Is it cheaper to study abroad?
With 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 and 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. 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 lots of students in the UK needing to pay £9,000+ in tuition fees, it's easy to assume that studying abroad will save you a packet.
Sadly, this isn't always the case – particularly for any students hoping to study in Europe post-Brexit.
Some popular places for international students, like Australian universities and ones in America, actually have 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 students as 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, Northern Ireland and Wales), tuition fees cost up to £9,250 a year.
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.
To cut the cost of studying abroad, check out universities in these European countries which charge nothing or very little for postgraduate tuition fees:
- Czech Republic (for courses taught in the Czech language)
We can't say for sure how much it'll cost you – this really is a case of doing your homework both on the university and the country/region it's in.
However, to give you a rough idea of how much money you'll need, here's a table of the general cost of studying towards an undergraduate degree in popular locations around the world.
Cost of studying abroad
|Country||Yearly student living costs||Yearly tuition fees for UK students*|
|Australia||£12,500||£11,000 – £25,000|
|Denmark||£11,000||£5,000 – £14,000|
|Finland||£10,000||£4,500 – £13,000|
|Spain||£10,500||£600 – £2,500|
|United States||£15,000||£20,000 – £35,000|
* 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. We've used multiple sources to come to these conclusions.
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. It all depends on what university you want to study at and what course you'd like to follow. Living costs also vary widely depending on what city you want to live in.
And if you are not a UK student, keep in mind that your fees could 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.
While they don't necessarily have to give you a Maintenance Loan, some countries may offer financial help to students from the UK anyway. It's worth contacting your chosen university to find out whether there are any funding options available to international students – especially scholarships, which you won't need to pay back.
There could be a limit on how many hours a week you can work while on a student visa, so check this carefully before applying. Then, if your visa does allow you to work part-time while studying, be sure to research the part-time jobs market in general.
How does Brexit affect UK students studying in the EU?
If you were living in an EU member state before 1st January 2021 and meet residency conditions, you should be able to pay the same fees and access largely the same support as students from the EU country that you're studying in.
Get in touch with advisors at your uni for more information. You can also check the UK government's 'living in' guides for information about visa requirements and residency rules.
Erasmus+ students who were already studying in an EU member state on 1st January 2021 should be fine to continue their placements after Brexit. In fact, some universities may even have funding for 2022/23. Instead of Erasmus+, UK students can now check out the Turing Scheme for international opportunities.
It's best to check with your university about any potential changes and look into the visa requirements.
Find out more about studying in the EU as a UK student in our full guide.
How does Brexit affect EU students in the UK?
EU students who were already living in the UK by 31st December 2020 were able to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by 30th June 2021. The scheme allows you to stay and continue studying, working and accessing services like NHS healthcare, generally on the same basis as before Brexit.
EU students who arrived in the UK after 31st December 2020 will have to get a visa if their course is longer than six months.
If you're an EU student who is planning to move to the UK for university, take a look at our guide to UK tuition fees for international students.
How long should you study abroad?
When you hear "study abroad", you might automatically think this means you'll be gone for the entire length of your degree. While this would be ideal for some, it doesn't have to be the case if three years feels too long for you.
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 government's new Turing Scheme is a good alternative to Erasmus+. It gives UK students the opportunity to study and work abroad, in countries across the world.
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 UK ENIC has tons of information on this.
Will language be an issue for you?
Language barriers are 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.
Also keep in mind that healthcare isn't free in every country like it is in the UK.
Will you require a visa?
Depending on where you're thinking about 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.
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