How to create a budget for studying in the UK

Attending university in the UK is a fantastic opportunity, but it requires resources. If you’re considering studying abroad, it’s important to research the UK cost of living carefully, and then plan your budget accordingly.

We’ve created a simple guide to help you get an idea what to think about when it comes to researching the living expenses in the UK for international students. You’ll be able to get organised before you head off on your international adventure!

Take all costs into consideration

Even before you leave your country, you’ll have to pay for many things in preparation for your year abroad. Luckily these are one-time expenses, such as UK student visa fees, university fees for international students, or course materials. Even so, they are usually significant costs and you should include them while budgeting.

Recurring expenses

Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll have recurring expenses. Every month you’ll have to spend money on rent, transport, household bills, or phone bills. These expenses are relatively easy to plan for, as they are usually stable over the year.

Unexpected expenses

But then there are other living expenses in the UK for international students. These can change a lot depending on your personal situation.

For example, I¡if you want to travel at weekends, or plan to go out a lot with your friends, then you should estimate those figures generously.

Also think about how much you are going to spend on socialising, clothes shopping, or your hobbies. You will need to keep an eye on these things carefully if your budget is tight.

Research the cost of living in your destination city

The average cost of living in the UK can vary considerably depending on where you are studying. Are you going to study in a big city? Or is your destination university in a small town? Accommodation costs will vary significantly, and averages for a one-bedroom rental can range from £1100 in a smaller city like Oxford to £1,695 in metropolitan London.

Getting around may also need to be in your budget, if you can’t get everywhere on foot. For example, a monthly pass for public transportation in Glasgow will cost you £63 per month, but if you are going to be living in Manchester, you’ll need to put aside £74 for a pass.

Unless you are a runner who can just lace up their shoes and train outdoors, you may also need to account for workout costs. Even with student discounts, joining the university gym in Cambridge will cost students about £35 per month, compared to £22 at the on-campus facilities in Leeds.

Where to find local information

With such a variation in the cost of living between different cities and regions, it’s a good idea to do some detailed research before you decide on where you’d like to study, to make sure it’s within your budget.

Maybe you know another international student who has studied in your destination university? Or perhaps there is a student organisation that you can contact? Try and reach out to current students for a clearer idea of what they are spending in their day-to-day life. They may even be able to give you tips on good deals or where to avoid!

Student accommodation prices will depend on the type of lodging you are looking for. Do you want to live on campus? Or maybe you want to rent your own place, or share with other students off campus? Many institutions usually have detailed information about the options available in student residences and can put you in touch with possible roommates, landlords or homestay families.

Top tip:
Use a student budget calculator for the UK, such as this one from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS). For ease, you can select from a list of schools for accurate local costs.

Part-time jobs in the UK for international students

With all these expenses facing you, a bit of extra income would be welcome for any student. Tutoring could be a possible way to supplement your income during your time of studies. You may want to look for work tutoring children, or even your peers at the university. You’re permitted to work up to 20 hours a week on an international student visa during the school year.

The career centre at your university can help you look for part-time work opportunities. Maybe you want to get some experience in your field of study. Or perhaps you just want to work in a pub or restaurant in order to practise your English and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Find out a few options for part-time jobs for international students in the UK.

There are also scholarships available for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. These can come directly from the universities, or through government-run initiatives. For example, there are specific scholarship programs for non-EU nationals looking to do postgraduate studies.

Find out more about scholarships for international students in the UK

An example student budget

It may all seem like a lot to think about, but estimating your cost of living involves just a few calculations. You need to add up all the fixed and variable expenses, just like you would do while living in your own country.

Here is an example of a monthly budget for a student in Nottingham. This is based on average spending, estimated using a UK student budget calculator:

Item Cost
Rental apartment £385
Transportation (monthly pass with student discount) £49
Utility bills (electricity, gas, water, etc) £46
Gym membership (university gym) £23
Phone and internet £27
Grocery shopping £73
Bank fees £30
Clothes and personal items £50
Takeaway and eating out £70
Total £753

Often you will find student discounts, such as food deals on campus, special phone plans or reduced rates at shops and restaurants, so take advantage and always ask.

Don’t forget that this budget does not include shopping and hobbies, so factor those in depending on your own personal situation. If you are able to work during your time abroad, that can help alleviate some of the financial burden.

Learn more

You’ll find more advice on studying abroad in the UK on the Pearson PTE website. Did you know that PTE Academic is accepted by 99% of UK universities? What’s more, the test can also be used for your student visa application, as it is accepted by the Home Office. Learn how PTE Academic can help you achieve your goals of living and studying in the UK.