Is it cheaper to study abroad?
With UK universities now charging up to £9,250 a year to study, you'd be forgiven for jumping on the next plane out of here. But is studying abroad really cheaper?
The idea of cheaper fees, sunnier climates and uni stories that put your friends' to shame might sound like a sure-fire winner, but sadly there's a bit more to think about.
From hidden costs and funding to making sure your degree is internationally recognised, it's really important to do your research beforehand.
There's no doubt that studying abroad can be an amazing experience though, so if you're thinking of packing your bags and jetting off, reading this guide first might be a wise move! 🙂
What’s on this page?
How much does it cost to study abroad?
With the recent hike in tuition fees still fresh in many students' memories, it's easy to assume that studying abroad will save you a packet.
Sadly, this isn't always the case.
Popular destinations such as Australia and the USA actually have higher tuition fees that are far more expensive than those in the UK. And that's before you factor in the cost of living, travel and any kind of insurance you might have to take out.
Where can you study abroad for free?
Some countries won't charge you tuition fees at all!
Argentina, France, most of Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway don't charge students who are citizens of EEA/EU countries tuition fees. There may, however, be some (relatively small) administrative fees for enrolment.
We can't tell you for sure how much it'll cost you – this really is a case of doing your homework both on the university and the area/country it's in.
However, to give you a rough idea of how much money you'll be needing here's a handy table of the average cost of studying towards an undergraduate degree in popular locations around the world.
These figures take into account the average cost of fees, living costs and travel. Fees for non-EU students will be higher in certain EU countries.
How much it costs to study around the world
|Country||Average yearly costs|
(plus around £15,000 in tuition fees for non-EU students)
(plus around £17,000 for non-EU students)
(plus around £12,000 in tuition fees for non-EU students)
(plus round £9,000 for non-EU students)
(plus around £12,000 for non-EU students)
These figures are just to give you a rough idea of how much you'll be spending and are not an exact science. We can't tell you for certain the cost of living; it varies widely, even in the same country!
How to pay for studying abroad
One of the most important things to think about when studying abroad is how you'll actually pay for it. Sadly, for the most part you won't be able to simply take out a Student Loan like you can in the UK.
The only real exception to this is studying in Europe. As an EU citizen you'll be entitled to help with your tuition fees in the same way as home students are.
They don't, however, have to give you a Maintenance Loan, but several countries have opted to help out anyway.
For example, in France, most higher education institutes don't charge yearly tuition fees and you could be entitled to a Maintenance Grant (which you won't have to pay back). What a sweet deal!
However, Brexit may have an effect on whether/how much funding UK students can apply for in EU countries. Nothing has been announced yet, but we're expecting changes in the near future.
Outside the EU, some countries like Australia, will make you pay for the whole shebang up front and also ask for evidence that you have enough money to get you through the whole year without taking on a job. Eek!
You'll also find that many countries will put a limit on how many hours a week you can work while on a student visa, so it's well worth looking into all of these factors first, as well as looking at the part-time jobs market in general.
On the plus side, though, many universities and even governments will offer scholarships which foreign students are eligible for. The Study Abroad site offers a pretty comprehensive list of what's on offer.
How will Brexit affect UK students studying abroad?
The UK and the EU have agreed that any student who moves abroad to study in an EU country before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 or during the transition period after Brexit (ending at the end of 2020) will be able to study in that country on the same terms as home students.
So, if you're planning to move to an EU country that doesn't charge any fees before 2020, in principle, you should still pay nothing.
There are no concrete plans for after 2021, but how much each country charges may be determined by how much they charge non-EU students.
How will Brexit affect EU students in the UK?
Disclaimer: with Brexit looming on the horizon, the cost of studying in the UK could be subject to change.
For the academic year 2019/2020, EU students will continue to be treated the same as domestic students at unis in England, Wales and Scotland, and will still pay £9,250.
If EU students are treated as international students thereafter, they could be expected to pay the same fees as students coming from outside Europe, i.e. up to £38,000 a year.
This would put studying in the UK on par with places like the USA and Australia. Eek!
How long should you study abroad for?
When people say "study abroad", you might automatically think this means you'll be gone for the entire length of your degree. This doesn't have to be the case.
Many UK universities offer the chance to study abroad, whether for a few weeks, a semester or an entire year as part of your degree.
The most common scheme is Erasmus+, where you'll spend up to a year in a different EU country and gain credit towards your UK degree.
It's probably one of the most cost-effective ways of studying abroad too – all Erasmus+ students receive a non-means tested grant every month and don't have to pay tuition fees to their host university.
You'll often find your UK university will waive or lower your fees for your year abroad too... double savings!
However, Brexit may also affect whether the Erasmus programme continues in the UK and whether UK students'll require a visa to study in the EU. But as we said, the government is still untying the knots of the Brexit conundrum so nothing is set in stone.
Important things to consider before studying abroad
It's also worth mentioning that there's a lot more to think about than just money and time issues when studying abroad. We've come up with our top things to start thinking about before looking into embarking on your adventure.
Will your qualification be recognised?
First things first: you'll want to check if your degree choice is recognised here in the UK as well as in the country you're studying in (and in any other countries you could see yourself spending time in).
You don’t want to spend three years abroad only to find you can’t land a job back home because employers don't think it's a 'real degree'.
The National Academic Recognition and Information centre (UK NARIC) has tons of information on this.
Can you get over language barriers?
Language barriers are also another factor to consider. Obviously, this isn’t a problem in the US or Australia, as long as you remember country-specific language differences – nobody wants to turn up to a party where the dress code specifies pants, only to find that they’re the only one with no trousers on!
While some European universities do teach full degree courses in English, a command of the host country’s language will still be beneficial in order to cope with everyday life.
Will you need insurance?
Travel insurance is an important necessity that is easily overlooked. Ensure your policy provides adequate protection for possessions in case any essential gadgets are damaged, lost or stolen, and that it also covers you for any medical expense you may incur.
Healthcare isn’t free in every country like it is in the UK!
Will you require a visa?
Depending on where you're looking at going, you may also need to get a student visa and in some cases, you'll also have to pay for this too.
Getting a visa can take some time, so you'll have to get your application in early.
If you do go to a country where English isn't the native language, why not use your language skills to make you some money while you're there!