How much does it cost to study in the UK? If you are interested in studying in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, then one of the most important things to consider is how much everything is going to cost. This essential guide breaks down the cost of every aspect of university life to ensure that you have everything covered.
Note that prices are correct at the time of publication and may vary from those shown here.
UK tuition fees vary depending on your home country. For home students, English universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
Institutions in Wales can charge up to £9,000 for home students and £3,925 for European Union and Northern Irish students. However, if you are Welsh student, you can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of your tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
Scotland does not charge home or EU students fees at undergraduate level, however, any student from England, Wales or Northern Ireland is expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. Non-EU international students will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
In 2020, international students can expect to pay between between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year.
There is no upper limit on postgraduate degree charges for international students, but they tend to be more expensive than most undergraduate courses and the fee varies depending on the university.
For home and EU students, loans are available from the government to cover tuition and maintenance (living cost) fees. The upper limit for tuition fee loans is £9,250 per annum. A typical undergraduate degree in the UK lasts three years, meaning that the average student debt amounted to £27,000 in 2020. This does not include repayment of any maintenance loan, which, when added to tuition fee debt, can total between £35,000 and £40,000.
In 2020, the average student rent came to £126 per week, or £547 a month, however, students in London can expect to pay an average of £182 a week, or £640 a month. The average annual cost for students is £4,914 (based on a 39-week contract). Most rents include bills of some kind, although one-third of students will pay bills on top of rent.
At the end of a typical three-year undergraduate degree, the expected total cost for accommodation is £14,742. A maintenance loan is available from the government for home and EU students to cover living costs (including accommodation).
Students will typically stay in university accommodation for the first year and then move to private housing for the second and third years. University accommodation costs will vary depending on where in the UK the student is based and which kind of accommodation they opt for.
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Other essential student costs
Utility bills (water, gas and electric) in rented accommodation are approximately £50 per month, with mobile phone bills ranging from £10 to £60. Broadband internet costs about £20 per month, however this is usually split between tenants.
Books and university equipment, on average, will cost £15 per week, or £60 per month.
Outside London and other major university cities, an average single bus journey is about £1.50 and £45 a month for a student travel card. Students at central London universities should expect to spend £23 a week on travel (covering London Underground, buses, trams and trains) or £140 a month.
Students also benefit from one-third off travel on regional trains with a 16-25 Railcard. For example, a single adult ticket booked on the day of travel from London to Brighton (a popular day trip destination) is £17.50, or £11.50 with a student railcard. On average, a litre of petrol costs £1.16, while a litre of diesel is £1.18.
Including self-catered accommodation, food, course costs, transport, socialising and utility contracts, the average living cost a year for 2016 was £8,990 – amounting to £26,970 across a three-year period.
The average weekly food bill in the UK is £50, although this could be lower if you stay in private catered halls. Food bill costs also vary depending on your diet and where you are living in the country. A meal in a pub costs £8 to £12, with a restaurant meal costing about £10 to £25. The average price of a cinema ticket is £7.41, while a Big Mac is £3.39. A pint of beer comes to about £3.67 and a 175ml glass of wine is £4. However, prices in London and cities in the South will be higher than in cities in the North.
Gym membership typically costs about £50 a month but many gyms offer student discount.
A typical night out including travel, drinks and club or event entry is approximately £30. Gig tickets range from £5 to £45, depending on the venue and acts.
It is important to note that in many places you may be able to receive student prices or a student discount, such as at the cinema, theatre, in restaurants and in a number of shops. So be sure to always carry your university student card with you, or explore discount cards and websites for students that may have some good deals.
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What financial support is available
Most full-time and part-time home or EU undergraduates will receive a tuition fee loan from the government to pay for their course fees (see above). Maintenance loans are also available to cover living costs.
However, finance for international students is more complicated as loans are available only to students who have lived in the UK for at least three years prior to starting their course.
There are plenty of scholarships, bursaries and grants available for overseas students. All of them are extremely competitive but UK universities are always looking to boost their international student numbers so time should be taken to consider all the options. The scholarships on the British Council database are funded by the UK government and external organisations. It’s also worth checking your university of choice’s website to see whether they have an appropriate scholarship. You can view a full list of postgraduate scholarships here.
While studying in the UK may be among the most expensive options in the world, the range of student discounts on day-to-day expenses means that students can live economically while making the most of their experience.
All students can apply for a National Union of Students (NUS) card, which provides proof of student status and offers discounts of up to 50 per cent on technology, food shopping, eating out, going out, media subscriptions, clothes, travel and university supplies. There are separate cards and programmes that offer a broader range of discounts, such as UNiDAYS and Student Beans.
Many banks offer student incentives such as free railcards, Amazon vouchers and Apple gadgets. Often in university towns, the local establishments will encourage students’ custom by offering discounts.
Read more in this series
The cost of studying at a university in the United States
The cost of studying at a university in Germany
The cost of studying at a university in Canada
The cost of studying at a university in France
The cost of studying at a university in Australia
The cost of studying at a university in the Netherlands
The cost of studying at a university in New Zealand
The cost of studying at a university in China