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Study Abroad: Budget For The U.K.

Posted on April 6, 2015
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What question does the British Council get most often from U.S. students considering study in the United Kingdom? It’s ‘How will an employer view the U.K. study experience?’ says Joey Kirk, education officer of the British Council’s office in Washington, D.C. And here’s the answer: “A survey completed by the British Council [in 2012] of over 800 human resources managers from the U.S. and Canada found that most employers (73%) consider degrees earned in the U.K. to be equal or better to those earned in North America.”

And here’s what Allan Goodman, president of the U.S. not-for-profit Institute of International Education (IIE), has to say about the value of investing in study abroad: “Globalization makes study abroad absolutely necessary for graduates. One in five American jobs in today’s market is tied to international trade.”

Study abroad, yes, but why in the U.K.?
“There are three big reasons why studying in the U.K. is a great idea for Americans,” says Kirk. “First, the quality of the teaching is superb: Students are taught by world-class academics at the cutting edge of their fields. Second, British campuses tend to feel very global, with lots of international faculty and students from all over the world meeting, developing lifelong friendships and sharing ideas. Finally, a stint studying in the U.K. looks great on your resume. More than 80% of students graduate on time, and the majority find employment within six months of graduation.”

On the British Council website you’ll find two more reasons: U.K. course fees and living costs compare favorably with costs in other top education destinations, and U.K. degree programs are generally shorter than in other countries: A full-time bachelor’s degree course typically lasts three years – compared to four years here – and many full-time master’s degrees can be earned in just one year. The result: less money on annual fees, and you get to start your career sooner.

Once you know all that, it comes as no surprise that the U.K. is the most popular destination for U.S. students: 13% of all U.S. students studying abroad head for the U.K., according to IIE’s Open Doors 2014 survey.

Need more convincing? Check out the British Embassy’s Buzzfeed community blog, which has interesting intel for would-be U.K. students (including the fact that Bill Clinton, Cory Booker and Rachel Maddow all studied in the U.K.) and some honest to goodness LOL moments.

How to organize independent study
The British Council, U.K.’s 81-year-old international cultural relations organization, is one of three organizations devoted to helping U.S. and other international students who want to enroll independently in an institution of higher learning in the U.K. The other two are the Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS) and the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA). From the minute you start to think about studying on your own in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, to when you are actually “on the ground” and enrolled in a school in any of these four destinations, the Brits have you covered.

Start with a visit to the website of the British Council (or its Facebook page), where you’ll find advice on everything from choosing a course, to finding a scholarship and budgeting for life in the U.K.

Convinced that study in the U.K. is for you? The next stop is UCAS. Here’s where you can start the enrollment process by finding out what colleges or universities offer the course you want. (To apply to a university in the U.K. you apply to the specific course of study, not to the school as is done in the U.S.) Once you’ve found the schools that seem to be a good fit, you can apply directly to up to five schools using UCAS’ online application (according to Kirk, this was the forerunner to the U.S. common application).

Once you are ensconced on a campus in the U.K., it’s UKCISA that will give you the advice you’ll need. And, if you’d prefer to talk directly to an adviser, it’s reassuring to know that every school in the U.K. has an international officer specifically to help international students.

Cost of a sponsored program
If the DIY approach to study in the U.K. doesn’t appeal to you, you can choose a program sponsored by a U.S.–based college or university or a study abroad organization and let them do the work for you: arrange all the details of where and what you’ll study, where you’ll stay and some of the excursions you may take while you’re there.

For some of the program choices – and there are many – take a look at IIEPassport and’ll find year-long, semester-long, summer-long and even one-month-long, January term options. Deciding on just one to use as our example was a bit daunting but we narrowed our choice down to a program in Scotland since it is such a popular destination for so many American students.

The program is at the University of Edinburgh (one of the world’s leading universities), coordinated by Arcadia University, The College of Global Studies. Arcadia’s semester-long program in Edinburgh (a full-year option is available, too) lets you earn up to 15 credit hours typically divided over three courses that include biology, computer and information sciences, linguistics, history and religious studies. The fee, which includes tuition, orientation and accommodations in a residence hall costs $19,110 for the fall 2015 semester. Additional expenses – meals, local travel, books, (but not airfare) are estimated to be about $4,250.

What should a student budget to live in the U.K.?
According to a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) survey, students should expect to spend about $1,200 per month outside of London, and an extra $300/month in London. When you apply for a student visa you will need to prove that you have that much available to you.

Although caps on tuition of just over $14,000 a year pertain only to students within the U.K./EU, the fees an American can expect to pay vary depending on program. Many programs are less than $20,000 per year (on a 3-year degree), according to Kirk.

Excellent online sources exist for advice on budgeting and cost-of-living information. For instance, some of the students featured in the British Council-produced videos talk about how much less their U.K. study costs than a comparable experience in the U.S.: One music student says it’s about a third of what a music school in the U.S. would cost; a woman working toward her master’s in Scotland says that her costs are half what they would be in the U.S.

Other British Council sites offer practical advice on everything from saving on food (no takeout, cook for yourself) and living on a budget (check student union notice boards if you need to buy something, and use cash, not credit cards).

Many U.K. shops, restaurants and businesses offer substantial student discounts, and students are able to arrange cheap deals for train and bus travel; student unions offer good value on both food and entertainment.

This useful budget template will help you compare your anticipated income and expenses and offers some excellent money-saving tips on accommodations, banking and more.

Financial Aid and Scholarships
According to, “57% of students use some kind of financial assistance to study in another country, and 37% don’t know that they can.” Don’t be in the 37%. For help finding funds to finance your study in the U.K., begin with IIEPassport’s Study Abroad Funding. Check out the British Council’s site for information on scholarships in the U.K., and for the full scoop on how you can get U.S. government aid for study in the U.K., go to Federal Student Aid. (For more, read You CAN Afford To Study Abroad and How To Finance Your Studies Abroad.)

The Bottom Line
Study in the United Kingdom – whether in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland – can be affordable (degree programs can cost a great deal less than comparable programs in the U.S.) and U.K. universities are ready and willing to host you and 49,999 other U.S. students a year. What’s more, there’s no language requirement to worry about, the education is top notch and your resume will thank you.

Go through the most affordable & cheapest countries to study abroad for Indian students.

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