Can Getting a Degree Overseas be Cheaper Than Attending a Singapore University?

By Joanne Poh

Going to university in Singapore is getting pretty damn expensive. We’ve reached the point where studying abroad can cost you the same amount of money or even less, even taking into account overseas living costs. How is that possible, you might ask? Well, many European universities are free to attend or charge ridiculously low tuition fees.


With public universities in Singapore charging annual tuition fees of $7,000 to $12,000++ a year and private schools often costing much more, the amount of money you save by studying locally is decreasing rapidly.


You’ll also have to bear in mind the fact that the cost of living in Singapore rising, so even with a roof over your head courtesy of your parents you’ll still be paying quite a bit for food and entertainment. A $10,000-a-year degree course and living expenses of $500 a month will add up to $16,000 a year.


In comparison, studying at an overseas university offering degree courses free or at a low price can cost a comparable amount.


For instance, a year at the University of Vienna or the Free University of Berlin can cost you less than $20,000. In addition, if your visa gives you the right to work a certain number of hours a year, a part-time job will probably earn you more than it will in Singapore, because minimum wage. In addition, you’ll gain the life-changing experience of being able to live overseas.


If you’re a particularly forward-looking young student, studying and becoming proficient in German, French or Spanish can open doors to you later by making you eligible for a wider range of cheap degree courses. While most free foreign universities conduct masters courses in English, the same can’t be said for bachelor’s degrees.


Here are four overseas universities where you can get a degree at a reasonable price.


1. University of Vienna (Universit├Ąt Wien), Austria


Tuition fees: Tuition fees at the University of Vienna are spectacularly low at 745.42 euro (1,180 SGD) per semester, meaning you pay just 2,360 SGD a year.


Living costs: Austria is a relatively inexpensive country to live in, and estimated living costs for students in Austria, including rent, are about 850 euro (1,260 SGD) to 1,000 euro (1,482 SGD) a month, which works out to about 15,120 SGD to 17,784 SGD a year, about the same as what a local student ends up paying for a year of studies and living costs.


Courses: Most of the bachelor’s courses are taught in German, but there is a fairly wide range of master’s courses conducted in English, including economics, environmental science and biology.


Total cost per year: 17,480 SGD to 20,144 SGD


2. Free University Berlin (Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin), Germany


Tuition fees: As the university’s name suggests, most of the courses are free of charge.


Living costs: The estimated living costs in Berlin, according to the university, are between 700 euro (1,109 SGD) to 1,100 euro (1,743 SGD) a month, including accommodation, food and pocket money. A year in Berlin will therefore cost you 13,308 SGD to 20,916 SGD a year, depending on your spending habits. On the low end of the scale, that’s less than what you would spend in Singapore.


Courses: The catch is that you need to be able to speak German to take most of the courses. There are, however, several masters courses that are conducted English, including chemistry, English studies, European law, sociology and anthropology.


Total cost per year: 13,308 SGD to 20,916 SGD


3. University of Oslo, Norway


Tuition fees: Most universities in Norway don’t charge tuition fees.


Living costs: Most people don’t consider studying in Norway because of the frigid winters and the high cost of living. While Norway is notoriously expensive, a modest student budget has been estimated at 10,000 NOK (1,740 SGD) a month, which includes the cost of rent, food, school supplies and some spending money. This works out to 20,880 SGD a year, which is about 30% more than what a Singapore university student would incur. However, bear in mind that students are allowed to work 20 hours a week, and McDonald’s workers in Norway earn about 95 NOK (16.50 SGD) to 140 NOK (24.40 SGD) an hour. As a student in Norway, getting a part-time job can defray your costs considerably.


Courses: The University of Oslo conducts a ton of courses in English at bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate level, with many in humanities, social sciences and sciences.


Total cost per year: At least 20,880 SGD


4. JAMK University of Applied Sciences, Finland


Tuition fees: Universities in Finland are absolutely free.


Living costs: On average, the university estimates that the average student needs about 750 euro. This amount includes rent, food, accommodation and pocket money. In a year you’ll need 13,308 SGD to 19,008 SGD, depending on your spending habits. You are allowed to work up to 25 hours per week during the school term and unlimited hours during the holidays.


Courses: The university’s English bachelor’s degree courses include international business, logistics engineering and nursing, while its English Master’s degree courses include international business management and IT.


This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 28 January 2015. It is reproduced with permission.



About The Author (Joanne Poh)

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.


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