So, you’ve decided to study in the UK as an international student but are interested in how much it’s going to cost and how you could fund it.
If you’re thinking about studying in the UK at the moment, there are two ways you can be classified:
- Home (UK/EU) or;
- international (everywhere else).
This will influence how much you pay and your likelihood of being accepted into your course of choice as some have quotas as to how many international students can be admitted.
If you’re looking for the total cost of studying various degrees at Oxford or Cambridge, this table gives you a good indication;
|Course||Average Annual Spend||Full Course Cost|
|Medicine at the University of Cambridge||£61,686||£370,116|
|Medicine at the University of Oxford||£42,305||£253,830|
|Engineering at the University of Oxford||£44,345||£177,380|
|PPE at the University of Oxford||£35,565||£142,260|
|Psychology at the University of Cambridge||£40,239||£160,956|
What are the tuition costs for international students?
Some examples are listed in the table below.
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.
|Medicine at the University of Cambridge||£9,250||£55,272*|
|Medicine at the University of Oxford||£9,250||£34,025|
|Engineering at the University of Oxford||£9,250||£36,065|
|PPE at the University of Oxford||£9,250||£27,285|
|Psychology at the University of Cambridge||£9,250||£33,825|
|Medicine at the University of Leeds||£9,250||£34,500|
|Medicine at the University of Buckingham (Private)||£37,500||£37,500|
|Biochemistry at the University of Bristol||£9,250||£24,000|
|English Language at the University of Edinburgh||£9,250**||£20,950|
|Geography at the University of Exeter||£9,250||£22,950|
|Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath||£9,250||£22,300|
*You’ll pay a college fee on top of this of £8,000 to £10,000
**If you’re from Scotland or the EU you only pay £1,820
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).
How much more do international students have to pay?
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 in tuition. This reflects the increased cost of delivering science courses due to practical elements and a higher number of contact hours with faculty.
Tuition will vary from institution to institution and course to course.
Some universities like Edinburgh have a dedicated page for how much every course costs whilst others like Exeter will show tuition on the individual page of the course.
Medicine, as you can see, can be exceptionally expensive.
Fees normally increase through your course in line or above inflation (approximately 3% every year).
How many places are available for international students?
Furthermore, 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 this is capped at 14 students out of 190 (7%).
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 which almost exclusively admits 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 accomodation cost to study in the UK?
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.
The NatWest student index is a good place to start if you’re concerned about it as they rank cities by cost of living.
There are several options of where you can live.
Your first year of accomodation studying in the UK
Normally in your first year your university will provide ‘halls’ which is where you live in accommodation which is normally owned by the university and will pay rent to them.
You normally pick a room type (e.g. single, double, ensuite double) and then are randomly sorted into flats to share other amenities like a kitchen.
Some accommodation in universities is catered meaning you have food included in your rent and don’t have to cook for yourself (although the quality of this food can be variable).
|City||Average Monthly Rent||Average Annual Rent|
Source: NatWest Student Living Index
Accomodation after your first year studying in the UK
After your first year the majority of people move out into privately rented houses with friends they have made, although sometimes you can continue to live in halls.
If you’re living in a privately rented house, you’ll often have to factor in paying for energy, internet, water, and insurance as well as your rent.
For international students privately renting a house can sometimes be a headache.
UK landlords will want a ‘guarantor’ which is someone who will pay your rent in case you can no longer afford it. Often this is someone’s parent but since it is unlikely that your parents live in the UK, you cannot have a guarantor.
This sometimes means that you have to pay a very large deposit (an amount that is returned to you) or you could be required to pay a significant amount of rent up front (e.g. 6 months). This could run into £10,000+ and is something to be aware of.
What are the living expenses in the UK like for an international student?
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.
A good website for comparing the cost of living between two cities (roughly) is Numbeo . You can even compare the cost of living between your home city and where you want to study in the UK.
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.
|Expense||Average cost per month||Average annual cost|
|Clothes and shopping||£31||£310|
|Health and wellbeing||£13||£130|
|Gifts and charity||£10||£100|
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.
Travel costs for international students in the UK
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.
English Language Requirements
Language requirements can be a stumbling block for some international students.
Some universities and courses require you provide an IELTS or TOEFL transcript to support your application.
These exams prove that your level of English is sufficient to understand the course content and engage with learning at these universities.
For courses like medicine where a large portion of it is communicating with patients, they will require that you speak English to a near bilingual or native standard and this will be assessed at interview.
Banks and 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 which send you handy notifications when it looks like you’re spending too much on the wrong things (e.g. takeaway) 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 not to overspend 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 exchange rate when thinking about how much you’ll need.
Bursaries and scholarships for international students
Most bursaries and scholarships which you will find on UK university websites 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 which 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 application 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.
So what is the total cost of studying in the UK?
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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