Costs Of Studying In The UK As An International Student

Are you considering studying as an international student in the UK? We answer your cost-related queries, take you through the international tuition fees, accommodation prices and living costs, and explain how to budget as an international student.

Author: Adi Sen

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So, you’ve decided to study in the UK as an international student. The question is how much is it going to cost and how are you going to fund it?

If you’re thinking about studying in the UK at the moment, there are two ways you can be classified:

  • Home (UK) 
  • International (everywhere else including EU)

There were recently made changes due to Brexit that affect EU, EEA and Swiss students. You can read about these changes here.

To answer your cost-related queries, we have outlined the different UK international tuition fees, accommodation prices and living costs, and explained how to budget as an international student. 

International costs of studying at Oxford and Cambridge

Tuition fees are what you pay for the educational elements of your course including (but not limited to): seminars, lectures, tutorials, learning materials, and public exams.

Here are the fees for a few different Oxbridge degrees:

CourseHome Student (UK)International
Medicine at the University of Cambridge£9,250£60,942
Medicine at the University of Oxford£9,250£48,600
Engineering at the University of Oxford£9,250£39,010
PPE at the University of Oxford£9,250£29,500
Psychology at the University of Cambridge£9,250£35,517

For Cambridge, all international status students, and those Home fee status students who aren’t eligible for tuition fee support (e.g. affiliate students), normally have to pay an annual college fee in addition to university tuition fees. This covers the cost to your College of providing a range of educational, domestic and pastoral services and support. The cost can be from £8,000 to nearly £11,000.

International Costs Of Studying At Non-Oxbridge Universities

CourseHome Student (UK)International
Medicine at the University of Leeds£9,250£36,500
Medicine at the University of Buckingham (Private)£38,000 £38,000
Biochemistry at the University of Bristol£9,250£25,900
English Language at the University of Edinburgh£9,250 £23,100
Geography at the University of Exeter£9,250£25,000
Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath£9,250£24,500

International students tend to pay a lot more. As a rule of thumb, a humanities degree (e.g. History) will cost around £20,000 per year in tuition whereas a Science degree (e.g. Physics/Engineering) can cost anywhere between £20,000 and £60,000 per year. This reflects the increased cost of delivering Science courses due to practical elements and a higher number of contact hours with faculty.

Unlike home students, you cannot borrow from the UK government and you must pay international tuition fees yourself. As you can see from the table above, home students generally pay a flat fee of £9,250 no matter what degree they’re studying (with a few exceptions).

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How many places are available for international students?

The UK government imposes a quota on the number of international students that UK medical schools can admit. For example, at the University of Oxford, they are limited to 7.5% of those in both undergraduate and graduate entry degrees (shown below). For 2022 entry, 8 international students were admitted out of 398 that applied with an international status. 

oxford-international-medicine-applicants

This makes admissions considerably more competitive as there are far more international students than home applying for a smaller number of places.

One university of note and worth mentioning in the context of international applicants is the University of Buckingham. They admit more international applicants as it is a private not-for-profit university.

This means it can be much less competitive and will still give you the right to work in the UK as a doctor without having to go through any messy conversion of qualifications.

How much does accommodation UK cost?

Accommodation is another significant cost and can vary widely from city to city, with the average monthly rent in London being almost double that of Cardiff.

Most university websites have a “living expenses” page (here is the University of Oxford’s for example) and can give you more specifics about the living costs of that particular city and university.

CityAverage Monthly Rent Average Annual Rent
London£700£8,400
Cambridge£534£6,414
Oxford£690£8,280
Bristol£489£5,874
Liverpool£454£5,455
Cardiff£375£4,504

Source: NatWest Student Living Index

There are several options for where you can live including student halls and private accommodation. Here are the normal options students choose in their first year and beyond:

First-year Accommodation 

Post First-Year Accommodation 

UK University Living Costs

Expenses for basic living can also vary widely from city to city. For example, a cinema ticket in London can be double that of one in Manchester.

The national student money survey gives some insight into the relatively frugal life of the average student at a British university and should be taken as a minimalist guide to your potential spending in the UK.

The following table shows the average cost per month and the average annual cost. This is based on 10 months as students generally spend around 2 months of the year at home due to holidays and time off.

ExpenseAverage cost per month Average annual cost
Groceries£92£920
Clubs/going out£49£490
Transport£44£440
Takeaway£34£340
Household bills£32£320
Clothes and shopping£31£310
Holidays£24£240
Mobile phone£17£170
Course materials£15£150
Health and wellbeing£13£130
Gifts and charity£10£100
Other£11£110
Total£372£3,720

Source: National Student Money Survey

Most universities in the UK will loan you core texts from their libraries, or you will at least be able to view reference copies in libraries. This can save you a lot in terms of course costs as textbooks are usually very expensive.

Travel Costs

Travel for international students is, of course, going to be a significant cost. Since you will have to be in the UK for ‘term time’, which normally aligns roughly with UK school times, you are likely to be flying during peak season when returning home for holidays. This can lead to extremely expensive flights, even if you book far in advance.

Our Oxbridge application support is designed to cover the whole year and provide you with structured learning to give you the best chances of success.

Prepare effectively over the next few months with our expert Oxbridge guidance and structured learning. We help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, achieve a highly competitive Admissions Test score and teach you how to Interview effectively – covering all areas of your Oxbridge application, from History to Medicine.

Discover our Oxbridge Premium Programmes by clicking the button below to enrol and triple your chances of success.

Budgeting As An International Student

Budgeting is a key part of financial discipline. Many university students use banks like Monzo or Starling which offer budgeting tools. These banks link their debit cards to apps that send you handy notifications when it looks like you’re spending too much on the wrong things (e.g. takeaways), and can estimate when you’re going to run out of money in that month.

Setting out how you’re going to allocate and spend your money via these apps or even by a spreadsheet can help keep you on track to avoid overspending during your time studying. 

Before you arrive in the UK, you should set up a bank account. Several banks can help you do this internationally, such as HSBC. You can use online tools, such as Transferwise, for transferring money internationally which tend to have the lowest fees of any exchange online.

Exchange rates can be problematic when studying in the UK as an international student. If, for example, your parents are sending you a certain amount of money in your home currency and the exchange rate drops, this could leave you significantly short on financial commitments in the UK such as rent. Factor in the potential for ups and downs in the exchange rate when thinking about how much you’ll need.

International Bursaries and Scholarships

Most bursaries and scholarships, at the undergraduate level, will sadly only be open to UK students. However, many countries provide national initiatives which will fund their students to study abroad. For example, the Fulbright program helps US students’ study in the UK and vice versa.

At the master’s level and above, there are many scholarships offered by UK universities that are funded by alumni and other countries which allow international students to study in the UK. Some of these can be extremely niche and they are worth seeking out as they can provide valuable opportunities.

Another thing to note is that many of these scholarships start accepting applications years before your prospective date of entry, so start looking at these early if you are seriously considering them.

Visa Costs and Restrictions

Visa costs are a relatively small cost to factor in. The current fee for a tier 4 general student visa is £348 (with an additional £348 if you have any dependents). You will also need to pay a healthcare surcharge of £624 per year (as of October 2020) in order to access the national health service (NHS) during your stay.

You must have proof that you have £1,015 per month for living costs if you’re studying in the UK outside of London, or £1,265 a month for living costs if you’re studying inside London. Your student visa has certain conditions attached to it and working whilst you are studying in the UK is generally restricted to 20 hours per week. This means that you can work whilst you study.

To put this in context, if you were to do 2 all-day shifts at a coffee shop, this would use up your weekly working hours meaning that you cannot rely on a job to provide a large amount of supplementary income. However, some international students do make this work by picking up more highly skilled jobs, like being a self–employed tutor, which pays considerably more per hour.

Overall Costs For International Students

In short, your degree at Oxbridge will cost a minimum of £140,000, but most will end up paying well over £200,000. As you can see in the table at the beginning of this article, this varies greatly from course to course.

If you’re applying to Medicine, it could be as high as £370,000 at Cambridge and £250,000 at Oxford. As there are virtually no scholarships or bursaries available, it’s essential that you can afford this financial burden prior to pursuing a UK international application.

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