Is It Expensive To Study In The UK: Real answer by former student?

Being the third top economy in the world, the UK is a popular destination for students. Provided with some of the best and most sought-after education institutions across disciplines, studying in the UK is ideal for acquiring international education. I studied in the UK and had a great experience, but it came at a cost. I have noticed this is one of the most common questions I ask prospective students: is it expensive to study in the UK?

It is generally expensive to study in the UK due to the high tuition fee, accommodation costs, transportation costs, and the general cost of living as a student. As a result, the UK happens to be the fifth most expensive destination for students in the world. That said, there are lots of scholarships, bursaries, and grants available to international students who qualify. There are also student discounts available at some stores that could make living expenses a little bearable.

There are many factors that contribute to making the UK an expensive place to study, such as your University of choice, type of degree of study, level of study, and location in the UK. Read on as we expand on these factors and also provide suggestions on how to lower your cost of living.

Why it is Expensive to study in the UK

#1 University Fees 

Tuition fees are a big contribution to why it is expensive to study in the UK. The average tuition fee for an international undergraduate student who is going to study Business Administration for 2020/2021 academic year is …                                    

#2 Housing 

According to a 2021 report published by Zoopla, the average housing rent in the United Kingdom is £968 (inc London) and £809 excluding London. House rent was as high as £1,592 in London and as low as £545 in the North East region of the UK. In all fairness, except you’re a pretty comfortable student, you will probably be house sharing, so this cost will be split amongst other students.

According to research conducted by Unipol and NUS, purpose-built university accommodation has an average weekly cost of £125 ( about £535 monthly). But again, this is only an average as where you live in the UK makes a massive difference!

The good thing about purposely built accommodation is that they are inclusive of bills such as internet, energy, and cleaning in some cases. Private accommodation does not include bills in their costs, and so you have to cater for those costs.

  Saving Tip: Form a group of friends and get together to rent a house. Share the rent and bills amongst yourself. 

#3. Household bills

As mentioned above, these bills are likely to be included in the accommodation cost. However, in the case they are not, it is worth mentioning that this is a considerable cost. It includes your internet bills, electricity and gas bills, water bill,

 #4 Grocery and Food 

The average person spends £25 – £49 on food shopping per week. According to data from the office of National Statistics, the actual national monthly average is £175 per person, of which £60 is spent eating out. This does not include the occasional cost of having a good night out with the boys and girls.

Saving tip: Cook more and try to reduce spending on eating out.                                                   

#5 Study Expenses 

These are expenses like books, stationaries, and other university equipment. I invested in some textbooks when I was at Unversity.

However, this will not be the case anymore with the advent of the internet and ebooks, which will all be stored on your laptop.

There are many alternative online resources to learn from where you don’t have to purchase hardcopy textbooks.

#6  Memberships

Maintaining a healthy physical and mental wellbeing requires regular gym sessions, which can add to your expenses.

Consider inexpensive alternative ways to maintain healthy physical wellbeing.

#7  Transportation Costs

Transportation is another considerable cost. If you choose to stay in a private accommodation that is quite distant from your university campus, you might have to commute by bus or train. If you take cabs, then that cost will even be higher.

Saving tip: Consider distance when choosing your accommodation. Choose an accommodation that is walking distance to your university main campus

#8 Other Miscellaneous Costs

Other miscellaneous costs include socializing, outings with friends, restaurants, theaters, etc. All these take up a chunk of a student’s budget.

Estimated Costs Of Studying in the UK (for international students)

According to this survey from the HSBC bank on the cost of students studying abroad, 

The UK ranked 6th in the costliest countries to study in the world with annual expenses mentioned below :

Annual university costs – £16,000

The annual cost of living – £10,000

Total price for an undergraduate course – £87,000 or slightly more 

[ Note: Above mentioned costs are approximately counted, the actual prices may vary]

Key Factors Determining High Costs Of Living In The UK 

Below is a list of factors that influences the cost of studying in the UK

Type of University

The reputation of a Univesity will usually reflect in the university’s tuition fee. Universities that are closer to the top of the league tables due to investment in research and facilities tend to have high tuition fees. Also, Universities in major cities tend to have higher fees than Universities in the countryside.

Location of University

As you would have noted above, living cost in the South East of England is generally more expensive than the cost of living in the North East of England.

For instance, below is an actual listing of a studio room that is typical for students in Brighton in the South East of England vs. Sunderland in the North East of England.

Student Studio flat in Brighton
Student Studio flat in Sunderland

Level of study

Your level of study will also influence your expense. Undergraduate studies are generally three years so your expenses will be cumulative of living and tuition cost for three years.

Although Masters degrees are just for one year in most cases, they cost considerably more than an undergraduate degree, but it is still one year.

Ph.D. student will definitely also have a higher living, and tuition expense as their degree last between 3 and four years. Also, most Ph.D. students are mature students and will most likely have families. This means they will rent bigger accommodation and have more living expenses to account for.

Type of Degree

The type of degree also determines the expense. Medical degrees are generally more expensive than the average Bsc degree. One of the reasons for this is the compulsory requirement for laboratory sessions. Some degrees might require you to attend conferences or travel abroad, which might add to your expense.


This one is less important but worth mentioning. If you happen to be a British national, then the most you will pay for University fees is about £9,000. Also, as a British national, you have access to a government loan for your studies and other allowances.

How to reduce the Study Expense

It is possible to offset the cost of studying in the UK.

  • Take advantage of student discounts. Some stores offer student discounts to students if they prove thier student status. I certainly took advantage for as long as I could. This range from retail stores to train transportation.
  • Seek scholarship opportunities. Most universities offer some form of scholarship to overseas students. Always check the scholarship section of the university website to check if you qualify even if it is for part scholarship.
  • Research loan and grant opportunities. There are organisations who offer loan and grants to students travelling abroad to study.
  • Work part-time. As a student in the UK, you can work up to 20 hours per week. I worked at M&S to support my living expense.

In conclusion

Studying in the UK is an expensive mission. Beyond the high tuition fees, the living expense from accommodation to transportation and utilities can add to the cost of living. Nonetheless, there are ways to offset this cost, and they are worth considering.