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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Share of grant beneficiaries

Comparative Data

fees adn support_share sup

Financial support aims to cover at least part of the expenses private households have to cover, including students’ study costs (tuition fees, books, etc.) and living costs (accommodation, travel, food, etc.).

The main public financial support mechanisms are:

  • direct financial support to students through grants and loans
  • indirect financial support is provided through allowances or tax incentives to students and/or to their parents

Direct financial support implies that students directly receive financial means to cover their expenses. All education systems offer at least one type of direct public financial support to their students. The money provided through grants does not have to be reimbursed, while loans are reimbursable. However, governments bear a part of the costs for publicly subsidised loans, for example through reduced interest rates or government guarantee. The availability, the type of support, the eligibility criteria and the amounts vary between education cycles and according to the student category.

In some countries waivers or reductions to student fees are considered as financial support. In these cases no money is transferred to students, and so such forms of support are more correctly understood as indirect financial support.


Grants are the most common form of student support in Europe, and the most significant in influencing students' financial security during studies.

Publicly subsidised loans exist in around two-thirds of the higher education systems. They are available to a lesser extent to international and part-time students.

Among countries that provide both public grants and publicly subsidised loans, most conceive them as two separate means of student support. Some, however, provide them as a 'package'[1].

There are substantial differences between education systems in the proportion of grant beneficiaries and loan borrowers.

Access to financial support is often limited by age. The limits vary between education systems and depend on the type of support concerned and the status of the applicant. Lower age limits usually indicate that the student support system focuses on young first-time students, typically dependent on their families’ financial support. Higher age limits or no age limits support and promote lifelong learning, including upskilling of adult population. Some countries establish upper age limits for first and/or second cycle students to access public grants or publicly subsidised loans. In more than half of the education systems, there is age limit for one or both of these forms of student financial support.


[1] Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway

The nature and the eligibility criteria applied to the three types of grants determine different shares of grant beneficiaries. Compared to need and merit-based grants, universal grants are available in fewer education systems but register a higher percentage of beneficiaries as the applicable eligibility criteria are broader compared to the other two grant types and do not privilege specific category of students. Need-based grants are offered in the majority of the education systems. However, the share of need-based grants’ holders is lower compared to universal grants as the applicable eligibility criteria and the purpose of the grant are more specific. Finally, a small share of the best-performing students receives merit-based grants. The share of part-time students benefiting from direct financial support is lower compared to full-time students.

Most of the education systems where fees are not applied register higher share of grant holders compared to systems charging fees.

14 Mar 2023