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The cost of living and studying in the UK
Cost (c)
  Course costs
  One-off costs
  Regular costs
  Preparing a budget


This section helps you to estimate the costs of living and studying in the UK. This can help you to manage your money effectively.

Students' Money Matters [updated each year]
Author: Gwenda Thomas
Publisher: Trotman
Date: June 2008

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Check the website of your school, college or university for details of the costs. You can compare the costs of different schools using the links in the Course section.

Most international students have to pay overseas fees, but if you live in the European Union you may be able to pay the lower home fees. UKCISA produce guidance notes "Fees and student support":

The table below gives a guide to the range of overseas fees for university courses (source: Universities UK: International Student Fee Survey 2007; see:

Level and type of course Tuition fees for 2007/8 academic year
(5th percentile)
Below average
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
Above average
(75th percentile)
(95th percentile)
Undergraduate classroom-based
Undergraduate lab/workshop-based
Postgraduate diploma
Postgraduate taught classroom-based
Postgraduate taught lab/workshop-based
Postgraduate research classroom-based
Postgraduate research lab/workshop-based

For further details of tuition costs for international students at universities/colleges in the UK, see:

You may try to apply for a scholarship if one is available. See: Course for details.

Check when your course fees need to be paid and which payment methods are allowed. Note that there may be a delay before you will be able to open a bank account in the UK.

Lower level courses at language or computing schools are generally much cheaper than university courses (typically £2,000-£4,000 per year). Be careful about schools which offer very cheap courses (for example, less than £1,000 tuition fees for a one year course) - it is possible that standards may be low, or there may be hidden costs. It is wise to make sure that the school you are attending has been accredited (for a warning about fake schools, see: Course/Bogus-Schools).

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As well as your course costs (see above) there are other one-off costs (this means costs which you only have to pay once, not regularly) which you may have to pay if you are travelling to the UK. Make a note of the ones which apply to you and estimate the total cost of these.

Visa application/extension fee (see: Prepare/Visa)
(applications made outside the UK may be cheaper)
Travel insurance (see Prepare/Planning)
(depends on length of your stay)
Medical insurance (see: Personal/Health)
(note: free public healthcare if you study for over 6 months)
Post/baggage to/from the UK (see: Life/Post)
(depends on how much you want to take and bring back)
Registration with police (see: Prepare/Arrival)
about £35 (only if required to register)
Travel: to/from airport in your country
(depends on distance from your hometown to the airport)
Return flight to the UK (see: Travel/Transport/Air)
(depends on distance from your home country to the UK)
Travel: from/to airport in UK(see: Travel/Transport)
(depends on distance from airport to your town in the UK)
Television licence (see: Prepare/Arrival)
about £140 for a colour TV licence (in 2008)
£50 for second-hand portable colour TV
Mobile phone (see: Life/Telephone/Mobile)
between £50 and £100 (pay-as-you-go phone)
English exam (see: English/Exams)
about £100 (if not included in course cost)

You will probably have to pay a deposit if you move into accommodation that is privately-owned. This is usually the same amount as about 4 weeks of rent (see below for a guide to accommodation costs). It should be returned to you at the end of your stay unless you have damaged the property in some way. For more information, see: Life/Accommodation/Guide.

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The following table shows estimated basic weekly living costs for a student (in £).
Numbers are only approximate; there can be very big differences according to where you live and your lifestyle.
Note that course costs and other one-off costs are not included in these tables.
Remember the exchange rate between your currency and the pound may change while you are staying in the UK.

Cheap (£6,000 per year)
These costs may be relevant if you live close to your school outside London or south-east England, or if you live in student accommodation at a university. It may be difficult to live comfortably in London on this budget

Average (£9,000 per year)
These costs may be relevant if you are a language student in London, living in cheap accommodation in a reasonably central location (within zone 2), and using a 'youth' weekly travel pass (for zones 1 and 2). It may also represent the costs of a student with a more expensive lifestyle at a school outside London or south-east England

Expensive (£12,000 per year)
These costs may be relevant if you live in basic accommodation in a more expensive area in central London or south east England

Cost for 1 week
Cost for 1 year
Accommodation (1)
Food (2)
Travel (3)
Entertainment (4)
Other (5)

(1) Accommodation: Rent; more if meals provided as part of rent. Includes gas/electricity
(2) Food: Normal living; less if meals provided as part of rent
(3) Travel: Local travel on bus/underground
(4) Entertainment: Cinema/eating out/sport
(5) Other: Books/telephone calls/clothing/insurance/personal hygiene

General living expenses may be about 25% greater in London than elsewhere
Note that costs may also be high in parts of south east England and areas close to London
As an approximate guide, for a couple living together add 50% to the cost of a person living on their own
For example, if the single person's annual cost is £8,000, the cost of living as a couple may be £12,000
As an approximate guide, for each child living with you add 25% of the cost of a person living on their own
For example, if the single person's cost is £8,000, the cost of a couple with two children might be £16,000 (£8,000 for the single person + 50% of £8,000 for the partner + 2 times 25% of £8,000 for the children)

For more detail on student living costs in the area where you are living, see the website of the university nearest to your school. Links to university websites can be found from: Note that annual costs for international students may be higher than those shown for a British student, because it has probably been assumed that the British student will live with family during the holidays.

The results of the 2008 Natwest Student Living Index survey were published on 4 August 2008. According to student interviews, their average weekly expenditure of undergraduates during term was as follows (these numbers do not include rent):

Type of spending
Average amount spent
per week in 2007/8 (£)
Alcohol (all consumed at home and while out)
On average women spend £24.63 and men spend £31.24
Supermarket food shopping
It is cheaper to eat out less often and to buy food from supermarkets
Buying clothes
On average women spend £19.12 and men spend £13.48
Going out (cinema/clubs/gigs)
Eating out (inc café, restaurant, canteen food etc)
You can choose to reduce this cost by eating out less frequently
You can choose to reduce this cost by reducing/stopping your smoking
Utility bills (gas, electricity and water)
These costs will be much higher in 2008/9 due to rising energy prices
Transport costs for longer trips
Day-to-day travel (inc taxis)
These costs depend on how close you live to your places of work and study
Telephone/mobile phone bill (inc internet connection)
If you make international phone calls, see: Life/Telephone/International
Books and course materials
This depends on which course you are taking and how/if you buy your books
Buying CDs, DVDs and videos
Laundry/dry cleaning
Photocopying/library costs, fines etc
Total Student weekly spending

Note that the costs are much lower if you do not drink or smoke. Costs may also be lower outside term-time, depending on your social life and how much you travel. It is a good idea to calculate your own expenditure pattern, perhaps using the table above as a starting point.

Rents vary significantly depending on the type of accommodation chosen. A typical student room (a single room containing a bed, desk, some wardrobe space, a washbasin, access to a shower room, a shared kitchen and social room) can cost between £50 and £120 per week, but note that your bill may include some of the costs listed above (for example, the prices quoted for managed student accommodation usually include gas, electricity and water bills and internet connection charges). If you are sharing with someone who is not a student you may need to pay some council tax (check with your landlord or the local council).

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If you are a full-time student, your visa may allow you to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week). Many part-time jobs are paid close to the minimum wage, which from October 2008 is £5.73 per hour. This will leave you with an income of about £100 per week, but you may be paid less if income tax is being deducted (usually this money can be claimed back later, or you can arrange to pay just the correct amount of tax: see Work/Employment). From October 2008 the minimum wage if you are aged 18-21 is £4.77 per hour.
For details of the minimum wage, see:

According to the 2008 NatWest Student Living Index survey, the average undergraduate student in the UK worked about 14 hours per week during term, and earned about £90 before deductions (tax and National Insurance).
The average number of hours worked is less for students on very intensive courses (for example, Oxford and Cambridge universities have shorter terms and the average number of hours devoted to study is higher, so naturally there is less time for paid work).

You may be able to earn some interest on money which you bring to the UK, depending on what sort of account you open and the interest rates which are offered. For each 1% interest which you earn on each £1,000, you will receive £10 in interest over a period of 1 year. See Life/Money.

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It is a good idea to analyse your income and expenditure in a spreadsheet. Each column may be for a month (or for a week or for a term if you prefer). Keep any bills, bank statements or payslips which you receive, and enter the amounts into the spreadsheet (including future bills such as course instalments). At first you may need to use estimates, but you can make these more accurate over time. This will help you to manage your money more carefully and to avoid financial difficulties.

If you notice that your savings are falling more quickly than you can afford, reduce your expenditure on non-essential things (such as alcohol or cigarettes), try to find cheaper ways of shopping, and consider moving into cheaper accommodation. If this is not enough, ask for advice from the welfare officer at your university or school, or from your bank. Avoid building up large unpaid balances on credit cards, as this can be a very expensive way to borrow money.

The UNIAID International Student Calculator is a free tool which may help you to think about your costs and income:

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Opening and managing a UK bank account: Life/Money
Find a study course / scholarships: Course
Article about the cost of living as a student in the UK: Ideas/Articles/Cost

Home page: Home

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