Student Finance on a year abroad
Worried about the costs of doing a year abroad? There's plenty of money up for grabs, and here's how you find it...
Doing a year abroad as part of your degree is an amazing experience, but many students worry that it'll be too expensive.
The reality, however, is that tuition fees abroad are often considerably cheaper than in the UK and there's loads of extra financial support out there in the form of grants and loans.
If you fancy exploring a new country, immersing yourself in another culture and gaining some invaluable skills that will impress employers after you graduate, here's all the finance stuff you need to know to turn your year abroad dreams into a reality.
What’s in this guide?
- What Student Finance can you get on a year abroad?
- Study abroad support for English students
- Study abroad support for Northern Irish students
- Study abroad support for Scottish students
- Study abroad support for Welsh students
- Extra funding for Erasmus+
- Repaying your study abroad Student Loan
- Other year abroad costs to consider
Can you get Student Finance for a year abroad?
In a nutshell: if you decide to do a year abroad as part of your degree, you should still be entitled to the same types of funding as you would if you were studying in the UK as normal.
In fact, taking into account travel grants and the additional money offered to Erasmus+ students, you may even receive more support than in your years studying at your home university.
These are the types of funding available to students on a year abroad:
Tuition Fee Loan
In the majority of cases, you won't pay any tuition fees at your host university abroad. What's more, you'll usually pay a reduced amount of tuition fees to your UK university, which will be covered by a Tuition Fee Loan just as normal.
However, if you're spending less than a full year abroad or you're on a work placement, the rate you pay may vary.
Where in the UK you're from, and where your home university is located, will also affect the rate of tuition you pay for your time abroad.
So, read on to discover the guideline amounts and always check with your university or Student Finance body to confirm the details before committing to anything.
While studying abroad, you should still get a Maintenance Loan as you would if you were doing a normal year of study in the UK.
Depending on where in the UK you're from, you may even be entitled to more than you would be at home. That's because, despite studying abroad, your Maintenance Loan (and Tuition Fee Loan, for that matter) is still paid by the Student Finance body that you apply to at home.
Again, in addition to where in the UK you're from, exact entitlements could vary depending on how long you'll be spending abroad and the type of placement you'll be doing.
Not to sound too much like a broken record, but as well as reading the information below, we'd urge you to contact your Student Finance body or university to confirm the specifics before deciding whether or not to study abroad.
In addition to a Maintenance Loan and a Tuition Fee Loan, you may also be entitled to a travel grant. As a grant, this money does not have to be repaid, unlike the two loans.
And, despite what the name may imply, travel grants don't just cover the cost of the transport to and from your study abroad destination. They can also be used to pay for associated costs you'll incur as a result of studying abroad, which you wouldn't have encountered had you stayed in the UK.
What do travel grants cover?
Here are the main costs that travel grants can be used to cover:
- Flights (or journeys on other forms of transport) between the UK and your overseas destination over the course of the academic year. There may be a limit on the number of journeys you can claim for.
- The cost of return travel for any dependent children if you're a single parent. Again, there may be a limit on the number of journeys you can claim for.
- Mandatory medical insurance, visas and medical expenses needed for studying abroad.
Note that the grant only covers reasonable travel expenses – which means the most cost-effective tickets on the most economical form of transport. So if you fancied using this to bag yourself some free first-class flights, think again!
In addition, the travel grant usually doesn't cover 100% of your costs. In most cases, you'll have to pay the first few hundred pounds of your expenses yourself – although you may have to pay more depending on where in the UK you're from and what your household income is.
What's more, unlike the loans for tuition and maintenance, travel grants are usually paid retroactively. In other words, you'll probably have to purchase your flights (or whatever else) and submit an expenses form to receive some of the money back.
And yes, you guessed it: we'd recommend you check with your university or Student Finance body to clarify your specific entitlements before making a decision either way.
English Student Finance on a year abroad
The following information outlines the financial support to English students on a year abroad – but remember, if you're going overseas on the Erasmus+ programme, you could also claim an extra grant through that scheme.
Study abroad tuition fees for English students
In the majority of cases, if you're studying for a full year abroad, you won't pay any extra tuition fees at your host university abroad. In fact, you'll almost certainly pay a lot less than what you'd usually pay in the UK.
But exactly how much you'll be charged depends on where in the UK your home university is, as the table below demonstrates:
Year abroad Tuition Fee Loans for English students 2021/22
|Country of home university||Maximum fee cap|
|Northern Ireland||£4,625 or £0*|
* If your home university is in Northern Ireland and you'll be taking part in an Erasmus+ placement, your fees will be paid for you.
If you're studying abroad for less than a full academic year, you may have to pay more, as the figures in the table above only apply to students spending a whole year abroad. In some cases this may even mean paying the full rate of tuition to your home university, but as the rules tend to vary from uni to uni, we'd advise you check with them directly.
Of course, the cost of university is different to what you actually pay, and whether you're studying in the UK or doing a year abroad, the cost should be covered in full by a Tuition Fee Loan, just as normal.
Study abroad Maintenance Loan for English students
As is the case when you're studying in the UK, the size of your Maintenance Loan on your year abroad will be determined by your household.
Bigger loans are on offer for those from less wealthy backgrounds, while those with higher household incomes get smaller loans – the expectation being that in these circumstances, your parents will be able to contribute to make up the shortfall.
The table below gives an indication of how much you can expect to receive on your year abroad to assist with your living costs, like rent and food. Note that we've only used these household incomes as a guide – Maintenance Loans for English students are based on your exact household income, and not grouped into bands.
Maintenance Loan for English students on a year abroad 2021/22
|Household income||Year Abroad Maintenance Loan|
Travel grants for English students studying abroad
In addition to your usual Student Finance funding, there are some extra costs that come with doing a year abroad that can be hard to cover – which is where student travel grants come in.
How much are travel grants for English students?
|Cost of travel||Household income||Travel grant allowance|
|£1,000||£39,796 or less||£697|
|£1,000||£45,877 or more||£0|
Much like the Maintenance Loan, how much money you can get as a travel grant is largely dependent on your household income.
And, regardless of your household income, you must pay the first £303 of your travel costs yourself. After this, the amount you will receive is reduced by £1 for each £8.73 your household income is over £39,796.
This means that if your household income is £39,796 or less, you'll get your full costs reimbursed (minus the first £303) – however, if your household income is £45,877 or more, you won't be eligible to receive any amount of travel grant.
Northern Irish Student Finance on a year abroad
At the time of writing, the figures for Northern Irish Student Finance entitlements in the 2021/22 academic year have not yet been published.
So, instead, we've outlined the amounts on offer in the 2020/21 academic year. Although we'll update this page as soon as we have more info, it's worth noting that the rules around who is entitled to what rarely change too drastically, so the figures below should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Study abroad tuition fees for Northern Irish students
The rate of tuition for Northern Irish students studying abroad is dependent on three things:
- Where your home university is
- How long you'll be studying abroad for
- Whether or not you're going through the Erasmus+ programme.
Here are the maximum tuition fees chargeable to Northern Irish students studying abroad for a full year:
Year abroad tuition fees for Northern Irish students 2020/21
|Country of home university||Erasmus+||Non-Erasmus+|
|England||15% (£1,385)||15% (£1,385)|
|Northern Ireland||£0*||50% (£2,185)|
|Scotland||15% (£1,385)||50% (£4,625)|
|Wales||15% (£1,350)||15% (£1,350)|
* In Northern Ireland, if you're studying abroad for a year on an Erasmus+ placement, your fees will be paid for you.
If you're studying abroad for less than a full year you may need to pay more than the amounts listed above, and this could also be the case if you're doing a work placement abroad rather than studying. Student Finance Northern Ireland recommend that you contact them directly to clarify your specific circumstances.
However, it's worth noting that in most cases you should still receive a Tuition Fee Loan to cover the full cost, which you can read more about in our guide to Student Finance in Northern Ireland.
Study abroad Maintenance Loans for Northern Irish students
The Maintenance Loan you'll be entitled to when you're studying abroad is actually bigger than the one you'd receive if you were studying in the UK for a year.
You can receive up to £5,770 (£5,015 if your year abroad is also the final year of your course), although the exact amount you're entitled to will depend on your household income.
If your household income entitles you to a Maintenance Grant when you're studying in the UK (more details on that here), you should also be eligible to receive a portion of your funding in the form of a grant when you're studying abroad too.
Travel grants for Northern Irish students studying abroad
Travel grants are available for Northern Irish students spending at least half a semester abroad. The exact amount you receive is dependent on your household income, but regardless of how large a travel grant you get, you'll need to pay the first £309 of costs yourself.
To find out exactly how much you're eligible for, you'll need to apply to Student Finance Northern Ireland.
Scottish Student Finance on a year abroad
At the time of writing, Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) hasn't published the amounts on offer to students from Scotland in the 2021/22 academic year.
To give you a rough indication of how much you may be entitled to, we've used the figures from the 2020/21 academic year instead. The rules concerning who is entitled to what don't change too much from year to year, so the info below still acts as a very good guide until the 2021/22 figures are released.
Study abroad tuition fees for Scottish students
How much tuition you're charged when studying abroad as a Scottish student depends on three factors:
- Where your home university is
- How long you're studying abroad for
- What type of study abroad programme it is.
When it comes to the type of study abroad programme, it's important to know the difference between an exchange programme and a non-exchange programme.
As the name suggests, in an exchange programme, a student from a UK university swaps places with one from outside the UK. Erasmus+ is an example of a student exchange. Any study abroad programme where you're not swapping places with a student from another uni is classified as non-exchange.
If you're unsure what type of programme you'll be taking part in, check with your university.
Year abroad tuition fees for Scottish students in Scotland 2020/21
Good news! If you're a Scottish student whose home university is also in Scotland, studying abroad won't really affect your tuition fees in any material way.
This is because, while there are technically tuition fees for Scottish students (£1,820 a year), the amount is usually covered in full by Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) on your behalf. So, while the amount that they pay for you changes on a year abroad, it's still effectively free for you.
If you're after more info on how free tuition in Scotland works, head here.
Year abroad tuition fees for Scottish students in the rest of the UK 2020/21
|Type of study abroad programme||Maximum Tuition Fee Loan|
|Erasmus+ (full year)||15% of your normal fees*|
|Non-Erasmus+ exchange (full year)||Full amount|
|Any exchange (part-year)||Full amount|
|Non-exchange (full year)||Half amount|
|Non-exchange (part-year)||Full amount|
* The remaining 85% is paid for by the Higher Education Funding Council. In Northern Ireland, the full amount will be paid for you.
It's worth bearing in mind that although you can be charged full fees for the full year, that doesn't mean you will be – the amounts in the table above are just the maximum levels of loan available, so you should check with your own university to make sure.
In most cases, SAAS will give you a Tuition Fee Loan to cover the cost, although if you're doing a full year non-exchange programme, you should check with your university to see if they'll be charging you above the half-rate (which is the maximum amount SAAS will pay here).
Our guide to Student Finance in Scotland has everything you need to know about applying for funding.
Study abroad Student Loans for Scottish students
Unlike in the rest of the UK, Maintenance Loans (more commonly known as Student Loans in Scotland) and bursaries for Scottish students don't change depending on where you live while studying – the only factor that affects the amount you receive is your household income.
Student Loan for Scottish students on a year abroad 2020/21
|£0 to £20,999||£5,750||£2,000||£7,750|
|£21,000 to £23,999||£5,750||£1,125||£6,875|
|£24,000 to £33,999||£5,750||£500||£6,250|
Note that, unlike in the rest of the UK, the Scottish Student Finance system does use bands to group household incomes.
So, if you're in the same income band as another student – say, yours is £25,000 and theirs is £32,000, meaning you're both in the third band – you will receive the same amount as them. This is in contrast to the other Student Finance bodies in the UK, which pays you an amount based on your exact household income.
Travel grants for Scottish students studying abroad
If your time spent studying abroad is a compulsory part of your course and not a paid placement, you can also claim back the cost of your travel and medical insurance.
The amount you're entitled to is not dependent on your household income, and SAAS will send you the form for this if you state that you'll be doing a compulsory year abroad on your Student Finance application.
Welsh Student Finance on a year abroad
The following information outlines how much funding students from Wales can expect to receive in the 2021/22 financial year. And, just to remind you once again, if you're taking part in Erasmus+, additional money may be available in the form of a grant (as outlined below).
Study abroad tuition fees for Welsh students
Tuition fees for Welsh students studying abroad depend on two factors: where your home university is in the UK, and whether or not you'll be taking part in an Erasmus+ placement.
But in most cases, if you're spending a year abroad, you should only be paying 50% of your usual tuition fees, at most.
Year abroad Tuition Fee Loans for Welsh students 2021/22
|Country of home university||Maximum fees for Erasmus+/Turing Scheme||Maximum fees for other placements|
|England or Wales||15% (£1,350 or £1,385)||15% (£1,350 or £1,385)|
|Northern Ireland||15% (£1,385) or £0*||50% (£4,625)|
|Scotland||15% (£1,385)||50% (£4,625)|
* In Northern Ireland, if you're studying abroad for a year on an Erasmus+ placement, your fees will be paid for you.
If you're studying abroad for less than a full year, you may need to pay more than the amounts listed above – possibly even the full rate of tuition. Rules tend to vary depending on your university's own policy, so we'd recommend checking with them directly.
However, in most cases, your tuition should be covered by a Tuition Fee Loan from Student Finance Wales, which we cover in more detail here.
Study abroad Maintenance Loans for Welsh students
As is the case when you're studying in the UK as a Welsh student, you should be entitled to receive a mix of both a Maintenance Loan and Maintenance Grant while you're studying abroad.
The exact split will be determined by your household income, with students from less privileged backgrounds receiving a greater proportion of their funding as a grant, and those from richer households receiving more in the form of a loan.
But, regardless of your household income, you'll receive exactly the same amount of money as other Welsh students studying abroad – it's only the split of loan versus grant which varies.
The amount on offer is the same as that offered to Welsh students studying away from home but outside of London, so if that already applies to you, you'll likely end up with a very similar amount of money as you have in previous years.
Maintenance Loan for Welsh students on a year abroad 2021/22
|£18,370 or less||£8,100||£2,250||£10,350|
|£59,200 or more||£1,000||£9,350|
Just remember that the values in the table above are just indicative examples. For Welsh students, Maintenance Loans are calculated based upon exact household incomes rather than in bands – we've just used round numbers in the table to give you a rough idea of what to expect.
Travel grants for Welsh students studying abroad
Welsh students studying abroad are also entitled to a travel grant, although as is the case for students from elsewhere in the UK, you'll have to pay at least some of the costs yourself.
If your household income is lower than £59,200 a year, you'll only need to contribute the first £303 of your costs.
However, if your household income is £59,200 or more, there's a pretty sudden jump – you'll have have to stump up the first £1,000 of your costs.
Erasmus+ is an EU scheme which enables students to study abroad for up to a year at a European university, or carry out work experience in a European organisation.
Not only do you receive funding for your tuition, and receive Maintenance Loan support, you'll also receive extra cash from Erasmus+ itself to help cover some of the extra costs of a year abroad.
Despite the UK completing its exit from the European Union on 31st December 2020, it has been confirmed that funding will still be available in the 2021/22 academic year, and possibly even 2022/23 too.
The majority of UK universities will still be offering Erasmus+ funding in 2021/22, but it's definitely worth checking with your uni directly to confirm this. If they are, and you're wanting to study/work in a participating Erasmus+ country (basically all EU countries, plus some non-EU ones like Norway, Iceland and Turkey, and a few other partner countries) then you'll be eligible to apply.
At the time of writing, the Erasmus+ grant rates for 2021/22 haven't been confirmed. We've listed the 2020/21 rates below for reference, and it's worth noting that year to year, the amounts barely change – if at all.
Erasmus+ funding 2020/21
|Erasmus+ type||Monthly group one country grant||Monthly group two/three country grant||Extra monthly grant for disadvantaged students|
Unlike travel grants, this money can be spent on whatever you like. However, you should always make sure to budget in your own money to cover expenses when you first arrive abroad, as it can take a few weeks for your Erasmus+ funding to come through.
How much Erasmus+ funding you can receive depends on whether you're studying abroad or working abroad, and whether you'll be living in a higher cost of living country or a medium/lower cost of living country (outlined below).
Some extra funds are also available for disadvantaged students. To clarify, Erasmus+ broadly defines 'disadvantaged students' as those with a household income of £25,000 or less, but it's best to double check your eligibility for this with your uni.
Erasmus+ countries in group one
These are the countries in Erasmus+ classified as group one:
- United Kingdom.
Erasmus+ countries in groups two and three
The following Erasmus+ countries are in groups two and three:
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
How to apply for Erasmus+ funding
You apply for the Erasmus+ scheme through your university – usually the study abroad office. You'll have to fill in and submit a contract and a learning agreement, which essentially establishes exactly what you'll be doing while you're abroad and how long you'll be away for.
The Erasmus+ money comes from your university, not from Erasmus+ itself, and is usually paid to you in two or three lump sums (not monthly, even though it is calculated in this way).
Repaying your study abroad Student Loan
Your Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan from your year abroad will simply be added to your total student debt for you to pay off after you graduate.
However, don't forget that grants (including Travel Grants and funding from Erasmus+) do not have to be repaid. This is essentially free money, and won't add to the overall cost of your degree.
And don't panic if your year abroad equates to adding an additional year to your degree. Although it might make your total student debt larger, it's likely that you'll never have repaid three years' of debt before it's wiped after 30 years, let alone four! Try out our Student Loan repayment calculator to see for yourself.
If you want more information on how you repay your Student Loan, we've got a whole guide to take you through it – it's not as scary as you think, we promise.
Year abroad costs to consider
So we've covered all the money that's available to you on a year abroad, but where will it all go? These are the costs you'll need to budget for on a year abroad:
Although you most likely won't have to pay tuition fees at your university abroad, there might be some compulsory enrolment or admin fees that you'll need to factor in.
These are particularly common at universities in the USA, and cover things like orientation events, social activities and course administration. Check with your individual university for specific details.
Now that the UK has left the European Union, the days of a guaranteed visa-free placement in Europe are long gone. There's now a chance that, depending on which country you'll be studying in, you may need to pay for a visa to legally study there.
This is even more likely to be the case if you're studying outside of Europe, and a visa can cost you anything from £50 to £500 (or even more!).
Luckily, you should be able to apply for a travel grant to cover this – but you might have to budget for the cost at the start of term.
In some countries you also have to prove you'll be able to support yourself financially while you're there (by having a certain amount of cash in the bank), so check this out before you apply.
Also, make sure you don't book any flights until your visa is completely sorted! There can sometimes be hold-ups and delays, and you might not be able to enter the country without a visa in place.
Check if your university offers any free travel insurance as part of their study abroad scheme.
If they do, you might not need to worry about insurance at all – but bear in mind that some countries might have mandatory health insurance for international students, or you might want to opt for an extra level of cover.
Again, a travel grant should be able to help you cover this cost.
This probably won't be an issue in most places, but some might specify you need to have had certain vaccinations before you arrive in the country (again, this is quite common at universities in the USA and South America).
You can get a lot of vaccinations free of charge on the NHS, but for some, you might have to go elsewhere and pay for them. As always, check individual universities' policies for details.
Plus, one of the best parts of studying abroad is getting the opportunity to explore a new country, so you'll probably want to budget some extra travel costs in order to do that. However, unlike the cost of travelling to and from your host country, travelling for leisure is unlikely to be covered by a travel grant.
Want to brush up on your language skills before you leave? There are loads of ways to learn a new language for free at university.