The cheapest and costliest universities in the world

Class, pay attention: university education for the whole Germany is free after lower Saxony became last state in the country to abolish tuition fees for students, including those from overseas.

The decision, announced earlier this month, will likely push Germany up the rankings of the most popular destinations for further education – it’s currently in fourth position, after the U.S., U.K. and Australia according to university rankings website topuniversitites.com.

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Neal Hamberg | Getty Images Graduates from the Harvard Business School MBA program.

Neal Hamberg | Getty Images
Graduates from the Harvard Business School MBA program.

But being free doesn’t necessarily make a university more popular – as the latest rankings show.

Cost versus quality

Australia has been ranked the most expensive university destination on average, with international students forking out a total of $42,093 a year when fees and the cost of living are accounted for, according to HSBC.

The U.S. is the third most expensive option after Australia and Singapore, with the total cost per year for foreign students coming in at $36,564, followed by the U.K. at $35,045.

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Last year, the bank estimated that annual costs with fees to study in Germany amounted to $6,285. Going on last year’s numbers, less fees, which have now been waived, the annual cost of living in Germany as an international student comes to $5,650.

In terms of quality of education, the U.S. and the U.K. are both ranked in first and second place respectively, while Australia comes in third place.

India is listed at the cheapest overall place to study, with university fees costing just $581 and overall costs coming to $5,642, but is ranked the eighth best destination in terms of quality of education.

While the annual costs for overseas students to study in Australia top HSBC’s poll – which surveyed over 4,500 parents in 15 countries – the most costly institutions are located in the U.S. and the U.K.

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“Although the perception is that ‘west is best’ in terms of quality to educate children, the reality is that the costs are high. More than a third (38 percent) of parents rated the U.K. in their top three countries for educational quality, but the annual costs including university fees and living costs are in excess of $35,000 per year,” group head of wealth management at HSBC, Simon Williams said.

Tuition fees at the world’s top university

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been named the world’s top university by QS World Universities Rankings and is also one of the most expensive universities in the world. Undergraduate tuition fees for both domestic and international students amount to a whopping $45,016 for 2014/2015.

Including the cost of housing, books and personal expenses the figure rises to $61,030.

However some 90 percent of all students receive some financial aid, with the university awarding over $87 million in financial aid to 4,500 undergraduate students last year according to MIT.

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“The U.S. and China rate each other’s educational systems highly, putting each other in their top three for the quality of education they provide. Some 73 percent of Chinese parents think the U.S. offers a high quality education. However, it may be more cost effective for parents in the U.S. to send their children to university in China, with an annual overall cost of less than $11,000 per year,” Williams said.

The University of Cambridge comes in second place in the global rankings, where foreign students pay $38,108, less than its U.S. counterparts Harvard and Stanford, which are ranked fourth and seventh respectively fees amount to around $44,000

Ranked fifth is rival Oxford University, where international fees come to almost $35,000.

For U.K. and EU students, both Oxford Cambridge charges the maximum amount under government regulations on undergraduate programs at £9,000 per year ($14,389).

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