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According to recent figures, the average cost per year to study in the UK at undergraduate level as an international student is UK£11,987 (~US$17,860), while for international postgraduate students this average fee rises to £12,390. At all levels, laboratory and clinical degree programs are markedly more expensive, with a clinical degree costing overseas students an average of £24,206 ($36,070) at undergraduate level, with top universities in London charging as much as £34,800 ($51,850). Combine these fees with the average cost of living in the UK, around £12,000 ($17,850), and the total average costs to study in the UK come up to £24,000 ($35,710) per year.

While these costs may be daunting, remember that most UK universities offer shorter programs compared to countries such as the US (three years for the average undergraduate degree instead of four, and one year for a master’s degree instead of two), so you may be able to subtract a year's worth of fees and living costs from your total budget!

UK tuition fees and course costs – international students

For international students, undergraduate fees for 2014-15 start at around UK£8,000 (US$11,920) for lecture-based courses, going up to £36,600 ($58,201) for an undergraduate medical degree at the top of the price range. On average, however, international undergraduate fees level out at around £11,987 ($17,870) – approximately £4,000 more than home students.

At postgraduate level, the average international fee for classroom based programs in 2014-15 is £12,390 ($18,470), although the majority of courses range from between £10,000 and £13,000 ($14,900-$19,380). For laboratory-based programs, average annual fees stand at £14,274 ($21,285), while for clinical degree programs the average figure is £21,296 ($31,750). For leading clinical programs (such as medicine) at leading UK universities, however, fees can be as high as £38,532 ($57,440) annually.

Students’ cost of living in the UK

According to recent figures from the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS), the average annual cost of living in England (outside of London) for students is UK£12,056 (US$19,490). This includes £4,989 ($7,460) for rent, £1,954 ($2,920) for food, £363 ($540) for household goods, £42 ($62) for insurance, £1,917 ($2,860) for personal items, £1,705 ($2,550) for travel and £1,190 ($1,780) for leisure.

If you wish to study in London, you should expect to pay £13,521 ($20,200) for the same breakdown of goods and services. The biggest difference in the cost of living in London compared to the rest of England is in rent, which is estimated at an average of £6,340 ($9,480) per year.

As the NUS points out, the figures for the rest of England can only be used as a rough guide to the overall cost of living in the UK. But they are roughly consistent with the amounts specified by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which asks international students to provide evidence that they can afford to live and study in the UK for a specified period before being granted a Tier 4 (General) student visa.

For visa purposes, international students undertaking study in London proper will have to budget £1,020 ($1,520) for each month of stay in the country, while those who study in outer London or the rest of the UK will have to show £820 ($1,225) per month in order to prove they can cover the cost of living in the UK.

UK scholarships and student funding

A large range of scholarships to study in the UK are also offered by the government, individual universities, independent organizations and various charities. The Education UK website provides a searchable database of 3,000 scholarships for international and home students. It is also worth checking to see what scholarships and support schemes are available from the government and other organizations in your own country.

Prominent UK scholarships for international students include:

• Chevening Scholarships – government funded UK scholarships open to outstanding students with leadership potential from around the world to study at postgraduate level at accredited UK universities.

• Marshall Scholarships – UK scholarships for high-achieving US students to gain funding to study in the UK.

• Commonwealth Scholarships and fellowships – UK scholarships offered by member governments to citizens of other Commonwealth countries.

UK scholarships are more widely available at postgraduate level, with relatively few offered for undergraduate students. However, always check with your chosen university, as support is often available for exceptional undergraduate students.