Free education

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Free education is education funded through government spending or charitable organizations rather than tuition funding. Many models of free higher education have been proposed.[1] Primary school and other comprehensive or compulsory education is free in many countries (often not including primary school textbooks as well as certain post-secondary administrative and sundry fees), including post-graduate studies in the Nordic countries.[2] The Article 13 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ensures the right to free education at primary education and progressive introduction of it at secondary and higher education as the right to education.[3]

In University of Oslo, there is no tuition fee except a small semester fee of NOK(600) (74 USD).[4] From 2013 in Northern Europe, Estonia started providing free higher education as well. Sweden, until the early 21st century, provided free education to foreign students but changes have been introduced to charge fees to foreign students from outside the European community.[5] Denmark also has universal free education, and provides a monthly stipend, the "Statens Uddannelsesstøtte" or "SU",[6] to students over 18 years of age or students who are under 18 and attending a higher education.[7] Bachelor and master's degree programmes in Denmark are offered in either Danish or English depending on the programme or university.[8] Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, and Turkey provide free education at all levels, including college and university for its citizens.


In Brazil, free education is offered by the Ministry of Education, which offers scholarships for graduate degrees, masters, doctoral and post-doctoral for Brazilians and immigrants who have Brazilian citizenship. The best universities and research centers are public institutions, financed by either the local state (state universities) or the federal government (federal universities). Graduate students can get paid if they qualify for the incentive but competition is extremely fierce. There has been a proliferation in the last 10 years of private universities which are interested in providing professional training to their undergraduates. These private colleges are not interested in nurturing research centers, since it is not part of their business model to get involved with research.

In European countries such as France and Malta, tuition is usually free for European students, and in Germany, tuition is free for all European and international students.[9] In Scotland, university tuition is free for all Scottish nationals and is discounted for all European students, except from students coming from other parts of the United Kingdom.

In Fiji the government announced in 2013 it would cover the costs of primary and secondary school education, equivalent to 250 Fiji dollars per year per student.[10]

In Iran, most prestigious universities are called governmental universities which offer free education for students who pass a very competitive entrance exam with high scores. Graduates from these universities are obliged to serve the country for as many years as they studied for their degree, in order to get their diploma.

In Mauritius, the government provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary levels. Since July 2005, the government also introduced free transport for all students.

In New Zealand, the Labour government will introduce three years of free post-school study or training. In 2018, new students will have one year free for entering study or training from January 1, 2018. From 2021, those starting tertiary education would get two years free, and from 2024 three years. The overall cost of the package is $6 billion. Labour has also pledged to increase student allowances by $50 a week, and to restore post-graduate students' eligibility for student allowances.[11]

In the Philippines, free public tertiary education has been enacted in 2017.

In Russia, prior to the break-up of the Soviet Union, tuition was free for everyone obtaining sufficient grades. Since 1991, if a student obtains sufficient grades, he or she is still eligible for a free education (on a competitive basis) in state or private universities, but he/she can also pay for studying if grades are above minimal threshold, but not enough to be enrolled into desired university for free.[12]

In Sri Lanka, free education is provided by the government at different levels. Government funded schools such as national schools, provincial schools and piriven provided primary and secondary education free, while assisted schools and semi-governmental schools provided the same at subsidized rates. At the university level, the universities provide undergraduate courses free, however, this totals only about 10% for those qualified for university entrance. Grants and scholarships are provided for a limited number of study allowances. Hon.C.W.W.Kannangara who was the Minister of Education made education free for all Sri Lankan students in 1940 s. Kannangara's significant achievements in areas of education have led him to being commonly referred to as the Father of Free Education in Sri Lanka. Health services of Sri Lanka are also free.

In Thailand, free education began around in 1996.

Therefore we have to improve and provide free education for poor children up to 12 years in formal schools. Non-formal education, then, should play a greater role in secondary and higher education. What I would like to achieve is to see our educational system assist people to be able to cope with social and economic problems and progress

UNESCO page 53-56[13]

There are examples of steps towards free education being taken across the world primarily in those nations developing rapidly, such as China.[14]

Trinidad and Tobago offers free tertiary education to its citizens up to the undergraduate level at accredited public and select private institutions. Postgraduate degrees are paid up to 50% by the government at accredited institutions. This benefit is given to the citizens under a programme called Government Assisted Tuition Expenses Programme and it is managed by the Funding and Grants Administration Division of the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training[15]

In the United States, students pay tuition to attend community colleges, with many taking on debt in the form of federal loans i.e. "student loans". There are still some universities in the United States that have free education such as the City University of New York, or CUNY, and State University of New York, or SUNY.[16]

Uruguay adopted free, compulsory, and secular education in 1876, after a reform led by José Pedro Varela during the Lorenzo Latorre dictatorship. The University of the Republic follows the same principles, although graduates must pay a yearly contribution.


In the Islamic Golden Age a tradition of free madrasa-based education arose.[17][18]

Free education has long been identified[by whom?] with "sponsored education". This may now evoke images of advertising campaigns, but in the past, especially during the Renaissance, a rich dignitary might commonly sponsor the education of a young man as his patron.[19]

Thomas Jefferson proposed, "establishing free schools to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, and from these schools those of intellectual ability, regardless of background or economic status, would receive a college education paid for by the state."[20]

In the United States, Townsend Harris founded the first free public institution of higher education, the Free Academy of the City of New York (today the City College of New York), in 1847; it aimed to provide free education to the urban poor, immigrants and their children. Its graduates went on to receive 10 Nobel Prizes, more than any other public university.[21] During the late 19th century the government[which?] introduced compulsory education as free or universal education, which extended across the country by the 1920s.

In 1944 U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, also known as the GI Bill of Rights, into law. The GI Bill allowed World War II veterans to attend universities at no cost to them.[22]

Governments typically fund compulsory education through taxes. Aggravated truancy can be prosecuted. Homeschooling, private or parochial schooling usually offer legal alternatives.

With the start of many free internet-based learning institutions such as edX (founded in 2012) and MITx (announced in 2011), anyone in the world with Internet access can take free education-courses.[23] In many[quantify] countries, the policy for the merit system has not yet caught up with these recent advances in education technology.[citation needed]

On the Internet[edit]

Online education has become an option in recent years, particularly with the development of free MOOCs (massive open online courses) from providers such as Khan Academy (High School) and Higher Education, through providers such as Udacity, FutureLearn, Alison, World Education University (WEU) and Coursera. Free education has become available through several websites with some resembling the courses of study of accredited universities. Online education faces barriers such as institutional adoption, license or copyright restrictions, incompatibility and educator awareness of available resources.[24]

Due to the extensive requirements of resources for online education, many open community projects have been initiated. Specifically, the Wikimedia Foundation has developed a project devoted to free online educational resources, Wikiversity, and recently, several other sites for specific topics have developed.[25]

Christian Leaders Institute offers tuition free college level ministry education. Students can take any classes free of charge, but are encouraged to help support the mission of the institution by making donations to this 501 (c)3 United States Charity.[26]

The Islamic Online University (IOU), a distance-learning higher education institution, offers tuition-free graduate and undergraduate degrees. A very modest registration fee is charged per semester, which is based on the human development index and thus varies from country to country.[27] The IOU is offering one million scholarships for African youths by 2020.[28]

Other examples[edit]

Free education does not only take the form of publicly funded institutions like state universities.

In France, philosopher Michel Onfray created the first non-governmental free education university since antiquity, in 2002, with his Université populaire de Caen in Normandy. His decision was triggered by the accession of far-right party Front National to the second round of the 2002 French presidential elections. Onfray stated that people need more political, historical and philosophical background education to be more conscious citizens. His university is run by an association loi 1901.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Public Higher Education Should Be Universal and Free".
  2. ^ The Swedish School System Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  3. ^ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 13, 1
  4. ^ "Global Scholarships for International Students". uscollegeinternational.com.
  5. ^ "UKÄ och UHR". www.hsv.se. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Forside". su.dk. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  7. ^ "404 - side ikke fundet - su.dk". www.SU.dk. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Bachelor – Syddansk Universitet". Sdu.dk. 18 April 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  9. ^ "World-class education that costs nothing". CNN.com. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  10. ^ "Free education for primary and secondary school students in Fiji". Radio NZ. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Free university study just months away". NZ Herald. 21 October 2017. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Закон об образовании Статья 100. Контрольные цифры приема на обучение за счет бюджетных ассигнований федерального бюджета, бюджетов субъектов Российской Федерации, местных бюджетов". Zakon-ob-Obrazovanii.ru. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  13. ^ (PDF) 2Eo.pdf https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000122102 2Eo.pdf Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 10 January 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ "China ends school fees for 150m". BBC news. 2006-12-13. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  15. ^ Willies, Egberto. "These countries give free college education to their citizens". Factualinfo.com.
  16. ^ "Need-Based Tuition-Free Education - CUNY Value - CUNY". www.cuny.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  17. ^ Hardaker, Glenn; Sabki, Aishah Ahmad (2019). "1.2.1: Phase One: The traditionalist Madrasah". Pedagogy in Islamic Education: The Madrasah Context. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing. p. 8-9. ISBN 9781787547186. Retrieved 4 Apr 2019. Before the Western influence, madrasahs imparted knowledge by a chain of transmission [...]. [...] Typically, a madrasah institution provided free education and library facilities; a wide range of subject expert teachers and students were provided with the necessary resources for their studies. A recognised early Sunni madrasah was Al-Azhar University, Cairo, one of the first Sunni centres of learning in the tenth century [...]
  18. ^ Lapidus, Ira M. (2014) [1988]. "21: Muslim communities and Middle Eastern Societies 1000-1500 CE". A History of Islamic Societies (3 ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 217. ISBN 9780521514309. Retrieved 4 Apr 2019. [...] the colleges were also endowed with permanent sources of income [...] set aside in perpetuity. The trusts (awqaf) paid the salaries of the faculty and stipends for students.
  19. ^ "Education – FREE Education information | Encyclopedia.com: Find Education research". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  20. ^ Crittenden, Jack; Levine, Peter (1 January 2013). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 ed.).
  21. ^ "... the founding, in 1847, of the Free Academy, the very first free public institution of higher education in the nation.", Baruch College history website. [1]
  22. ^ Chris Edwards, Neal McCluskey (2015-11-01). "Higher Education Subsidies". Downsizing the Federal Government. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  23. ^ See for example: "MITx". edx.org.
  24. ^ "The Cape Town Open Education Declaration". Capetowndeclaration.org. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Wikimedia Foundation". Wikimediafoundation.org.
  26. ^ "Online Ministry Training Admission - Free Training". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  27. ^ "Islamic Online University (Gambia)". The Talloires Network. 2015-07-31. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  28. ^ "Education centres for the under privileged". Rising Sun Lenasia. 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  29. ^ "La Contre-Histoire de la philosophie : l'Université Populaire de Caen enfin disponible en podcasts" [The Contra-History of Philosophy: the Popular University of Caen finally available on podcasts] (in French). 3 November 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2017.