Is it cheaper to study abroad?
With a lot of UK universities now charging up to £9,250 a year in tuition fees, you'd be forgiven for wanting to jump 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 when deciding whether to study abroad.
From dealing with hidden costs, to looking for funding, to making sure your degree is internationally recognised, it's really important to do your research beforehand.
But, there's no doubt that studying abroad can be an amazing experience if it's right for you. So, if you're thinking of packing your bags and jetting off, this guide can help you decide.
What’s in this guide?
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.
Some popular places for international students, like Australian universities and ones in America, 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, flights to and from uni and any kind of insurance you might have to take out.
Countries with free university tuition fees
Universities in Scotland have essentially free tuition for Scottish and EU students – tuition fees are covered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). But, for students in Scotland from the rest of the UK (i.e. England, Wales and Northern Ireland), tuition fees cost £9,250 a year for three years of a four-year Honours degree.
Want to study abroad for free? Bear in mind that even countries with no tuition fees might still charge some (relatively small) administrative fees for enrolment. Plus, you will also need to budget for transport, accommodation and living costs, regardless of where you study.
But, to cut the cost of studying abroad, check out universities in these countries – most of which have no tuition fees for students who are citizens of EEA/EU countries:
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.
Cost of studying abroad
|Country||Yearly student living costs||Yearly tuition fees (EEA/EU students)|
* For countries with no or minimal university tuition fees, we have put '>£500' as you may still be charged low administration fees, even if tuition is free.
The figures in the table are intended to give you a rough idea of how much it will cost to study in the listed countries. The costs of living and tuition fees are estimated for UK students, but please note that they can vary widely, even within the same country.
And, if you are not a UK/EU student, please note that your fees will likely be different from the ones in our table.
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.
While they don't necessarily have to give you a Maintenance Loan, several countries have opted to offer financial help to students from the UK anyway.
For example, in France, a lot of higher education institutions don't charge yearly tuition fees and you could be entitled to a Maintenance Grant (which you won't have to pay back).
However, Brexit may have an impact on how much funding (if any at all) 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 upfront 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 that 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?
If you're already studying in the EU, the government recommends you ask your university about whether your situation will change.
Get in touch with advisors at your uni as soon as you can to discuss any potential changes regarding your course and tuition fees after Brexit. You may be able to complete your studies at a UK university, so be sure to talk through all your options with your university.
Erasmus+ students already studying in the EU should be fine to continue their placements after Brexit. Again, though, check with your university and talk through any potential changes.
Otherwise, the UK and the EU have agreed that any student who moves abroad to study in an EU country before the UK officially leaves the EU 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 EU students.
So, if you're planning to move to an EU country that doesn't charge any fees by the end of the transition period, in principle, you should still pay nothing.
After 2020, 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 Northern Ireland and will still pay £9,250 a year. And, for EU students starting university in Scotland in 2020, fees will still be covered by SAAS.
If EU students are treated as international students thereafter, they could be expected to pay the same fees as students coming from outside the EU (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 you hear "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!
Annoyingly, Brexit may also affect whether the Erasmus programme continues in the UK and whether UK students will 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
There's a lot more to think about than just money and time issues when studying abroad. We've come up with our list of the top things to think about before heading overseas for university.
Will your qualification be recognised in the UK?
First things first: you'll need 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 Recognition Information Centre (UK NARIC) has tons of information on this.
Will language be an issue for you?
Language barriers are also another factor to consider. Obviously, this isn’t a problem in English-speaking countries like the US or Australia, as long as you remember country-specific language differences – it wouldn't be ideal to go to a party where the dress code specifies pants, only to find you're the only one in your undies.
While some European universities do teach full degree courses in English, a command of the host country’s language will still be important to deal with day-to-day life.
Will you need insurance?
Travel insurance is a big necessity that's easily overlooked when budgeting for your studies abroad. 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 expenses 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're interested in studying in Europe but not sure if it's right for you, our guide will help you decide.