Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How much does it cost to study in the UK?

Someone emailed me a question -- what is the estimation cost of studying in the United Kingdom?

Well, I wanted to give a straight and simple answer like = To study in the UK you must have £60,000 or RM300,000...that's all, but fortunately I do not like to give simple answers to a big question like that.

Of course I wanted the enquirer to be more specific.

What course do you plan to study, which level, which university, which part of UK, how many years of study, do you have the qualification, is your English language proficiency up to the required standard, do you have friends or family in the UK, are you staying in the UK alone or with your friends and family members, etc, etc..?

All these needed to be answered first before anyone can give you a rough estimate of the cost of fees, monthly expenses or per year of living in the UK.

Okay, first of all, you need to know if you qualify for the desired course you intend to apply for. Some courses, especially medical courses, engineering or the sciences, depending on the university or college in the UK, can be very strict with their basic requirements. And these requirements also include a pre-requirement English proficiency test at the level of your desired course.

For example, if you intend to apply to do a bachelors or postgraduate degree, you need to pass the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) at a minimum desired level requested by the UKBA (UK Border Agency). The UK Border Agency is like the Immigration Department of Malaysia.

A potential student must have evidence of English language skills at a minimum of level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) in each language skill. UKBA rate B2 is equivalent to IELTS 5.5. Details of the UKBA Secure English Language Test Providers including TOEFL minimum scores can be found here.  

And all these qualifications and pre-requirements, including the English proficiency test minimum score are what the UKBA wants to see as part of the visa application requirement. Meaning you have to apply for a study visa first before you can go study in the UK.

But before you apply for the visa, the UKBA needs to see that the university has accepted you with the right qualification you have plus the English test that you must pass at a minimum score. think it is easy to study in the UK just because you have the dough! Unlike in Malaysia, in the UK money and 'connections' cannot buy everything!

Then only comes the question of how much money you must have to fund yourself there in the UK. 

First of all you need to have a statement of evidence (as in the amount of money in your bank account) that proves you can really afford to finance yourself for the stated (how many) months/years in the UK. For sponsored students you need to provide a letter from your sponsors that claims you are being sponsored by them (Govts, GLCs, Companies, etc.).

For the visa application, usually the UKBA wants you to have a bank statement proof of at least three months of self sufficiency at the area of your stay. Meaning, if you stay in London the cost of living is higher. But lately, the requirement has been reduced to one month (28 days).

It has been established that to meet basic living expenses in the UK, not including fees, a student:
1. Studying in inner London for the majority of his/her study needs £800 per month;
2. Studying in outer London or anywhere else in the United Kingdom for the majority of his/her study needs £600 per month. 

You can check the document here 

But those are for basic expenses like food, transport and utility bills (phone, internet, gas and electricity). For a comfortable accommodation plus some entertainment, it would be safe to add another £200 to it. 

So you need to have about £1000 a month to live in inner London and £800 to live anywhere outside London. But it all depends on the standard of living you expect to enjoy.

And now to answer 'how much does the fees for your study cost?'

If you are an 'overseas' student, assuming you are, and since this person who posed me this question is from Malaysia - ‘overseas’ fees can range from £3,500 to about £18,000 per year depending on the institution, the level of course and the type of course.

You can find some of the answers here.

The fee will probably (or may) increase each year by the level of inflation. Meaning, if this year you have paid £3,500 for a Higher National Diploma (HND) course, next year the fees might increase to £3,700 due to the rate of inflation, and so on.

To know the exact fees, you should contact the institutions you have applied to and whether they can tell you what the fees will be for future years. Your institution will probably ask you to give them some information about yourself and your family to help it assess your fee status. It will use the information you give to check if you fit into one of the 10 categories in Categories for 'home' fees.

Okay, say for example you are applying to do a 3 years full-time Bachelor of Arts Advertising & Media at Northumbria University in Newcastle-upon Tyne in North East England, (which is outside of inner London, and the cost of living is much cheaper than outer London).  

Northumbria University's tuition fee for International Students full-time undergraduate Arts courses commencing in the 2012/13 academic year is £9,900 per year. But as it says in its website, this figure may rise annually in line with inflation.

If you multiply this by 3 (meaning three years of study) then you will have to proof (bank statement) you have £29,700 (approximately RM148,500) altogether in your/parent's bank account (or your sponsor's statement) when you apply for this course. 

But say you are interested in and you qualify to do a science course and you want to do a 3 years full time Bachelor of Science in Applied Biology at Northumbria University. The University's tuition fee for International Students full-time undergraduate Science courses commencing in the 2012/13 academic year is £10,600 per year. So do your maths if you intend to do the three year course.

Some of these courses also carry additional costs to cover items which may incur during normal studies, for example field trips and equipment, books and writing materials.

So, to summarise what I have gathered above -- to study in the UK for an arts undergraduate course at anywhere in outer London, you need to have £800 a month x 12 x 3 years (£28,800) for the living expenses, plus £9,900 x 3 years (£29,700) for the fees. Altogether it will cost an arts undergraduate student £58,500 or RM292,500 for the three year course and stay.

To study in the UK for a science undergraduate course at anywhere in outer London, you need to have £800 a month x 12 x 3 years (£28,800) for the living expenses, plus £10,600 x 3 years (£31,800) for the fees. Altogether it will cost a science undergraduate student £60,600 or RM303,000 for the three year course and stay.

Actually, this example on the cost of living expenses in Newcastle (outer London) is based on my  current personal experience. It may a bit of on the loose side (not too tight, just to be safe) and it may differ if you are the thrifty type or otherwise.The choice of university and the fees as gathered from Northumbria University is also one of the lowest in the UK.

If I had chosen other prestigious universities like Newcastle University (which is ranked 146th in the world both by the Times Higher Education (THE) and QS rankings in 2011), then the fees would be higher. Take for example the annual fee for the Arts undergraduate and the Science degree programmes, which starts from £11,165 and £14,320 respectively, are much more expensive than those in the lower leagues like Northumbria University.

The Newcastle University website also provides a living cost guide in Newcastle City which it says is approximately £833-£888 per month.

So, there you are a quite detailed explanation of what and how much you need to have before you decide to do an undergraduate study in the UK. And don't forget to include the return flight fares from your country to the UK, unless you decide to just drive or swim across the English Channel from France, then it will definitely be cheaper.

Check-out my next posting on the cost of studying at postgraduate level in the UK. Of course, as a guide, the above explanation is suffice, but studying at postgraduate level, especially for a masters degree, you usually need a year. But you can also study and work at the same time, which may take you longer than a year.

So, if you are not very rich or you are on a tight budget, that's the good thing about studying at postgraduate level in the UK.