UK tuition fees for international students
So you're an international student looking to study in the UK? We're here to guide you through tuition fees and living costs.
The UK is one of the most popular destinations for international students, and you can see why. It's home to some world-class institutions and culturally diverse cities, but it comes at a cost.
With tuition fees regularly exceeding £10,000 a year, and student living costs, travel and books on top of that, you need to budget carefully and make sure the benefits of the degree are worth the costs.
If you fancy joining the hundreds of thousands of international students who study in the UK every year, then here's a lowdown of all the costs you'll need to take into account.
What’s in this guide?
How much are UK tuition fees for international students?
In 2020/21, annual tuition fees for international undergraduate students in the UK* started at £9,250 (US $12,870) and rose to as much as £30,548 (US $42,500), or up to £64,652 (US $89,950) for medical degrees.
However, most universities' fees for the majority of subjects fell somewhere between £10,000 – £20,000 (US $13,910 – $27,830). We'll go into a little more detail later.
Annual tuition fees for international postgraduate students started from as little as £4,800 (US $6,680), rising to as much as £36,984 (US $51,440), or £49,950 (US $69,470) for medical degrees and £59,490 (US $82,740) for MBAs.
But as with undergraduate fees, most fall within a certain range. The majority of postgraduate courses at most universities charged between £12,000 – £20,000 (US $16,690 – $27,820) in 2020/21 and again, we'll expand on this in a moment.
As you can see, tuition fees for international students vary hugely across universities, courses and levels of study – and, as such, it's difficult to calculate an exact cost.
Although there are no exact rules, here are four things you'll want to take into consideration when pricing up your degree:
- The more prestigious a university, the more expensive it will likely be. Check out the list of the top 10 UK universities to get an idea of which are considered the best.
- Medical and science degrees, especially those which involve expensive equipment or access to laboratories, will be substantially more expensive than lecture-based degrees in Arts and Humanities.
- Since tuition fees are charged on a yearly basis, how long your course is will also be a major factor in its overall cost.
- The level of study might also affect the cost – although it's not always the case, postgraduate and doctoral degrees can be more expensive than undergraduate.
However, while we can't give you a precise figure, what we can do is give you some averages so you have a rough idea of what to expect. For exact prices, you should contact the individual universities you're interested in.
International undergraduate tuition fees
Most undergraduate courses run for three years, although some can run for longer.
'Sandwich courses' have an additional year in industry, for example, while in Scotland it's the norm for undergraduate degrees to last four years.
Various sources estimate that the average annual cost of an undergraduate degree for an international student is around £12,000 a year (US $16,690)* – although as we outlined above, some can cost significantly more than that.
If we take the cost of tuition in isolation, this means the average degree will cost £36,000 (US $50,070)* over three years, or £48,000 (US $66,760)* for a four-year course. Of course, this doesn't include the cost of living which will amount to several thousands of pounds every year in itself.
International postgraduate tuition fees
If you decide you want to complete some further study after your undergraduate degree, you can expect to pay higher fees. This is particularly the case for master's or PhDs, which are popular and well-sought-after postgraduate courses.
As these courses are naturally more specialised, there might be some additional costs you need to be aware of, like specialist research equipment or resources. Always check with individual universities for these.
And just with an undergraduate degree, costs will vary according to what kind of subject you'll be studying.
Times Higher Education calculates the average cost of tuition as shown in the table below. And as master's degrees tend to just last for one year, these averages also represent the total cost of tuition.
Average postgraduate tuition fees for international students
|Type of degree||Tuition fees (£)||Tuition fees (US $)*|
*All currency conversions were rounded to the nearest $10 and were correct as of April 2021.
Don't forget that scholarships and bursaries are much more common for postgraduate degrees than at undergraduate level, so it's more likely you'll be able to receive financial support to help you fund your studies.
Head over to our guide to scholarships and bursaries for international students to see what's available.
Many students also come to the UK to study a language at one of the country's many language schools.
Prices vary across institutions but you should expect to be paying around £70 – £100 a week (US $97 – $154*) for a standard full-time course (15 hours) or around £1,300 ($1,808*) for a more intensive course lasting a few weeks or months. Again, prices vary depending on where you study and the service provided.
Check out Foreign Students for a directory of English Language schools in the UK.
Bear in mind that some courses will be accredited (i.e. they award recognised qualifications), and they will likely be more expensive than non-accredited ones.
* All currency conversions were rounded to the nearest $1 and were correct as of April 2021.
How do UK international tuition fees compare with the rest of the world?
If you're looking for a cheap destination for studying abroad, then the UK might not be your best bet.
In comparison, places like Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Finland and Denmark are considerably cheaper, by as much as £10,000 a year in some cases (when taking both tuition fees and cost of living into account).
Countries such as Germany and Norway offer completely free tuition in most cases (for international students as well as home students!) so you might only have to factor in living costs.
However, degrees in the UK are often shorter than in some countries. For example, an undergraduate degree in the US is four years, but only three in the UK. Similarly, an MA is two years in the US, while in the UK they typically only last one. This can have a significant impact on the overall amount you spend on tuition fees.
The UK does boast some of the best universities in the world, with a fascinating culture and impressive employment prospects to boot, but studying here is a serious investment – so you need to make sure it's right for you.
UK living costs for international students
Tuition fees aren't the only cost you'll have to account for when coming to study in the UK – you'll need to budget for living costs as well.
In order to get the Student visa required to live and study in the UK, you'll need to prove you have enough money to cover your living expenses while here.
This equates to £1,023 (£1,334 if you'll be based in London) for each month of study up to nine months. So if your course is nine months or more, you'll need at least £9,207 (£12,006 in London) (US $12,810 and US $16,700 respectively)* in your bank account in order to get a visa.
You'll need to think about rent, bills, food, transport, books as well as travel to and from the UK.
You'll also need to take into consideration the cost of the visa itself – currently £348 (US $480)* – and an NHS surcharge of £470 (US $650)*.
* All currency conversions were rounded to the nearest $10 and were correct as of April 2021.
Financial help is out there in the form of scholarships and bursaries, which you can find out more about in our guide to funding for international students.