The opportunity to live and study for a degree in the United Kingdom is highly sought after by students worldwide. This is due to the UK boasting some of the most prestigious universities in existence/ and multicultural, diverse, and vibrant cities up and down the land. However, this undertaking can be costly for international students.
With tuition fees alone usually costing upwards of £10,000 a year, coupled with the burden of everyday living costs and studying expenses, international students studying in the UK can find themselves facing an eye-watering sum of money for the privilege!
So how much does it generally cost for international students to study in the UK? Is it worth it, and how will Brexit affect the situation for students from the European Union?
In the academic year 2019/20, undergraduate fees generally ranged from £9,250 to £39,475 per annum/ but could be as staggeringly high as £61,000 for medical degrees. Happily, the majority fell between a much more manageable range of £12,000 – £20,000.
During the same period, international students studying for postgraduate degrees in the UK could expect to pay between £5,000 and £35,750. However, this rose to as high as £47,100 for medical degrees and £57,200 for MBAs. The average was, once again, between £12,000 and £20,000.
It’s safe to say that studying in the UK is not generally cheap! However, there is a considerable variation in the tuition fees that international students can expect to be charged. The exact cost will depend on the university in question, course, level, and duration of study.
Overseas students intending to study in the UK should consider the following:
- More prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge are likely to be much more expensive than polytechnics and colleges.
- Science and medical degrees will be considerably more costly than degrees in arts and humanities. This is primarily due to the latter being lecture-based, whereas the former involves expensive equipment and laboratories.
- The length of your course may also affect the overall cost, as tuition fees change from year to year.
With such a vast range of variables, it’s always best to contact the individual university for clarity as to how much it will cost.
Fees for International Undergraduates
Undergraduate courses in the UK tend to run for three years, but this is not always the case.
For example, it’s ordinary in Scotland for undergraduate courses to last four years. This is because they often involve a year in industry. These are known as ‘Sandwich Courses’.
The average cost of an undergraduate degree in the UK in £12,000 per year. This amounts to £36,000 in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and £48,000 in Scotland for non-EU nationals.
Fees For International Postgraduates
Further study after completion of an undergraduate degree will mean higher fees, especially for master’s and PhDs – the proverbial ‘Holy Grail(s)’ of higher education.
International would-be postgraduate students should also be mindful that further study may involve extra costs for specialised resources and research equipment, particularly if the course in question is science or medicine-based.
Postgraduate tuition fees tend to fluctuate according to the same criteria as undergraduate courses do. However, bursaries and scholarships are more commonplace for postgraduate studies, so it’s always worth checking to see if you can qualify for additional financial support.
Language Courses & Programmes
It’s not unusual for overseas students to study languages at one of the UK’s numerous language schools.
Again, prices vary depending on the institution, though not quite as drastically. The average cost tends to be between £70 and £100 per week for a standard full-time course/ but can rise to as much as £1,000 for intensive courses.
Prospective students should be aware that accredited courses will be more expensive than non-accredited ones. However, by definition, the former will carry far more gravitas than the latter in terms of future career opportunities.
Tuition Fees: The UK vs. the Rest of the World
In many ways, this section is a clear victory for the rest of the world.
Countries such as Sweden, South Africa, Germany, Denmark, and Finland are usually cheaper than the UK for international students by as much as £10,000 per year – though this is taking the accumulative tuition fees and living costs into account, rather than one or the other.
However, both Norway and Germany offer free tuition for international students, so they might offer a much better bet for those hoping to study abroad on a frugal budget!
With all that said, it’s worth considering that UK courses tend to last a year less than in many other parts of the world. Therefore, in terms of the total cost of living and tuition fees (for countries that charge them), the UK might work out cheaper than, or roughly the same as elsewhere.
In addition to this, the top UK universities are among the most prestigious and highly regarded in the world. Therefore, one could argue that, even if it’s more expensive at the time, a degree obtained from a UK university is likely to pay far greater dividends in terms of future career prospects.
The Cost of Living
As an international student, the first major hurdle you’ll have to clear is obtaining the Tier 4 student visa that’s required for non-nationals to live and study in the UK. To achieve this, you’ll need to prove you have the financial resources to support yourself during your stay.
The amount will vary according to which area of the country you’ll be studying and staying in. For Scotland, Wales, and the north of England, you’ll need the equivalent of at least £9,135 in your bank account to get a visa for a course lasting nine months or more. London and the south of England tend to have a higher cost of living, so you’ll need an additional £2,200 (£11,385 in total) to study in these areas.
Further expenses include £348 for your Tier 4 visa and an NHS surcharge of £150 for stays of less than six months. This is all reduced to a total of £300 per year if your studies are going to last longer.
Post-Brexit Changes for EU & EEA Students
Unfortunately, due to Brexit, the UK government recently announced that from the autumn of 2021 onwards, EU, EEA, and Swiss students would lose their home fee status. This also applies to “undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learner support from Student Finance England for courses starting in the academic year 2021/22. This change will also apply to Further Education funding for those aged 19+, and funding for apprenticeships”.
In short, this means that from now on, EU, EEA, and Swiss students will have to pay up to as much as four times more for their UK studies than UK nationals and no longer be able to apply for student loans. Happily, this will not affect students whose studies began in 2018, 2019, or 2020 and don’t finish until 2021 or later.
There are also a few exemptions from the new policy:
- EU, EEA, and Swiss students already studying in the UK.
- EU, EEA, and Swiss students who began studying in the autumn of 2020.
- EU and EEA students arriving in the UK after January 1st, 2021, and commencing their studies before July 31st, 2021.
- Irish students living in the UK or Ireland.
- EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals who benefit from Citizen’s Rights under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement, or the Swiss Citizen’s Rights Agreement.
Otherwise, from this year onwards, students from the EU, EEA or Switzerland who want to study in the UK will be treated the same way as all other international students who wish to do the same.