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The Cost of British Higher Education: A Guide for Students & Parents

Summary. Studying in the UK is a first-class luxury in the world of education, and as any other luxury, it comes with a steep price. the truth about the costs can be horrifying to say the least, the tuition fees, the accommodation and other expenses, and leaves you to wonder if it is all worth it. Whether funded through a loan, a scholarship, or lovely parents, if you are picking up the bill, you need to know where your money will be spent, so you can plan and budget efficiently.

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Studying in the UK is a dream any parent would want for their child. However, it can be a costly dream, and a nightmare to sort out the finances. British higher education does not come cheap, the fees are high, and the cost of living is getting higher with inflation. Figuring out how much university will cost can be tricky, as tuition fees reach a record levels. In this article, we list our advice for you to understand the associated costs, and the ways you can reduce them.


Tuition fees

Unlike other universities in the continent, education in the UK is not free. Every course has a tuition fee that you should pay every year. The fees depend on:

  1. What the course is, for example, medicine degrees are more expensive course given the need to laboratories, clinical training, and other expenses the university needs to provide for the students.
  2. If you are a home student or an international student (also referred to as overseas student):
    1. Home students pay less as this is their home, you can check for eligibility in the government website. Their undergraduate fees are currently capped at £9,250.
    2. Overseas fees are set by providers and can be much higher depending on the course and provider. According to the British Council, overseas undergraduate tuition fees vary from £11,400 – £38,000, with the average cost is estimated to be around £22,200 per year. Overseas postgraduate tuition fees vary from £9,000 – £30,000, with the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
  3. The duration of the degree: on average, a bachelor’s degree in the UK is 3 years, MEng is 4 years. Post graduate masters is 1 year, MPhil and MBA are 2 years in average, and PhD is 3 years. With the exception for Medicine degree which are 5 to 6 years.  You need to add up the fees for each year, if you are doing a MEng degree that is 4 years, you will have 1 more year to pay than a bachelor’s degree of 3 years. For example, if your degree costs £9,250 per year. This means for a three-year course; you will need to fund £27,750 of tuition fees. If you are funding this through a student loan, you will need to apply for the full amount to cover the 3 years, and you will need to work out how much interests will you be paying back on the loan.
  4. The university: the name and prestige of the university matters, the better the brand the course can be, particularly for the international students’ fees. So, do not be surprised if you see that the same course has different tuition fees on different universities.


Our advice is to check the course fees when you are checking the universities, so you have an idea what is coming your way.

If you are funding the degree though a student loan, there’s no doubt that going to university will have you pay back several thousands of pounds, find out the amount of interest charged on the loan. Usually, this interest is pegged at the Retail Price Index (RPI). This means if this index rises, so will the amount you need to pay back given inflation is currently rising quickly in the UK.


Everything else

Now that we the tuitions are out of the way, you need to factor in the day-to-day costs of university life, such as rent, bills, food, books, and so on. Unlike tuition fees, you’ll need to pay some of these maintenance costs such as rent upfront.  The biggest factor that determines these costs is the location of your university. London is more expensive than other UK cities. The difference can be significant given living in the capital is desired by many people driving the prices for rent higher every year.

The average cost of living in the UK, around £12,200 per year. This means you will need, more or less, this amount in your bank account to survive. According to the, current UK student visa requirements stipulate a student must have a minimum £1,023 (~US$1,164) in their bank account for each month they plan to stay in the UK anywhere outside of London. This adds up to £12,276 (~US$13,967) per year.

The below table summarises in more details some of the main costs in approximate numbers, to give you an idea of what budget you will need to cater for:

Cost Average UK London
Accommodation: for purpose-built student accommodation. Private accommodation can be more affordable £148 per week £207 per week = £8,073 per academic year (nine months/39 weeks)
Utility bills (water, gas and electric) applicable to rented accommodation, including TV license, (required if you watch TV in your room) £80 140
Mobile phone bill (monthly) £10 to £60 £10 to £60
Groceries (monthly) £116 £155
Socialising (meals / coffee out) £80 150
Public Transport (for a monthly student travel card) £54 £103 for Oyster cards for Zones 1-2
Books and other course material (a month): can be varied depending on the course £60 £60
Gym membership (monthly) £15 £20
Cinema ticket £12 – 15.5 £12 – 15.5
Clothing (monthly): depending on attitude to shopping and lifestyle £44 £44
Average spending per month £900-£1300 £1300-£1400


If you are an international student, then you should also cater for the cost of visa to study in the UK, and the Immigration Health Surcharge to benefit from the National Health Services. The UK student visa costs £363, with the health surcharge £470. If you are already in the UK, and you want to stay and work after graduation, you can apply for Graduate visa at £715,  with the healthcare surcharge £624 annually.


According to a report by the British Council, The National Union of Students (NUS) revealed in 2022 that 25% of students reported having less than £50 left over from their budget each month after rent and bills due to the late rise in costs.


At this point, you might ask yourself, is this all worth it?


Well, the answer is: education in the UK is an investment, and as per any investment, you need to evaluate if the benefit will outweigh the cost. Though the cost is high and much of it needs to be paid upfront, once you graduate you can start off your career with a high salary as British education opens many doors anywhere you go in the world. I started my career in the financial industry post-graduation, a lucrative job that I got offered before I even finished my last year at university.

Studies by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that working age graduates earn on average £10,000 more per year than non-graduates. The salary and bonus incentives will then escalate quickly as you work more years and climb up the ranks. When you will breakeven depends on you, your lifestyle and how much you can save.


Saving money and cutting costs

While you are a student, there are few things you can do to save costs and make extra money:



Do not run out of cash, always keep extra for emergencies, and do your best to avoid overdraft and interest rates. Getting into debt is a bad habit that can last a lifetime. So, do yourself a favour and stay away from it. You can overcome the desire to spend by prioritising your spendings and planning ahead. If you manage to have some savings, out them on an ISA bank account.


Live on the cheap

It is ok to buy second-hand books and furniture, live in a slightly old house or share kitchen and bathrooms, and stay in hostels when you travel. It is ok to be frugal where you can. This is expected of you as a student, so enjoy living on the cheap.


Embrace minimalism

If you don’t need it, don’t get it. Clatter means less money to use on the important staff, more time clearing and cleaning, and when you travel, you will always have the burden to leave your staff with someone else or pay for storage.


Get part-time jobs

Most courses allow students to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time and this is not restricted to on-campus employment. You can also work during the holidays and apply early for paid summer internships. If you don’t have experience on your CV, it is ok to start with small jobs, so don’t be picky. You will also meet people and gain experience and responsibility, so it is a win-win-win for you.


Get student discounts

Full-time students from all over the UK receive a 30% discount off standard tube and bus fares with a Student Oyster Card if they have a National Rail Card. Other student discounts are offered in many places from shops, restaurants and cafes, technology devices including the Apple Store, media subscriptions, travel, outings, to museums and exhibitions, the list can go on. You can additionally get a discount card or program such as TOMTUM, UniDAYS and Student Beans.


Get some free staff

Many banks offer student incentives such as free railcards, Amazon vouchers and Apple gadgets when you open a bank account with them. You can also get free staff in events in the university student union or from recruiters who come to promote companies interested in graduates for their work force.


Always read contracts

If you are outside the university accommodation, and you are living in a landlord house sharing with other students, make sure you read the contract and that any deposit you give are protected. Also, make sure your university is aware of your address, as universities tend to check landlords’ houses rented to students to make sure they meet the standards of living.


Get scholarships

Thought might not be as easy as the other items on the list but check if you qualify for any scholarships or funding and apply when you can. the worst that can happen is that you don’t get it, but you won’t lose anything. There are many resources that list available scholarships on the web. Many are dedicated for international students, and some scholarships are for specific country of region. Postgraduate degrees are more popular for funding as they tend to produce research on specific areas that is usually of interest to the funding entity.

If you are interested to learn more about education in the UK, read our articles: How to Get the Most out of your University Days and The 13 Tips Guide for International Students: How to Settle into your British Education Lifestyle

For specific questions on the subject, why not book a consultation with us.

Disclaimer: The content of all our articles is protected by the Terms & Conditions policy. For license of content, please reach out to us directly, our information are on the contact us page.

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