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UK university fees: An international students’ guide

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

If you’re considering studying in the UK, then it’s important to understand UK university fees.

The UK is one of the most popular destinations for international students, and for good reason - it is full of world-class institutions and culturally diverse cities. But like most good things, it comes at a cost. 

Tuition fees for international students can routinely exceed £10,000 a year, not including the cost of living, travel, and books. International students need to budget carefully and make sure the benefits of study are worth the cost.

In this article we will explore both academic and living costs for international students, as well as introducing some potential funding options, to help ensure that you are able to budget effectively before deciding where to study in the UK.  

Understanding the cost of studying in the UK

Academic costs

UK tuition fees vary depending on which of the countries in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) the university is situated in. Across the whole of the UK, home and EU students can expect to pay up to £9,250 per year, with Scotland a marked exception.

In 2024, Non-EU international students can expect to pay somewhere between £10,000 and £29,000 annually for a lecture-based undergraduate course. As you can see, fees for international students can vary hugely, across universities and courses, making it difficult to calculate an exact cost.

It is worth noting that after the UK's separation from the EU, from 2021, EU students who do not live in the UK will likely be considered as international students. Students with settled and pre-settled status in the UK and some other categories of students who work in the UK can qualify for ‘home fee’ status as long as they meet the residence criteria.

Here are three things to consider when looking at your UK university fees:

  1. The more prestigious a university, the more expensive it will likely be. Read our recent article, exploring the best colleges in London, for an idea of which are considered best in the country's capital.

  2. Medical and science degrees, especially those which involve costly equipment or access to labs, will be substantially more expensive than lecture based degrees in the Arts and Humanities. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year.

  3. Since university fees are charged on a yearly basis, how long your course is, even an undergraduate degree, will also be a major factor in its overall cost.

Academic costs aren’t only incurred through tuition fees, however. It’s worth considering the additional expenses that can arise from your studies. 

Books and university equipment can cost an average of £60 per month, although that can differ from course to course. If you’re applying to a science based course then you may have to take into account things such as lab coats and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which other courses wouldn’t.

Living costs

Living costs while studying abroad can often be overlooked, which is an error as living in some areas of the UK can be especially expensive. When planning your study, pay close attention to what it will cost to live, and not just what it will cost to study.

Here are three of the main non-academic costs of studying abroad: 


In 2023, the average cost of rent for a student came to £547 a month, or for students in London, an average of £640 a month. The average annual cost for students, based on a 39 week academic year, is £4,914. While most rents include some bills, one third of students will pay some bills on top of the cost of their rent, with home and EU students able to apply for maintenance loans from the government to help with their living costs.

Students will normally stay in university accommodation for the first year of their degree, before moving into private housing for their following years. Accommodation costs will also vary depending on where in the UK the student is based, as private rental costs vary hugely across the country. What type of accommodation they choose will also have a large bearing. 

Utility bills in private rental housing can vary, but are likely to be between £50 and £100 per month, with broadband on top of that at around £20 per month.


Depending on where you choose to study, taking into account potential travel costs is important. Outside London and other major university cities, an average bus journey is about £1.50, or £45 per month on a student travel card. Students living in central London could be hit with travel costs of around £23 a week or £140 per month. Students can benefit from a subsidised Railcard which gives them one third off travel on regional trains.


Lifestyle is another important factor when budgeting for your studies. Here are some average lifestyle costs that should help you create a budget for living abroad: 

  • The average weekly food bill in the UK is around £50, although this can vary enormously depending not only on what you choose to eat, but also where you are in the country 

  • An average meal at a pub or restaurant will set you back between £8 and £25

  • A cinema ticket will cost you around £7.50 

  • A gym membership will cost around £50 a month 

  • A typical night out in the UK costs around £30, including travel, drinks and event entry, but this can be significantly higher in London, where the average reaches in excess of £80

In general, prices in London and cities in the South of England will be significantly higher than cities in the North or in Scotland. It is worth noting that many places, such as cinemas, theatres, restaurants and gyms, will offer student prices or discounts upon the production of valid student identification.

Scholarships for international students

There are different ways you might finance your studies in the UK. One of these is a scholarship. While more common with postgraduate studies, undergraduate scholarships, bursaries and fee waivers are regularly available.

If you do your research thoroughly, meet the eligibility criteria, and prepare a strong application, then you stand a reasonable chance of securing a scholarship.

In the UK, scholarships are all very competitive, but with universities keen to increase their international student numbers, it is worth researching individual universities for undergraduate scholarships as this is the best place to find them. There is also a British Council database which hosts scholarships that are funded by government and external organisations.

UK university fees: How they differ across the UK

UK university fees vary depending on the country the university is located in. For example, universities in England can charge home students up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.

Institutions in Wales can charge up to £9,000 for students from Wales and up to £3,925 for students from Northern Ireland and the European Union.

In Northern Ireland universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and could charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK and the EU.

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 the UK than home students, with the average cost of tuition for 2020 being £17,000 across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

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