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How to pay & what it costs

Where to get the money

UK students. For UK students, there is a patchwork of government financial support, as well as help that may be expected from your family. Much of the money available is in the form of student loans but for students from low-income families there is generous, non-repayable money (grants, bursaries etc). To qualify for student financial support, you need to be a UK (or EU) national, resident in the UK for three years, be new to higher education and studying full-time for a degree course at a recognised UK institution.

Beyond this, things are slightly different in each of the four countries in the UK − the names and values of awards vary, as do the thresholds at which they are payable. So check out the country you live inEngland, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland − and ignore the others.

Non-UK students. EU students get some help from the UK government (if you have been resident in the UK for 3 years, you get the same help as UK students). Those from outside the EU get no UK government help – though they may get help from their own government (Non-UK students).

You will need money to pay your tuition fees as well as money to live on.

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Tuition fees

How much you are charged for tuition depends firstly on whether you are defined as a Home student (UK and EU) or an International student (from anywhere outside the EU). Increasingly it may also depend on where you study and what course you take.

International students are charged the full (unsubsidised) cost of their course. There is a very wide range of tuition fees starting at around £7000 pa, rising to over £30,000 pa for some clinical courses. You can check the fees in each university description and compare the minimum charged in the university search tables.

Home students’ tuition fees at most universities are capped by the government. Each university sets the fees for each of its degree courses, within a range £6000−£9000 pa (so they can charge more for popular courses). But there are exceptions: most students resident in Wales in practice pay much less; Northern Ireland students pay less if they stay in Northern Ireland; and Scottish students pay no fees at all if they study in Scotland. Any college that is not publicly funded can set its own fees, which may be much higher than £9000 pa.

There are ways of reducing these fees. Some universities (eg Buckingham University) offer accelerated courses over two rather than three years, which is cheaper. Or you may be able to take the first two years at your local FE college at a lower cost, before transferring to university. There are always part-time options (at Birkbeck or other universities) or distance learning (at the Open University, Highlands & Islands University and some others).

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Money to live on

How much you need to live on depends on where you study (eg Bradford is cheaper than London) and your personal life choices (a studio flat will cost more than a shared room). Most universities estimate you need a minimum of around £6000 pa to live on for an academic year. Many universities recommend considerably more than that – £12,000 pa or more in London.

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Total course costs

If you add up the cost of tuition and your own living costs over the three (or more) years of your course, you may get a nasty shock. For a home student starting in 2012, the total is unlikely to be less than £50k and could be over £75k. International students could be spending much more – maybe £100k. So you need to be clear that you know where that money is coming from.

However, if you are a UK student, you should get student loans to pay for your course. The government does not expect more than about a half of all students to have repaid their loans by the end of their careers, so you could just forget the costs and consider your repayments as a graduate tax by another name.

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Featured Universities

Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University

Location: Canterbury

Students: 19105

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Liverpool University

Location: Liverpool

Students: 21875

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