Tuition fees and other expenses are often an important factor, if not the most important factor, students consider when planning to study abroad. After all, studying abroad isn’t cheap. And the UK has a reputation for being quite pricey for both domestic and international students. But before you get nervous and back away slowly, you need to know that these costs can vary greatly. Depending on where and what you’re studying, tuition and living expenses can differ quite a bit. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to manage your finances and access funding. So, let’s take a look at what determines how much it will cost to study in the UK.
How Much Does It Cost to Study in the UK?
How much it costs to complete a course in the UK can depend on many things. These include:
- Your Course: Courses like clinical and medical degrees, which involve using expensive technology and hands-on laboratory experience, tend to be more expensive. Classroom-based degrees like Arts and Humanities skew cheaper.
- Course Length: In the UK, a typical undergraduate program lasts about 3 years, compared to 4 years in the US. Master’s programs may also be a year long, rather than 2 years or more. Given the shorter course length, you may be paying less overall to complete your degree compared to other countries.
- The Location: Tuition fees vary across the four countries of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, collectively making up the UK. Expenses vary within these areas as well. Universities in major cities may cost more, while those in rural or suburban areas may be more affordable.
- The Institution Itself: UK schools set their own tuition fees, and depending on various factors, tuition fees differ too. Typically, though this isn’t always the case, the more renowned the university, the more expensive the fees.
As you can see, there is a ton of variation across different factors. Your course, university, location of choice, and study level all play a part in determining your overall tuition fees.
Cost to Study as an International Undergraduate Student in the UK
On average, international undergraduate students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 a year. Again, some courses tend to be more expensive than others, depending on things like how resource-intensive it is or how long it lasts. For example, a clinical degree in the UK may be as high as £58,600 a year.
Cost to Study as an International Graduate Student in the UK
Postgraduate and doctoral courses tend to be more expensive, though this isn’t always the case. Since these courses tend to be more specialized, they typically cost more too. Do keep in mind, though, that postgraduate courses, in general, tend to be shorter than undergraduate courses. This means that compared to the overall cost of an undergraduate course in the UK for international students, a postgraduate course may cost less overall.
Tuition again varies across courses and institutions. For example, the cost of a master’s in the UK for international students may be as low as £4,800 a year, to almost as high as £37,000. The cost to study for an MBA in the UK can be almost as high as £60,000.
Note that from the academic year beginning 2021-22, EU and EEA students fall under the same category as other international students when it comes to tuition fees. If you’re an EU and EEA student, the UK’s home fee structures no longer apply to you, unless:
- You’re an Irish citizen
- You are already living in the UK
- You are registered with the EU Settlement Scheme
Another critical thing you’ll need to consider when figuring out the cost to study in the UK is your living expenses. Accommodation and other essential costs like groceries and transport can also vary a lot, depending on where you live, your lifestyle, etc.
According to QS Top Universities’ Best Student Cities 2022 ranking, London is the least affordable city in the UK for students. On the more affordable end are cities like Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Leicester. Depending on where you’re staying within these cities, and your choice of accommodation, your costs can vary considerably as well.
To give you an idea of this variability, let’s take a look at average living costs in Aberdeen and London.
A meal at an inexpensive restaurant
A meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant
White bread (1 load)
Milk (1 litre)
White rice (1 kg)
Apples (1 kg)
Eggs (a dozen)
Tomato (1 kg)
Potato (1 kg)
Lettuce (1 head)
Onions (1 kg)
Water (1.5 litre bottle)
Chicken Fillet (1 kg)
Beef Round (1 kg)
One-Way Ticket (local transport)
Monthly Transport Pass
Taxi (1 km)
Monthly Utilities – Electricity, Water, Garbage Disposal, Heating, Cooling
Rent (monthly) for 1-bedroom apartment in the City Centre
Rent (monthly) for 1-bedroom apartment Outside the City Centre
As you can see, there can be plenty of variation in costs depending on where you’re living, from rent to how much you’d pay for a meal. These costs can vary within cities too.
Accommodation, which is a major living expense, can vary depending on what type of accommodation you choose. Depending on whether you choose on-campus or private housing, and the breakdown of options within these categories, the accommodation price tag will differ.
When considering the cost to study in the UK, be sure to thoroughly research your estimated living expenses depending on where you’re planning to apply. Compare these across your options to see which is friendlier on your pocket if expenses are a top concern.
You need to prove that you can financially support yourself during your stay in the UK as a condition for getting your Student visa in the first place!
Sorting Out Your Finances Before Arriving in the UK
One of the requirements for your student visa application is your ability to show that you can fund your studies and stay. You need to prove that your account holds enough to cover your tuition fees and living expenses for one academic year. These funds need to be in your bank account for at least 28 days, within 31 days of your visa application.
Your education provider will specify what your tuition fees for one academic year are in your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). For living expenses, the required amount you must have in your account varies on where you’ll live. If you’re studying in London, you must have £1,334 per month, for one academic year. And if you’re studying outside London, you must have £1,023 per month, for one academic year. Consider these amounts base prices – typically, you’ll end up spending more than this. So, prepare accordingly.
Other Costs to Study in the UK
Along with your proof of financial support, there are some additional costs you have to consider before travelling to the UK in the first place. There is the visa application fee of £348 for the full-time Student visa. You also must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £470 annually. There could be additional fees, depending on whether you need to take an English proficiency test, give biometrics, etc.
Thoroughly research the visa requirements to study in the UK. Make sure you’re aware of the cost breakdown to expect and prepare for before you apply!
Options to Manage Your Costs as a Student in the UK
As much as the tuition fees and living expenses in the UK may be daunting, don’t give in before considering your funding options. Depending on your specific circumstances you may be able to find an opportunity that helps cover some or all your costs while studying in the UK!
Scholarships and Grants
Many universities offer their own scholarship schemes for students at all study levels. Postgraduate students, in particular, have access to many generous award schemes not only from universities but from government-affiliated organisations, charities and trusts too. The Chevening Scholarship program, for example, offers Master’s students from around the world studying any course fully-funded scholarships covering tuition, living costs, and more.
Also, do look into options available from your home government as well. Many Malaysian government bodies, for example, have generous schemes in place to fully fund talented Malaysian students at top UK universities.
Your access to loans from your host government depends on your country of origin. Before applying for loans, do make sure you’re familiar with the requirements. If you really wish to go ahead with a study loan, plan how you can realistically stick to the repayment scheme.
In the UK, international students can only take out loans if they have been living in the UK for a minimum of three years before they begin studying.
How much your living expenses are will depend in part on your ability to budget. Be sure to take advantage of student discounts to get amazing deals for everything from food to technology and clothing. You can apply for a National Union of Students (NUS) card to access discount offers of up to 50% off across a variety of product categories. Student-geared websites like Save the Student can also help you stay up to date with the latest deals.
Work While You Study
On a full-time Student visa, you can take on part-time work or internships. This both gets you the work experience you need to kickstart your career and helps you earn to offset your costs. While a semester is in session, you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week. You may work full-time over the breaks! When applying for your course and visa, be sure you check that you meet the eligibility requirements to work while you study.
Our Final Thoughts on the Cost to Study in the UK
The cost to study in the UK is undoubtedly more on the expensive end. But it remains one of the world’s most popular destinations for studying abroad. This is unsurprising, considering many of the world’s most prestigious universities are here. Many students consider the investment of studying in the UK worth the price tag. Thanks to the excellent quality of education and teachers, students graduate with the highest qualifications. Employers around the world consider UK university graduates as among the most employable. Because of all these reasons, along with the multicultural and enriching experience of studying in the UK, many students consider studying in the UK worth the cost.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much does it cost to study in the UK?
The answer would depend on you. The course you want to study, the school you’re considering, the location of the school, your study level – all this impacts the overall cost. Be sure to thoroughly investigate your options along your desired criteria to find the right place for you within your budget!
Is it cheaper to study in the UK or the USA?
Again, it’s hard to give a definitive answer because this can depend on a variety of things. UK courses typically are shorter than courses in the US. This may mean that the cost of your tuition and living expenses overall may be less than a full program in the US. But there may be plenty of variation depending on what course and study level you’re enrolling in, and which school and location you’re studying in too. Before committing to a decision, be sure to thoroughly compare your options to find the best fit!
Is studying in the UK expensive?
Objectively, the tuition fees and the cost of living in the UK tend to skew toward the more expensive end compared to destinations like Canada. But since the actual price tag would be specific to you, and can vary pretty widely depending on your requirements, do your research to figure out your cost expectations!