Study in the UK
UK tuition fees are frequently a source of controversy, with prices having risen to eye-watering levels for home students (UK/EU) in recent years. Now, UK and EU students at English universities are required to pay up to £9,250 (~US$13,050) per year.
International undergraduate tuition fees vary considerably, starting at around £10,000 (~US$14,130) and going up to £38,000 (~US$53,700) or more for medical degrees At all levels, humanities and social sciences degrees tend to cost the least, while laboratory and clinical degree programs are markedly more expensive, but when you combine these fees with the average cost of living in the UK, around £12,200 (~US$16,950) per year, then it can be hard to see how it’s possible to study in the UK without it costing you a small fortune. The total average cost of studying in the UK is estimated to be at least £22,200 (~US$31,380) per year, with studying in London likely to be significantly more expensive.
While these costs may be daunting, remember that most UK universities offer shorter programs compared to countries such as the US (three years for the average undergraduate degree instead of four, and one year for a master’s degree instead of two), so you may be able to subtract a year’s worth of fees and living costs from your total budget.
If these figures haven’t been enough to put you off studying in the UK, here’s a closer look at what you’ll be spending your money on, and how Brexit may affect your costs.
Students’ cost of living in the UK
Current UK student visa requirements stipulate that you must have at least £1,015 (~US$1,435) in your bank account for each month you plan to stay in the UK anywhere outside of London. This works out as £12,180 (~US$17,200) per year.
If you wish to study in London, you’ll need to budget considerably more – at least £1,265 (~US$1,800) per month, the equivalent of £15,180 (~US$21,500) a year.
When you’re here, you can make the cost of living in the UK more affordable by taking advantage of student discounts – for example, students in London can get an 18+ Student Oyster photocard, giving you 30 percent off travelcards and bus/tram season tickets, and students all over the country can apply for an NUS Extra Card for a small fee.
One other way to beat the banker and make your money go further is to study somewhere in the UK where the cost of living is cheaper. According to the Natwest Student Living Index 2017, Welsh capital Cardiff is the most affordable city for students in the UK, followed in the top three by Aberdeen in Scotland, and Durham in north-east England.
Most students live in university halls of residence in their first year before moving into rented private accommodation in their following years. Many universities offer both self-catered and catered halls of residence, with food included in the price of rent for the latter.
The biggest difference in the cost of living in London compared to the rest of the UK is in rent, with ) estimating accommodation expenses of £8,073 (~US$11,400) per academic year (nine months/39 weeks). However, you may be able to find more affordable accommodation in university halls or a flat share.
The results of Save the Student’s National Student Accommodation Survey 2017 found that students spend an average of £125 (~US$175) per week on rent in the UK – with a huge regional variation: students in Northern Ireland spent only £91 (~US$129) a week, which is exactly half the amount spent by those in London (£182/US$257). Unless bills are included, you’ll probably spend a further £70 per month (~US$100) on bills for utilities and the internet.
Other average living costs in the UK
- A weekly food shop will likely cost you about £30/$42, and a meal in a pub or restaurant can be about £12/$17
- Depending on your course, you’ll likely spend at least £30 a month on books and other course materials
- Your mobile phone bill is likely to be at least £15/$22 a month
- Gym membership costs roughly £32/$45 a month, but you may be able to get a student discount
- A typical night out (outside of London) costs about £30/$42 in total
- In terms of entertainment, if you want to watch TV in your room, you need a TV license – this is £147 (~US$107) per year. A cinema ticket costs roughly £10/$14
- Depending on your spending habits, you might spend £35-55 (US$49-77) or so on clothing each month
UK tuition fees
There are two levels of tuition fees at publicly funded UK universities: home student fees (including EU students) and international student fees. For home students, institutions in England can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 (~US$13,050) per year for undergraduate degree programs. In Wales, the maximum fee is £9,000 (~US$12,700), while in Northern Ireland the limit is £4,160 (~US$5,900) for EU and Northern Irish students, and up to £9,250 for students from the rest of the UK.
In Scotland, an undergraduate degree is effectively free for students from Scotland and the EU. This is thanks to a subsidy from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). The SAAS also offers a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 (~US$7,770) for home postgraduate students.
It should be noted that the Scottish definition of “home” student differs slightly, in that it doesn’t include students from the rest of the UK – i.e. England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Students from the rest of the UK who want to undertake an undergraduate degree in Scotland will pay up to £9,250 a year.
There’s also good news for students from Wales, who only need to pay £3,900 (~US$5,500) per year in UK tuition fees to study anywhere in the UK, with the rest covered by the Welsh government.
Postgraduate tuition fees vary significantly, depending on the university and the subject. Home students may be able to receive some funding from one of the UK’s research councils, the university itself, or via a career sponsorship scheme.
UK tuition fees – international students
For international students, undergraduate fees for 2017/18 started at around £10,000 (US$14,130) for lecture-based courses, going up to £38,000 (~US$53,700) or more for a top undergraduate medical degree. You can view the 10 most affordable universities for international undergraduates here.
At postgraduate level, international fees for classroom-based programs in 2017/18 started at around £11,000 (~US$15,545) and went up to £32,000 (~US$45,200). For laboratory-based programs, average annual fees vary from £12,000 (~US$16,940) to £27,200 (~US$38,400). You can view the most affordable UK universities for international postgraduates here.