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Free education (or subsidized education) is education that is provided at no cost to students. Although primary school and other comprehensive or compulsory education is free in many countries, in the Nordic countries all education is mostly free (often not including books (from primary) and a number of administrative and sundry fees in university), including post-graduate studies. In Swedenmarker and Finlandmarker, there is no fee for foreign students enrolling at a university, although they may not be eligible for the monthly study allowance and loan most nationals are. Answers to some of the frequently asked questions about studying in Sweden may be found online.. Denmarkmarker also has universal free education, and provides a monthly stipend, the "Statens Uddannelsesstøtte" or "SU", to students over 18 years of age.

Several other European countries, such as Englandmarker and Germanymarker, have had a history of some form of free education, as has Australia. In the 1970s the Australian Labor Party led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam introduced reforms which ensured free tertiary education. These reforms were removed later in the 1980s by the Bob Hawke Labor government. Students and radicals opposed the introduction of tertiary fees in the 1980s, and played an important part in forcing the Whitlam government to implement the free education system. Irelandmarker and Argentinamarker provide free education at all levels, including college and university.

In Brazil, free education is offered through the post-doctoral level. The best universities and research centers are public institutions, either financed by the local state (state universities) or by the federal government (federal universities). These public universities provide a great service to the country in preparing professionals. 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.

Elsewhere, free education usually comes to students in the form of scholarship and grants, if they cover all or most of students' expenses while at school. Providers of grants and scholarships may be individuals, institutions (often the school itself), advocacy initiatives, etc. They may have economic (e.g. tax-deductibility), humanitarian, charitable or religious motivations.

There are examples of steps towards free education being taken across the world primarily in those nations developing rapidly, such as China. In some developing countries like Sri Lankamarker education is free from the primary level up to the tertiary level. The renowned centers of learning in Libyamarker and Cubamarker may be attended free of charge.

History of free education

Free education has long been identified with "sponsored education". This may now evoke images of advertising campaigns, but in the past, especially during the Renaissance, it was common practice among rich dignitaries to sponsor the education of a young man as his patron.

In the late 1700s, Thomas Paine was amongst the earliest proponents of universal, free public education, which was considered to be a radical idea at the time.

In the United States, government compulsory education was introduced as free or universal education during the late 1800s, and extended across the country by the 1920s.

Compulsory education is typically funded through taxes. Aggravated truancy can be prosecuted. Homeschooling or private or parochial schooling is usually a legal alternative.

Free education on the Internet

Online education has become an option. One of the pioneering Universities to sponsor free education in management is the School of Business and Economics at Umeå Universitymarker. Free education has become available through several websites, some of them resembling online universities. Online education faces barriers such as institutional adoption, license/Copyright restrictions and incompatibility, and educator awareness of available resources.

Due to the extensive requirements of material for online education, many open community projects have been initiated. Specifically, the Wikimedia Foundationmarker has developed a project devoted to free online educational resources, Wikiversity, and recently, several other sites for specific topics have developed. MyMCAT was designed as a free community project to aid students wishing to take the MCAT.

See also


  1. The Swedish School System
  2. FAQ – Study in Sweden – SWEDEN.SE
  3. CIMO - Discover Finland - Practicalities - Costs
  4. The Danish School System
  5. BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China ends school fees for 150m

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