set you up nicely in the future.