How to study in the UK for free

Empty purse

This article was written by the Great British Mag content team on 20 April 2021.

If you’re keen to study in the UK but the costs involved are causing you to break out in cold sweats, then keep reading for ways that you can get a UK degree without having to fork out thousands for the privilege.

How much does it cost to study in the UK?

First, let’s deal with the costs involved in studying in the UK. The average tuition fees for international students studying undergraduate degrees in the UK were between £10,000 and £26,000 a year in 2020. And if you’re doing a medical-based course that figure shoots up even more.

With living expenses added on top, these sums of money are more than a lot of students are able to cough up.

Is it possible to study for free?

All places for international students at UK universities are subject to fees – but you may be able to get these fees paid on your behalf by a third party.

Scholarships and grants are designed to make studying at a UK university more financially accessible to international students, and there are a host of different options available.

UK government funding

These schemes are open to students from lots of different countries – although you’ll need to read the eligibility criteria of each carefully to make sure yours is covered. There are lots of different funding opportunities available depending on your circumstances and what you want to study. 

The level of financial support they offer can vary, but many will take care of all tuition fees, while some also include living and travel costs, too. 

Examples of these kinds of scholarships include Chevening Scholarships, intended for post-graduate students, and Commonwealth Scholarships, designed to support those from low and middle-income Commonwealth countries. 

You can search for these kinds of funding opportunities through International Education Financial Aid (IEFA), International Scholarships, British Council Study UK and Scholarship Portal.

Funding directly from universities

There’s also the option to apply for a scholarship directly from the UK university you want to study at – you can find all the funding options they offer on their websites.

The University of Birmingham, Imperial College London and University of Warwick are just some of the unis that offer a wide range of scholarships and bursaries. 

Funding from your home country

Plenty of governments and private groups across the world offer prospective students funding for their UK university degree. Some are open to all students while others have specific requirements that you’ll need to meet. The Inlaks Scholarships in India and Marshall Scholarships in the USA are two examples. Have a dig online to see what’s available in your home country.

What’s the catch?

There are only so many students that these scholarships and bursaries can award funding to and, as you might imagine, there’s loads of competition. So, while there are plenty of opportunities out there, you’re far from guaranteed to get your hands on that cash.

Also, the application processes can be very involved and lengthily – so be prepared to put some serious hours in if you’re planning on applying.

Do I have any other options?

Taking part in an exchange programme is another option for spending up to a year studying in the UK without paying the high fees set for international students. You’ll need to be studying at university in your home country to be able to access them.

Since the UK left the EU, there is currently no government-supported exchange programme for international students hoping to go to university in England, but Wales has announced a scheme – the International Learning Exchange programme – and Ireland is still part of the Erasmus+ programme.

You may also like to read

What is a Chevening Scholarship?

What is the UK’s new Turing Scheme?

Scholarships for international students in the UK