The United Kingdom has always been one of the favourite destinations for international students. This has been especially true for students from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland, who enjoyed the same tuition as local (national) students.
However, due to Brexit, new policies will apply to all EU/EEA and Swiss citizens from 2021 onwards. To make everything clear both for them and for all the other international students, we’ve created this guide with everything you need to know about tuition and living costs in the UK.
1. University tuition fees in the UK
Up until now, you could be charged two types of tuition fees in the United Kingdom:
- the ‘home status’ fee: in general, these are lower fees, paid by local students, Irish citizens, and students from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland
- the ‘international’ fee: higher fees (sometimes 2 or 3 times higher) paid by all the remaining non-EU/EEA students
But following Brexit, things will change significantly. Here are the main aspects you need to know if you’re from the EU/EEA or Switzerland and plan to begin studying in the UK after 1 January 2021:
- If you arrive in the UK after 1 January 2021 and start your study programme before 31 July 2021, you will still enjoy the ‘home fee status’, and you’ll have the option to apply for a student loan.
- If you arrive in the UK after 1 January 2021 and start your study programme after 1 August 2021, you will NOT enjoy the ‘home fee status’ anymore, you won’t have access to student loans, and you’ll need to pay the full tuition fees established by each university individually.
These changes do not apply to Irish citizens or students who have started their courses before the implementation of this new policy.
Learn more about tuition fees for EU/EEA students in the UK after Brexit.
Tuition fees at public universities
At public UK universities, tuition costs can vary significantly. The ‘home’ fee usually ranges from 5,500 to 10,200 EUR per year, depending on the university, the type of discipline, and the length of your studies.
The ‘international’ fee usually adds another 3,000–8,000 EUR to the initial ‘home’ fee. In some cases, it might even be 2 or 3 times higher than the ‘home’ fee.
Tuition fees at private universities
While some study programmes at private universities have tuition costs comparable to those at public institutions, it’s generally true that private higher education is more expensive. Additionally, these institutions often don’t differentiate between EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA citizens.
Students can pay anywhere from 5,000 to over 35,000 EUR per academic year. At both public and private universities, Business and Medical studies are the most expensive.
Most affordable universities in the UK
You can find free or very affordable (under 5,000 EUR/year) Bachelors and Masters in the United Kingdom. But keep in mind that the vast majority are only available at this low cost to EU/EEA students.
Let’s take a look at some of the most affordable UK universities and colleges:
- College of Human and Health Sciences – Bachelors start at 0 EUR/year for EU/EEA citizens
- University of the West of Scotland – Bachelors start at 0 EUR/year for EU/EEA citizens
- University of Stirling – Masters start at 0 EUR/year for all international students
- Aston University – Masters start at 0 EUR/year for all international students
You can find other free or affordable higher education institutions, but don’t forget: if you’re from the EU/EEA and start studying after 1 August 2021, you won’t benefit from the ‘home fee status’ anymore.
Universities we recommend in the UK
- Imperial College London
- King's College London
- Coventry University
- Hult International Business School
- Leeds Beckett University
Check out the best universities in the UK according to global rankings.
2. Student living costs in the UK
Living as an international student in the United Kingdom isn’t exactly cheap.
But how much you end up spending largely depends on where you will live. In popular cities like London, monthly living costs can easily jump over 1,500 EUR (1,360 GBP). In smaller towns, you can get by with a budget of 700–1,200 EUR (635–1,040 GBP) per month.
The national currency here is the pound sterling (GBP). At the time of writing this article, 4.55 GBP equal around 5 EUR.
3. Student accommodation costs
Many universities in the UK provide student residence halls. These living spaces offer great value for money and include the costs of utilities in the overall price. Student residence halls are most popular among first-year students.
After the first academic year, many future graduates choose to rent a private space, either alone or with other peers. This option is more expensive, but it offers a more accurate sense of what it is like to live in the real world:
- one-bedroom apartment outside the city centre: 610 GBP/month
- one-bedroom apartment in the city centre: 740 GBP/month
- three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre: 975 GBP/month
- three-bedroom apartment in the city centre: 1,255 GBP/month
Monthly utilities will add another 90–160 GBP to your expenses.
4. Food costs in the UK
Students will spend between 150 and 250 GBP on food and groceries. If you eat out and order food often, this budget will go up quickly. The following are some of the average prices for food products in the United Kingdom:
- 1 loaf of bread: 1 GBP
- 1 litre of milk: 0.90 GBP
- 12 eggs: 1.95 GBP
- 1 kg of local cheese: 5.60 GBP
- 1 kg of apples: 1.80 GBP
- 1 kg of bananas: 1.10 GBP
- 1 meal at affordable restaurants: 12 GBP
Check out other living costs in the UK.
5. Transportation costs
To commute on a daily basis, you can choose from various means of public transport; and most of them offer discounts to students or young people in general. These discounts might vary from one area or city to another, but here are a few examples:
- train: 30% discount for full-time students who buy a Young Persons Card, which usually costs 30 GBP
- tube (metro/subway) in London: 30% discount for +18-year-old students who buy the Oyster Student Card
- bus: 1.50–2.50 GBP for a one-way ticket
6. Extra costs in the UK
- entertainment (cinema, concerts, theatre): 50–100 GBP/month
- student visa fee: 348 GBP (one-time fee)
- Immigration Health Surcharge (gives you access to the UK’s National Health Service): 470 GBP/year
7. University scholarships and grants
In the UK, international students can apply for numerous scholarships and other types of financial support. To be a successful applicant, you need to meet the admission requirements. Scholarships are usually awarded based on different criteria:
- (financial) need
- previous academic achievement
You can check out scholarship opportunities on the official Study in the UK website. You’re also bound to find useful info on the web page of your chosen university, so take the time to do some research.
While you’re at it, apply for our Studyportals Scholarship: International Distinction Awards.