National Student Fee and Support Systems in European Higher Education – 2017/18

The renewed EU agenda for higher education supports higher education systems in Europe in responding to the needs of our increasingly know ledge-based economies and societies. To expand the knowledge base and foster progress, an increasing number of European citizens require high level knowledge and competences. One of the key challenges in developing quality mass higher education systems is to ensure that students have the necessary material conditions to study and fulfil their potential. The question of how this is ensured at national level is a key aspect of the social dimension of higher education, and student fee and support systems are thus important tools of national policies.
Issues regarding the interaction of student fees and support are, however, complex and difficult to compare accurately at European level. Fees and support play a role in supporting (or discouraging) access to higher education, and can also have an impact on progression and completion rates. While fees impose a financial burden – which may be more or less significant depending on the nature and level of the fees and the socio economic conditions of students and their families – support measures are able to alleviate financial obstacles to study.
Under EU legislation, all EU nationals are entitled to study in a host country’s education system on the same terms as its own nationals. In other words, the fee and support arrangements in place for home students are also applicable to all EU students.
There are many potential variations in situations regarding fees, and many different interpretations are possible. For these reasons, in this publication all costs charged to student
s (with the exception of contributions to student organisations) are considered to be a fee irrespective of the manner in which they are paid. Beyond the question of what is, and is not, a fee, there are many other dimensions to be considered. Where fees exist, are they paid by all or by some students? If fees are paid only by some, what are the main criteria that determine which students pay and which do not? And how much do they actually pay?

ISBN 978-92-9492-612-8 ISSN 2443-5260 doi:10.2797/274915 EC-AE-17-001-EN-N
Text completed in October 2017.
© Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, 2017