UK living and study costs

Find out the cost of studying in the UK, including tuition fees and living costs. We also look at the support available to international students, such as scholarships.

Sterling pound coins Before moving to the UK and starting your studies, you need to make sure you are secure in terms of funds. There will be many outgoings that you will need to consider: university fees, living expenses and also spending money for the student bar!

We have given you some guidelines below, so you can begin to look into the kind of money you need to have saved in order to afford studying in the UK.

Tuition fees for EU students

One of the most confusing factors of looking into UK university costs is finding out about tuition fees. These differ depending on where you are from, the university in question and the type of course you are applying for.

Although the rates do vary, there are guidelines you can follow to find out how much you should expect to pay. For instance all students coming from EU countries pay the same fees as ‘home’ students.

Universities and colleges in England and Wales can now charge students over £9,000 a year for their courses, although this varies depending on the college or university. Maximum fees in Northern Ireland are just shy of £4,000 per year – although some universities here do charge up to 'GB' students who normally live in England, Scotland and Wales. Finally, in Scotland, EU students (not including those from the rest of GB) are exempt from fees.*

Tuition fees for international students

For ‘overseas’ students – those who’re not from an EU member country – tuition fees vary even more. Overseas students have to pay for the full cost of their course, and these fees can range from £3,500 to roughly £18,00 per year according to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

With such wide fluctuations in fees, it is very important to find out how much your preferred universities are charging as early in your application process as possible.

Living costs

Although tuition fees are a serious factor to consider, another important thing to think about is your living cost. These can vary across the UK, but are likely to be most expensive in the south of England, and London especially.

Online you can access a free to use International Student Calculator, which is an interactive guide to living costs that allows you to build your own budget and be well prepared for managing your money while you study.

You must also be aware that international students cannot apply for welfare allowances of any sort during their stay, and must ensure that they can cover their day-to-day expenses. However, if you are staying in the UK for over six months you do get free access to the NHS (National Health Service), which offers free health and dental care.

Can international students work during their studies?

Many students often consider part-time work to help them keep on top of money.

This is a viable option as international students are allowed to work part-time in the UK for up to 20 hours per week, and this can help give you money to spend in your free time - and also give you less time to spend it in.

Scholarships and support

But don't panic if you think you could never afford to study in the UK, there is a wide support network of scholarships, bursaries, loans and grants that can offer support to help you get the funds you need including government-funded awards, plus some private companies and many universities offer their own scholarships that international students can be eligible for.

In the first instance you should contact your own government to see if they can offer support as some have scholarships available to students who wish to study abroad. Whilst in your home country it is also worth contacting your local British Office for further information.

When looking into financial support you should always contact the university you are currently studying at or plan to be, before any outside organisations. The majority of them have some kind of hardship support available to help out in the short term, and outside organisations will often turn you away if you haven't asked your university for help before going to them.

The next step is to look around to see what kinds of support outside organisations can offer. Some businesses offer scholarships or grants for outstanding academics, and many charities offer scholarships for people working in their field of expertise. There are also scholarships open to people from certain countries - you need to spend a lot of time researching your options and then start getting in touch.

Be prepared

One thing is to get on top of the situation early. Most scholarships are highly competitive, and have many more applicants than they can help. Closing dates for applications are often well in advance of the start of a new academic year, so you need to prepare early and make enquiries as soon as you can. If you do leave it till the last minute, it is very unlikely that you will obtain support for that academic year!

Brexit and international students

The IET understands that current and future international students may be concerned about how ‘Brexit’ will affect them regarding potential changes to fee status, access to loans or residency.

Many answers are still unknown, but we recommend visiting UKCISA and Universities UK websites for the latest information.

Here are some useful links for further information:

IET scholarships and awards

British Council

UK Council for International Student Affairs

Chevening scholarships and fellowships

Marshall scholarships

Commonwealth scholarships

The Department for International Development (DfID) Shared Scholarship Scheme


Studying in England

Top Universities' in-depth list of university-specific and country-specific scholarships

*Figures quoted from the Complete University Guide and UCAS.

Originally published June 2007. Last updated November 2017