Scholarships and funding for international students in the UK
If you're an international student looking for funding to study in the UK then you've come to the right place – this complete guide will tell you everything you need to know.
With some of the best universities in the world and strong employment prospects, the UK is a popular destination for students all over the globe.
But studying at university as an international student can be seriously costly – with fees often topping £20,000 a year and living expenses on top of that, the majority of students will need financial help from somewhere in order to make it work.
So where can you go to get this financial support? Where can you find scholarships and how do you apply to them? We've hunted the web to put together the complete guide to funding for international students in the UK.
What’s on this page?
- How much are tuition fees for international students in the UK?
- Where can you get financial support to study in the UK?
- How to get a scholarship to study in the UK
- Where to search for international scholarships
- Global scholarships for international students
- International scholarships by country
- University-specific international scholarships
- Can international students work in the UK?
How much are tuition fees for international students in the UK?
As an international student studying in the UK, you'll be paying tuition fees substantially higher than home students. Although tuition fees in the UK are capped at £9,250, this doesn't apply to everyone, and costs will vary depending on whether you're a student from the EU or not.
First things first, your tuition fees will be the same as home students (capped at £9,250 a year), if you are:
- From an EU country
- A foreign worker from the European Economic Area (EEA) based in the UK
- The child of a Turkish worker living in the UK
Plus, you'll be eligible for a government student loan covering the cost of your tuition fees (and living costs if you're studying an undergraduate degree).
We have loads more information about tuition fees for EU students for you to take a look at.
Students from outside the EU
If you're an international student from outside the EU, you won't be eligible for this same financial support, and the cost of your tuition fees will likely be much more.
Fees are determined by the individual university and the course you're studying. It's hard to pin down exactly how this works, but it tends to be the more prestigious the university, the more they'll charge, and courses which involve expensive equipment and resources will cost more too.
So humanities and social science degrees tend to cost the least, with degrees involving laboratory or clinical work costing the most.
- Undergraduate degrees
In 2017/18 these started at around £10,000 a year for lecture-based courses, but rose to as much as £38,000 a year or more for a medical degree.
- Postgraduate degrees
In 2017/18 classroom-based degrees costed between £11,000 and £32,000 a year. Laboratory-based courses, which involve more expensive equipment, averaged between £12,000 and £27,200 a year.
If you want more information on fees, take a look at our guide to tuition fees for international students which goes into much more depth on this.
Don't forget, in order to obtain the student visa you need to study in the UK, you'll also need to prove you have £1,015 in your bank account for each month of study up to nine months. So if your course is nine months or more, you'll need at least £9,135 in order to get a visa.
If you plan on living and studying in London, this rises to £1,265 a month.
Where can you get financial support to study in the UK?
Although securing financial support for your studies as an international student can be tricky, there are a wide range of options out there, so do plenty of research and explore every avenue.
Here's just a quick summary of some of the main routes you might want to take a look at.
A more affordable way to study in the UK as an international student might be through an exchange programme.
This would involve enrolling as a student at a university in your home country, and studying in the UK for a semester or year.
Check individual universities to see whether they have any partnerships with universities in the UK before you apply.
International student loans
As an international student, you won't be eligible for a loan from the UK government like home or EU students. However, there are other education loans out there that you might want to look in to.
For example, US students can apply for a Study Abroad Loan if you're planning on studying abroad for a short period of time, such as for a semester or year. If you want to study at a university abroad full-time, you can apply for a Foreign Enrolled Loan instead.
Individual countries will have different schemes in place for this, so make sure to research loans for student from your own country.
Private companies sometimes offer financial support for you to study in the UK under the condition that you work for them for a certain amount of time after graduation.
If there are any large companies which are keen to employ graduates of your subject, this is worth looking into!
Ok, so you probably wouldn't be searching for scholarships if you had the money yourself, but 65% of international students fund their degrees with the help of family members.
If you think there's a chance your parents or wider family might be able to give you some financial help, it might be worth discussing.
This is the big one. Scholarships are one of the main sources of funding for students seeking to study abroad.
How to get a scholarship to study in the UK
There are absolutely loads of scholarships up for grabs for international students. This is great news, but it's important to exercise caution – they are seriously competitive and often have very stringent eligibility criteria.
Plus, the vast majority of them are for postgraduate rather than undergraduate degrees. Undergraduate scholarships, bursaries and fee waivers are available, but are less common – your best option is to hunt out individual universities which provide these.
If you do your research thoroughly, meet the eligibility criteria and prepare a strong application, then of course you stand a good chance of securing a scholarship.
But there are no guarantees, so you should always think about what you're going to do if you're unsuccessful.
Applications for scholarships vary; in most cases they'll involve an application form, but some might also ask you to complete a written assignment or test, and attend an interview.
Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, and from a surprising amount of sources. There's three main types you will want to investigate though.
- Global scholarships – These are broader scholarships not tied to a specific country or university. However, they're not open to everyone and still have strict eligibility criteria.
- Country-specific scholarships – These are scholarships for students from a specific country.
- University scholarships – A lot of UK universities will offer their own scholarships and financial support, for international students coming to study at their institution.
Where to search for international scholarships
As we've said, there are a huge range of scholarships available and it would be impossible for us to cover them all here. Luckily there are some databases which compile lots of scholarships in one place.
Here are a few of the most reliable and comprehensive:
- Foreign Students
- International Scholarships
- International Education Financial Aid (IEFA)
- Scholarship Portal
- British Council Study UK (It's worth contacting your local British Council office to find out more about scholarships for students in your country).
Global scholarships for international students
These are scholarships that aren't restricted to students from a specific country. However, they're not for students from all countries, so make sure you read the small print, as well as the eligibility criteria we've summarised here.
Plus, there are loads more scholarships that we haven't listed here – these are just some of the main ones and a good starting part for your research.
Level of study: Master's
Countries eligible: 144 countries worldwide. The number of scholarships available varies from country to country, but around 700 are awarded each year
Other eligibility criteria: You must return to your home country to work for at least two years after graduation. For acceptance on to most UK MA courses, you typically need the equivalent of a 2:1 Honours degree. Finally, you also need up to two years' work experience and to meet the Chevening English language requirement.
Applications open: August the year before you are due to start studying. The deadline typically falls in October/November.
Chevening Scholarships are funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They're awarded to students with strong academic ability and clear leadership skills.
They're looking for people who have the potential to become pioneers in their field, and are committed to returning to their home country to contribute to its socioeconomic development through their work.
Many previous recipients have gone on to become successful politicians, leaders and writers.
You'll be expected to apply to three separate courses at UK universities, although you don't need to hold offers before you can apply for the scholarship.
The scholarships are competitive and the application is rigorous – you'll need to fill in an application form, attend an interview and provide references.
Level of study: Master's and PhD (undergraduate for citizens of St Helena and the Seychelles only)
Countries eligible: 62 Commonwealth countries
Other eligibility criteria: You must be a Commonwealth citizen, refugee or British protected person. You'll typically also need a minimum 2:1 Honours degree
Applications open: August before you are due to start studying.
There a whopping 10 different types of Commonwealth Scholarship, for Masters and PhD students, and for high, middle and low income countries.
Along with scholarships covering PhD and Master's courses, they also offer Split-Site Scholarships which enable you to spend one year studying at a UK university as part of your PhD, and Distance Learning Scholarships, which enable you to study a Master's while living in your home country.
They also offer Shared Scholarships – for these you must apply through one of the participating UK universities.
A scholarship will typically cover your tuition fees, a monthly living allowance and travel to and from the UK.
The scholarships are offered under six different themes, including things like science and technology for development, and promoting global prosperity.
Level of study: Master's
Countries eligible: Canada, China (including Hong Kong), India, Pakistan and USA
Other eligibility criteria: You must have an offer for a place at a Scottish university to study a Master's within one of the following subject areas: Science, Technology, Creative Industries, Healthcare and Medical Sciences or Renewable and Clean Energy
Applications open: October before you're due to start studying and close in May.
The Saltire Scholarships are specifically for studying at universities in Scotland.
There are 50 scholarships up for grabs each year, and each is worth £8,000. You need to be able to provide evidence that you can fund the rest of your tuition fees, as well as living costs for the duration of your stay in Scotland.
International scholarships by country
Pretty much every country will have its own scholarships for students wishing to study abroad. These come from a whole range of different sources, and in some cases have pretty niche eligibility criteria.
We've listed just a few below to give you a taste of what's out there.
The Australia Day Foundation UK Trust
Level of study: All levels
Other eligibility criteria: You need to be entitled to live and study in the UK
Applications open: November and close in April.
Funding from The Australia Day Foundation UK Trust is for Australian students who have already been accepted on to a course to study in the UK.
Grants vary but the maximum value you will receive is £10,000. This can be used to cover course fees, study materials and travel to and from the UK, but not for living expenses or day to day travel.
Mackenzie King Memorial Scholarships
Level of study: Master's or PhD
Eligibility criteria: You need a degree from a Canadian university with a minimum grade of A- across all courses to date
Applications open: Apply through your home university by January.
The Mackenzie King Scholarships come in two varieties: Open or Travelling.
The Open Scholarship is for a student in any discipline, to study in either Canada or abroad. It's normally around $8,500 but only one is given out every year.
The Travelling Scholarships are just for students studying international or industrial relations either in the UK or the US. The amount given out each year varies, but each scholarship normally amounts to around $10,500.
You must apply through your home university, who will then put you forward for the scholarship if successful.
Level of study: Postgraduate
Eligibility criteria: You need to hold an offer for an eligible course at one of the participating universities
Applications open: Varies across institutions.
The GREAT Scholarships are to support Chinese students carrying out postgraduate study at universities in the UK – there's 150 scholarships on offer, with a total pot of nearly £1 million.
31 universities are part of the programme, and each will vary slightly in terms of eligibility criteria, available courses and the amount of money you'll receive, so make sure you do your research!
Level of study: Master's
Eligibility criteria: You need to be a Chinese national seeking to study a postgraduate course in film, television or games
Applications open: March and close in June.
Check out the list of courses eligible for the BAFTA Scholarship before you apply. Successful applicants will receive up to £10,000 to cover tuition fees and up to £5,000 for living expenses.
Level of study: All levels (but you are expected to already hold an undergraduate degree)
Eligibility criteria: As well as holding an undergraduate degree, you must have been accepted on to your chosen course at a ‘top ranking' institution
Applications open: January and close in April.
The Inlaks Scholarship covers tuition fees, adequate living expenses and one-way travel.
They're looking for creativity and uniqueness – people with ‘special talent' and ‘flair'. You need to be able to prove you're an academic and personal achiever, and that you've got potential to really excel on your chosen course.
The Oxford and Cambridge Society of India Scholarships
Level of study: Undergraduate and postgraduate
Eligibility criteria: You need to be under 30 years of age, and have applied and secured admission to study a course at either Oxford or Cambridge University.
Applications open: March and close in May.
The Oxford and Cambridge Society of India (OCSI) is a group of alumni who created a scholarship fund to help Indian students fund their degrees at the two institutions.
The scholarships are competitive – they award at least one each year, but the total amount is dependent on donors. The scholarships only cover part of the cost of a degree – this year they range from 100,000 to 300,000 rupees (£1,066 – £3,198).
They're also often tied to a specific college at one of the universities, and this depends on the donor.
The Felix Scholarship
Level of study: Postgraduate
Eligibility criteria: Academically gifted and underprivileged Indian students (or students from other low income countries) with a first class Bachelor's degree
Applications open: Apply for your degree course as normal, and apply for the scholarship by the end of January.
The Felix Scholarship is only for students applying to certain universities: University of Oxford, the University of Reading and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London. However, it is open to students in all subject areas.
The scholarship will cover all tuition fees, living costs and return flights to the UK.
Although the majority of recipients of the scholarship are Indian, a small amount of scholarships are also awarded to students from low income backgrounds from countries outside of India.
Level of study: Master's or PhD
Eligibility criteria: You must hold an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.7 grade point average. You must also be endorsed by your undergraduate university
Applications open: Late Spring the year before you are due to start studying.
The Marshall Scholarship is designed to help intellectually talented young Americans with leadership potential to study at any university in the UK.
Selection criteria is divided equally between academic merit, leadership potential and ambassadorial potential – essentially how you could help strengthen relations between the UK and US.
You can apply for a one-year or two-year scholarship, and two-year scholarships have the potential to be extended to three years, although this is not guaranteed. This means if you choose to do a PhD, you're not guaranteed funding for all four years of study.
You don't need to apply to a British university before you apply for a scholarship – the Marshall Commission takes responsibility for placing you in a university if you're successful.
Fulbright Commission Scholarships
Level of study: Master's or PhD
Eligibility criteria: As long as you're a US citizen with a bachelor's degree or equivalent, you're eligible
Applications open: Varies across institutions.
The Fulbright Commission offer awards to allow US students to complete postgraduate study in the UK.
There are dozens of different awards available, either at specific universities or as an ‘All Disciplines Award' which can be used for any Master's or Doctoral degree at any university.
Eligibility criteria and courses vary across universities, but typically they'll want people with leadership potential and a desire to learn more about the UK while acting as an ambassador for the US.
Again, exactly what the scholarship entails varies across institutions, but you should expect it to cover tuition fees and living costs for at least one year.
University-specific international scholarships
There are a huge range of scholarships and funding awards offered by universities across the UK – so many that we would be unable to list them all here.
We've picked out some of the key ones below, but we would recommend checking with individual institutions yourself.
The information should be freely available on university websites, but if you're struggling to find it or have questions, drop them an email. Make sure you include the course you're looking to study and your nationality as these will likely affect your eligibility.
Gates Cambridge (University of Cambridge)
Level of study: Postgraduate (Master's, MSc or PhD)
Countries eligible: Any outside the UK
Eligibility criteria: As long as you're not from the UK and you're applying for an eligible course, you can apply
Applications open: September. The deadline for US students is typically October, but for all other countries it is December/January depending on your course.
The Gates Cambridge scholarship is funded by a $210 million donation from Bill and Melinda Gates.
Successful applicants need to show their academic excellence, great leadership potential and a commitment to improving the lives of others.
Level of study: Undergraduate
Countries eligible: Any student classed as ‘overseas' can apply
Eligibility criteria: You need an offer for a place on a Kingston University undergraduate course
Applications open: Close in May.
Kingston University offers a scholarship of £4,000 for each year of study for international students completing an undergraduate degree.
The scholarship is open to students studying in any subject area, and they're looking for people with a strong academic record and a clear sense of what they want to do after graduation.
Rhodes Scholarship (University of Oxford)
Level of study: Postgraduate
Countries eligible: All Rhodes constituencies listed here
Eligibility criteria: You need to be aged between 18-24, and hold a Bachelor's degree of a high enough standard to meet Oxford's criteria
Applications open: June the year before you are due to start studying, typically closing around September/October (although this varies across countries).
One of the oldest and most prestigious international scholarship programmes in the world, the Rhodes Scholarship has rigorous selection criteria.
They're not only looking for students with academic excellence, but also those who get involved in extracurricular activities such as sport, debate, music and theatre. Criteria varies from country to country, however, so make sure you double check before applying.
A.S. Hornby Scholarship (University of Warwick)
Level of study: Master's (specifically in English Language Teaching)
Eligibility criteria: You must have at least two years' full-time ELT experience and an undergraduate degree. You'll also need a valid IELTS score of 6.5 overall
Applications open: November, and close February.
The A. S. Hornby Scholarship is for experienced English Language teachers who have the potential to shape the future of the discipline.
The scholarship is for the one-year TESOL MA course at Warwick University, and covers tuition fees, travel to and from the UK, a monthly living allowance, visas and IELTS test costs.
Can international students work in the UK?
Your visa or biometric residence permit (BRP) will specify whether you're allowed to work in the UK and for how many hours.
This will typically be 20 hours a week during term time for those studying at degree level, and you'll be allowed to work full-time during the holidays, as well as before and after term starts.
However, don't bank on being able to fund your living costs with a part-time job – it's unlikely you'll be able to earn enough to cover all your expenses, and you don't want your job to interfere with your studies.
Also, as an international student on a Tier 4 visa you can't:
- Take a gap year to work full-time while staying in the UK to study
- Claim welfare benefits or tax credits for extra financial support.
Know about a really great scholarship that we've missed? Let us know in the comments below so we can add it in!