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Can Indian students transfer to tuition-free universities?

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The European Credit Transfer System is a points system used by universities to make international education more comparable across borders. Source: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Post-graduate work opportunities. A world-class education. Easier immigration pathways. These are reasons why many Indian students choose to study abroad — and many more will follow.

Approximately 1.8 million Indian students will spend between US$75 to US$85 billion by 2024 on international education, according to RedSeer Strategy Consultants. Pair that with the country’s currency breaching the 80 rupees per US dollar level twice in July, and Indian students are bound to struggle more thanks to a weak currency.

Fortunately, tuition-free options are a great way to access quality education without breaking the bank. In these institutions, not one rupee goes to applications, books, or course materials (though you may need to pay some administrative fees).

If you’re an Indian studying abroad, consider transferring to tuition-free universities in Europe. Curious about how to do this? Here’s what you need to know about the European Credit Transfer System:

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Since Europe houses a number of tuition-free universities, the ECTS is a great way for you to transfer to these institutions. Source: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Can I transfer to tuition-free universities in Europe?

If you are an Indian student studying at a university that uses the European Credit Transfer System in Europe, it is possible for you to transfer to a tuition-free university in this region. If you’re studying at an Indian uni, you cannot transfer to a tuition-free university in Europe.

What is the European Credit Transfer System?

Most tuition-free universities are located in Europe. They follow the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), which helps us compare how credits taken at one higher education institution are counted towards a qualification studied for at another. 

With this system, you can collect credit from different universities in Europe. The European Commission’s website notes: “ECTS has been adopted by most of the countries in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).” Currently, there are 49 countries included in the EHEA. 

How do the ECTS credits convert to study hours?

ECTS credits indicate the required workload to complete a module within a study programme. Generally, a year of full-time study is worth 60 ECTS credits. 

The ECTS points for a bachelor’s degree range from 180 ECTS (three years full-time) to 240 ECTS (four years full-time). For a master’s programme, the ECTS points will range from 60 ECTS to 120 ECTS.

The number of study hours convertible to one ECTS credit will differ according to the different countries in the EHEA. Here are a few examples: 

  • UK: 1 ECTS equals 20 study hours 
  • Austria, Ireland, Italy, Malta: 1 ECTS equals 25 study hours
  • Finland, Lithuania, Sweden: 1 ECTS equals 27 study hours
  • Netherlands, Portugal: 1 ECTS equals 28 study hours
  • Germany: 1 ECTS equals 30 study hours

We recommend you check if the university stated the ECTS credits for a particular module on its website. 

What is the purpose of ECTS credits?

With this system, students can quickly transfer between European universities or institutions that accept ECTS credits. You can also convert your ECTS credits to UK or US credit points since two UK credits are equivalent to one ECTS credit. One US credit amounts to two ECTS points. 

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Consider the cost of living when transferring to a tuition-free university in Europe. Source: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Should you transfer to a tuition-free university?

While you can transfer the ECTS credits you earned from a uni within the EHEA to a tuition-free institution, do consider the expenses you will incur when living and studying in a different country. 

Take, Norway, for example. You can expect to spend between 20,000 to 40,000 Norwegian krone (1 Norwegian krone is approximately US$0.097 at the time of writing) to live in this Nordic country. 

It would also take time to adapt to your new living environment. On top of that, you may need to cope with a different learning style as some tuition-free universities emphasise research-led training that will require students to participate in class actively.