Before coming to the UK, it is essential that you gain a good understanding of the study costs involved. This isn’t only good sense. If you are an international student from outside the European Economic Area (the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you are required to provide evidence that you have the money to provide for yourself in order to pass through immigration and get into the country in the first place.
The most important thing you can do is to start your financial research as early as possible.
Very little about fees and funding in the UK is simple. Where you come from and where you go to in the UK can make a big difference to how much you pay.
There are two levels of complication you will need to come to terms with: first, the difference between home status and overseas status, and secondly, the fact that the different countries that make up the UK have different regulations concerning the charging of fees and the provision of funding.
There are two fee structures in the UK: one for home-status students (UK citizens and citizens of the EU) and one for everyone else – sometimes described as international students, but also known throughout the UK’s educational system as ‘overseas’ students.
Overseas fees are more expensive than home status fees and are set by individual institutions, the level being dependent on such factors as the subject area, demand for the programme, the prestige of the department, the prestige of the institution and even the geographical location.
The difference between the two sets of fees can sometimes look unfair. It is important to remember, however, that this difference is due to inter-governmental subsidy in the EU and that a UK education is still very good value for money, as courses tend to be shorter and qualifications are very well regarded internationally.
How much will you pay?
In the UK, there is a big difference between further education (post-school qualifications) (FE) and higher education (undergraduate and postgraduate programmes) (HE). FE fees tend to be much lower, with average overseas fees for FE qualifications being in the range of £4,000 to £6,000 per year.
If you are coming only for English language tuition, you can expect this to cost anywhere from under £200 to over £1,000, depending on the type of course chosen. It should be remembered that language schools can often be private institutions and will therefore charge a single, set fee, regardless of whether you are a home or overseas student. Language schools that are part of FE colleges or HE institutions will however have different fees according to your status.
At degree level, overseas fees can vary from £8,000 to £12,000 per year for a classroom-based course to £8,500 to £15,000 for a laboratory or workshop-based course and £11,000 to £26,000 for a clinical course.
For a postgraduate programme, both home and overseas students can expect to pay from £8,000 to £13,000 per year on classroom-based courses, £9,000 to £16,000 on laboratory or workshop-based courses and £11,000 to over £26,000 on clinical courses. MBAs cost between £9,000 and £25,000 or more for a one-year programme – the most prestigious programmes can cost much more than thi
Home or overseas?
It is up to the educational institution to decide your status on the basis of the UK Government’s regulations, but they will usually ask for information on your application and inform you accordingly. For most students, whether you qualify for home or overseas status is quite straightforward. However, there are some complicating factors on the margins, and there are other categories of students who also qualify for home-status fees.
See the UKCISA website for more detailed and most up-to-date information about the other categories, and the slightly different rules that apply in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The regulations governing these categories are complex and do change, so, if you think they might affect your status, you should also check on the UK Visas and Immigration website.
Courses that only charge home-status fees
Outside the English language teaching departments, you may be charged home-status fees regardless of where you come from. This will depend not only on your circumstances, but also on which part of the UK you are studying in, as there are different approaches in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For example, if you want to study in England and your parents have right of abode in the UK, you will usually be considered to have home status. Or, if you are on a part-time English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course in Scotland, you will only be charged home fees.
Additionally, if you are on an FE course funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in England or the Scottish Funding Council in Scotland, you will be charged home fees regardless (which on LSC courses, such as the BTEC National Diploma and Foundation programmes, may be zero).
Students at FE colleges may have to pay compulsory registration fees (around £100), levy fees (around £100) or equipment fees (around £80). Library facilities will always be free, however, although there may be costs for specialist equipment.
There is a limited amount of funding available for home-status FE students (depending on such factors as your age and your family income etc).
The Education Maintenance Allowance is open to 16- to 18-year-olds in FE in the UK and is worth up to £30 a week, depending on your circumstances. Each country in the UK runs its own version of the scheme. The Adult Learning Grant is a similar scheme for FE students in England over 19 years old.
There are also Residential Support Schemes that provide financial help with accommodation and transport as well as various Learner Support Funds, Access Funds and Hardship Funds, which are run by the institutions themselves.
There are few scholarships available at FE colleges, but those that do exist are very much subject-based and it is well worth researching your subject area to find out what may be available.
Along with a lower fee rate, home-status students in HE may also be eligible for UK Government funding known as Student Support. Not everyone is eligible, however, and different rules apply in different countries within the UK.
Student Support is based on your and your family’s income, and is only available for specific types of designated courses: undergraduate degrees; Higher National Certificates and Diplomas; Diplomas of Higher Education; and teacher-training courses.
Student Support is made up of a loan for tuition fees (or payment of tuition fees if studying in Scotland), a loan for living costs, supplementary grants for certain categories of student, such as those with disabilities, and financial aid for students from low-income households (details of which vary in the four countries).
These awards are given out by the Local Education Authority if you are living in England or Wales, the Students Awards Agency for Scotland, or the Education and Library Board in Northern Ireland. As with home or overseas status, these regulations are constantly evolving.
Scholarships are different from student support in that their award is not automatic (if you fulfil the criteria), but are based on application and competition. The best point to apply for a scholarship is while you are still in your home country and a long time before you intend to depart for the UK. This is because they are almost impossible to get once you are here and some are awarded up to a year to 18 months before the start of the course.
You should also remember that, even if you do win a scholarship, the actual amount could be relatively small and won’t in itself be enough to demonstrate that you can cover your costs when you pass through immigration.
There are many different types of scholarship available: from the UK government, from your home government, and from international agencies and voluntary organisations, as well as from the universities themselves, although it should be noted that most tend to be targeted at postgraduate students.
See Finding a scholarship for more information.
- Living costs in the UK
- Basic banking in the UK
- Managing your budget
Photo credit: ammentorp